The state Government Accountability Board has signed-off on a policy that allows single-signature petition forms to be submitted as part of recall campaigns. Under the change, petitions generated online could be printed out by an individual and mailed to the campaign, reducing the need for volunteers to go door-to-door to collect signatures.
The change was requested by Patrick Williams, who operates a website aimed at recalling Republicans. Williams says there’s nothing in the policy that’s at odds with the state Constitution and it also reduces the need for recall organizers to “raise armies” of petition signature gatherers.
The GAB approved the policy Monday on a 5-1 vote, despite concerns that it could make it easier to mount a recall campaign against any elected official in the state.
Ardis Cerny of Pewaukee urged the GAB to reject the measure, warning that it could open “Pandora’s Box” and lead to a flood of recall elections in the state. Cerny says any elected official will have to worry about being recalled as soon as they are eligible.
GAB staff determined there’s nothing under current law that would stop petitions from being submitted by a campaign this way, noting that pages sometimes are already turned in with only a single signature on them.
The policy does not allow people to sign the petitions online. Those wishing to submit a single-signature form would have to request one from a group that’s registered with the state. They would then print it out on their own, sign it, and send it along to the recall organizers.
Board members who supported the policy did note that it could reduce the need for recall campaigns to rely on out-of-state signature gatherers. The issue was the source of some controversy earlier this year during efforts to recall several Democratic state senators and resulted in several signatures on petitions being thrown out.
Wisconsin held a historic nine recall elections over the summer targeting members of the state Senate, which were the result of the battle over the governor’s proposal to roll back the collective bargaining powers of public employee unions.
The policy could greatly improve the chances of groups planning to attempt a recall of Governor Scott Walker, because it allows them to gather the over 540,000 signatures needed to trigger an election by reaching out to people online.