The signatures of Mickey Mouse and Adolf Hitler will be counted on recall petitions targeting Gov. Scott Walker as long as they are properly dated and include a Wisconsin address, the board charged with reviewing the petitions was told Tuesday.
Suspicious signatures will be noted when the Government Accountability Board reviews the petitions, but reviewers will look to see that signatures are accompanied by a Wisconsin address and are dated as having been signed during the circulation period, board elections specialist David Buerger said.
"We will flag them, but we will not strike them without challenge," Buerger said after being asked whether Mickey Mouse's signature would be counted. He noted that in previous recall petitions, Adolf Hitler's name was struck because the address given was in Germany, not because of the name itself.
The board unanimously approved the board's plan for reviewing the petitions.
Circulators need to gather 540,208 valid signatures by Jan. 17 to force a recall election for Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch. Organizers said they had 300,000 as of Nov. 28 and the declined to give an update Tuesday.
The effort to recall Walker, Kleefisch and four Republican state senators is fueled by anger over the proposal passed this year that effectively ended collective bargaining rights for public workers. Recall elections targeting six senators this summer resulted in two Republican incumbents losing their seats.
The four senators targeted for recall are Terry Moulton, of Chippewa Falls; Pam Galloway, of Wausau; Van Wanggaard, of Racine; and Scott Fitzgerald, of Juneau. An exploratory committee also has been formed to look at a possible recall effort against Democratic Sen. Bob Jauch related to his position on a mining bill.
Petitions for the senators require between roughly 15,000 and 16,700 signatures, depending on the lawmaker.
The GAB plans to hire about 50 temporary workers to conduct the review of what it expects could be up to 1.5 million signatures.
Judge Thomas Barland, a GAB board member, asked what was being done to prevent the temporary workers being hired to review the petitions will attempt to sabotage one side or the other. All people hired will be subject to the same background check that GAB staff are to ensure they don't have a partisan background, Buerger said.
"Our overarching priority for the staff we are hiring is that they are coming at this from a nonpartisan basis," he said.
The goal is to have the petition review done in public, but because where that will be done hasn't been determined, it's not yet known how broad the access will be, Buerger said. Electronic copies of all the petitions submitted will be available upon request, he said.
The board plans to ask a court for an extension to get 60 days, instead of just 31 days, to finish its review. Challenges must be made within 10 days after copies of the petitions are given to the targeted office holders, but an extension to that is also expected to be sought.
The Republican Party and Walker's campaign has started its own website asking for people to submit information about signatures that ought to be disqualified, including multiple signatures. Walker and those targeted are at a disadvantage since they can't see the signatures collected until after they are submitted, while circulators can weed out problems before they are submitted.
"A majority of citizens have grown increasingly frustrated with the recall process, and this effort allows these people to get involved and protect their state from repeated fraudulent activity," said Republican Party executive director Stephan Thompson in announcing the launch of the website Tuesday.
The GAB has encouraged anyone who witnesses fraud or other problems related to circulating petitions to contact the board, which is working together with the state Department of Justice to refer cases to district attorneys for possible prosecution.