The campaign of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) announced Monday — the deadline today to submit challenges against the signatures to recall him — that they will not file any challenge, saying that they did not have enough time to fully review the more than one-million signatures filed against him.
This decision comes a week and a half after Dane County Judge Richard Niess, who had previously granted a 20-day extension to the Walker campaign for the review period, refused their request for another two weeks.
“We faced an impossible timeline,” Walker campaign spokeswoman Ciara Matthews told WisPolitics. She also added: “It obviously takes more time to verify signatures than it does to collect them.”
Matthews has not responded to TPM’s request for comment, to determine whether this move means the campaign is essentially conceding the signature-challenge phase of the recall — and going straight to certification and triggering of the election — or on the other hand, would they file any additional legal challenges or appeals, on the basis that they did not have enough time to review the signatures?
On a conference call with reporters, state Democratic Party chairman Mike Tate fired back at the Walker campaign, saying that today’s move disproves the Republicans’ previous rhetoric alleging fraud in the signatures.
“I think it’s bordering on the absurd,” said Tate. “You know, he has raised what, 9 or 10 million to fund this recall effort; he has gotten three times as much time as is allowed under state law to review these petitions; there were reports of 13,000 people who volunteered to review these petitions. But now he is not only not getting it done, but saying we had a harder time standing in snow getting these petitions, then people sitting in warm desks and looking at paper.”
The Walker campaign also issued a press release. Key quote:
“We expect that because we have not been given sufficient time to verify the signatures, the Government Accountability Board will adhere to Judge Mac Davis’ ruling, as they have publicly committed, and will continue to take affirmative steps to remove duplicate, invalid or fraudulent signatures in order to maintain integrity and fairness in the process,” explained Walker campaign communications director Ciara Matthews.
In addition to the official effort by the Friends of Scott Walker campaign, in conjunction with the Republican Party of Wisconsin, a third party effort - Verify the Recall - has also been attempting to validate signatures via both visual and electronic inspections.
Matthews noted that between both efforts, more than 20,000 people have worked on inspections. “Despite these massive efforts, the time to challenge hundreds of thousands of signatures was simply unavailable.”
It should be noted that the legal ruling referenced here, from Waukesha County Judge Mac Davis, is currently in legal limbo, though the GAB has said it will apply diligence to suspicious signatures.
Under state law, a recall target has 10 days to review signatures, starting from when petitions are filed, and then register their challenges with the state Government Accountability Board, which oversees elections. In late January, Judge Niess restarted the clock for Walker, due to the GAB’s initial inability to deliver copies of the sheer number of petitions, to begin once the copies were fully supplied. And on top of that, Niess granted Walker an extra 20 days, for 30 days total, which ultimately worked out to a deadline of February 27.
In mid-February, however, Walker’s legal team asked for a further extension of two weeks, up through March 12 — getting close to the GAB’s own deadline of March 19, which is itself a 30-day extension beyond the statute — in order to accommodate their requirements for data analysis by their contracted third-party vendor. The same judge, however, rejected the request.
This result may have come about due to an admission that Walker’s legal team made in their filing: Of the amount of processing that they had completed, they claimed a discovered error rate of only between 10 and 20 percent, consistent with the 15% figure in a random sampling by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel to find signatures that needed further scrutiny. Such a potential rejection rate is about what is to be expected when an opposing campaign actively looks for alleged deficiencies and challenges against signatures.
However, the Democrats’ submission of over a million signatures was nearly twice the required threshold of just over 540,000, or 25 percent of the total number of voters in the 2010 gubernatorial election. As a result, the Walker campaign would need to disqualify nearly half of the signatures in play here — a rate that is very far above their current tally, and never seemed very likely.