Madison, Wis.—Eighty-six years ago, Robert “Fighting Bob” La Follette’s son was newly elected to the U.S. Senate, the Great Depression was a thing of the future, and Wisconsin—a mere 78 years old—amended the state constitution to allow the recall of elected officials.
Times have changed, but Wisconsin’s recall law?
“But I’m sure we’re going to be reviewing it just because of the cost of the election, and I think people, they have election fatigue,” said state Rep. Gary Tauchen (R-Bonduel), chairman of the Assembly’s Election and Campaign Reform Committee, adding, “I think it’s something we need to look at it. There’s definitely a problem.”
So whether state laws governing recalls are up to snuff is a matter of some importance.
In at least one instance, state statute conflicts with constitutional law, as Wisconsin Reporter noted recently.
The statute requiring a 21-day time frame for absentee voting conflicts with the constitutional provision requiring a recall election to be held four weeks after a primary, given that election officials need time after the primary to await absentee ballots, canvass, and certify the results.
The Government Accountability Board, the state’s election watchdog, heard testimony from staff Tuesday regarding how the state’s review of recall petitions compares to the Verify The Recall effort, a software-based petition review process from True the Vote, a self-described nonpartisan nonprofit affiliated with the Tea Party.
The GAB staff analysis indicated that the VTR process relied too much on automation, which led to acceptable names being stricken, such as when “Mary Lee Smith” signed her name as “Mary L. Smith.”
But GAB also noted VTR’s review standards are much more rigorous than the state’s, leaving some people scratching their heads.
True the Vote’s process “uses a significantly more demanding standard which would result in far more signatures being eliminated than should be struck under the substantial-compliance standard that has been developed under Wisconsin law,” GAB staff said. “While the GAB’s petition analysis has clear rules based upon the Statutes, the rigid standards of this particular software are ill-suited to the review process.”
The question, VTR and others are asking, is, shouldn’t recall petition standards be rigorous?
True the Vote responded in an email saying, “VTR’s overarching goal throughout its many (and ongoing) efforts is to ensure the integrity of Wisconsin’s election processes... VTR looks forward to continuing its work with the GAB to improve the integrity and transparency of Wisconsin’s recall processes, and to ensure that Wisconsin citizens have a voice in the verification and challenge process.”