By Scott Bauer
MADISON — An extensive court-ordered review of signatures submitted to recall Gov. Scott Walker will take longer than the planned 60 days and require the state to invest $100,000 in new software, the head of the state board charged with that process said Thursday.
Government Accountability Board Director Kevin Kennedy said it was not clear exactly how much longer the review will take under the more stringent verification process ordered by a judge last week.
With a 60-day review and a primary — assuming no other delays caused by lawsuits or other action — the general election would not have taken place until late May. A longer review process could push an election into June or later.
Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four Republican state senators are being targeted for recall by a coalition of groups including organized labor and the Democratic Party. Petition circulators are expected to submit an estimated 1.5 million signatures on the six petitions Tuesday. The verification process will start shortly after that.
State law requires the board to complete the review in 31 days, but Kennedy requested more time because of the number of signatures being submitted.
Originally the board said the burden of finding fake and duplicate signatures rested with those targeted for recall. But the state Republican Party and Walker’s campaign sued, saying it was the board’s responsibility to ferret out duplicates and obvious fakes such as Mickey Mouse. Last week, Waukesha County Circuit Judge Mac Davis agreed and ordered a more detailed review.
Ben Sparks, spokesman for the state Republican Party, said he was encouraged by the careful review.
“Our primary concern is to ensure that Wisconsin electors are not disenfranchised during the recall process,” Sparks said.
Democratic Party spokesman Graeme Zielinski said the board’s action was “fine and proper” as long as it didn’t result in what he called a “big delay” that would allow Walker to continue raising unlimited campaign donations.
State law allows those targeted for a recall to ignore normal campaign donation limits until the recall election is set. Walker reported raising more than $5 million as of mid-December, with about half coming from outside Wisconsin, and has been traveling the country seeking donations. He was in Texas on Thursday speaking at a conservative legislative forum.
The board was proceeding with plans for the more extensive review, even as the state Department of Justice considered filing an appeal of the order. Democratic petition circulators have asked Davis to stay his order.
Kennedy said he did not anticipate appealing the ruling. A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice immediately did not return an email seeking comment.
A computer software program costing $100,000 will be purchased to electronically import all the names into a database so they can be more easily reviewed to look for duplicates and obvious fake names, Kennedy said after a board meeting.
“We’ve been frantically preparing to ensure the petitions for recall will be received and reviewed in a fair and transparent matter,” Nat Robinson, administrator of the board’s elections division, told the board. “It is impossible to check for duplicate names without having each name entered into a database and compared electronically.”
The 1.5 million signatures are expected to be on 300,000 pages contained in about 125 boxes, Robinson said. Each page will be reviewed by two people as well as evaluated electronically, he said.
The board is in the process of hiring about 50 temporary workers to complete the review. The entire recall election, including GAB’s costs, is projected to be about $9 million.
The review will be done at a secure, state-owned building in Madison, but the exact location will not be revealed until all security measures are completed, Kennedy said. Only GAB staff members will have access to that spot for the review, but the board was looking at ways to record and broadcast the process, he said.