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Wisconsin Releases Names of Recall Petitioners

Wisconsin voters who signed the petition to recall Governor Scott Walker may be getting more publicity than they’d bargained for.

CNN (“Wisconsin releases recall petition names amid safety concerns“):

Wisconsin released the names of more than 1 million people who signed a recall petition against Gov. Scott Walker, state officials said, despite safety concerns among petition signers.

“In the interest of full transparency, the board has always planned to release copies of recall petitions to anyone who requested them and to post them online,” said Kevin Kennedy, director and general counsel.

“However, we recently heard from a number of people who are concerned about their personal safety if their names and addresses are made public.”

The state Government Accountability Board announced its plans Tuesday, citing Wisconsin’s Public Records Law and a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision involving the release of referendum petitions in Washington State.

The documents are posted on the board’s website as PDFs.

“Weighing all of these concerns and public interests, we have concluded that the balancing test of the Public Records Law favors disclosure of the entire recall petition without redaction of information on a recall petition …” the board’s statement said, noting the public and officeholders have the right to view the petitions.

“Few processes in the electoral system or elsewhere are more public than the signing of recall petitions against state elected officials.”

Before the decision, Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, a Republican like Walker, said the signatures should be made public, stating the importance of transparency in the recall process.

“Our law I think is very clear that the maximum amount of information that is available should be made available,” he said. “It’s general knowledge that if you do something in public, that’s going to be public information.”

This appears to be standard practice not, as some on Fark seem to think, a dirty trick by Republicans. But it does seem to go against the notion of a secret ballot. After all, it’s unlikely that a lot of pro-Walker people signed the petition.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. I’m not sure that a petition such as this falls under what’s considered a “secret ballot.” After all, if I sign the petition and then 25-30 other people see my name on the list while they’re signing it’s not exactly secret is it?

    This issue has come up before. When Proposition 8 was pending in California, there was a long court battle over whether the names of the people who signed the petitions that got it on the ballot could be made public. One of the arguments that those arguing against disclosure made was that making their names public could subject them to harassment by gay rights advocates.

    Ultimately, the US Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that the names can be made public.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  2. Bob Beller says:

    It’s good they released them. So far in the 4 Senate recalls that are also going on there have been a lot of cases of fraud uncovered. Circulators admitting to putting down their entire family’s names, then faking the signatures. one guy on the news proud of the fact he’d signed over 80 times. Groups like Verify the Recall are trying to weed that out, since Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board has been less than ambitious about doing their job and finding duplicate and fraudulent signatures.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 14

  3. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Bob Beller: I eagerly await verifiable citations for all of your claims.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  4. G.A.Phillips says:

    @Bob Beller: I eagerly await verifiable citations for all of your claims.

    lol you can look for yourself.

    http://webapps.wi.gov/sites/recall/default.aspx

    Massive fraud….but whats new about that…

    “However, we recently heard from a number of people who are concerned about their personal safety if their names and addresses are made public.”

    lol, ya like in that they did not worry about it last year or in any of other races this year….

    Because it is going to show the massive fraud we have been claiming that happens is real, nice that it will be on steroids for the unveiling to the deniers.We not only have the tools and the talent this time we got over 11000 volunteers and a bad$$ website:)

    http://www.verifytherecall.com/

    Got T.E.A.? lol…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  5. G.A.Phillips says:

    As for the signers and their privacy LOL>>> I say we pick out a couple of the REAL address every weekend and have T.E.A. party’s in their front yards every weekend all spring and summer long!!! With bullhorns, wearing pots and pans, and shooting off fireworks while singing “My Governor is a Jedi”!!!!!!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 5

  6. @Doug Mataconis:

    This issue has come up before. When Proposition 8 was pending in California, there was a long court battle over whether the names of the people who signed the petitions that got it on the ballot could be made public.

    And as is usually the case in our politics now, 75% of the people have switched sides from the Prop 8 debate, purely for partisan reasons. And most of them don’t even realize they have switch sides, because they’ve long forgotten what position they took on the previous round.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  7. rudderpedals says:

    @G.A.Phillips: Dude that verification link doesn’t verify much. Seems to be a link to
    raw petitions. OTOH I’m on a PDA that makes browsing a challenge…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  8. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @G.A.Phillips: Links to the raw petitions prove fraud? In what world? Down here in Texas we call purveyors of this type of empty rhetoric “all hat and no cattle.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  9. WR says:

    @Gromitt Gunn: Yes, but this is GA, so it’s more like no hat and no cattle.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  10. Gustopher says:

    Good. Petitions should be public. Be they for recalling right-wing governors, or for banning marriage equality.

    If you’re signing a petition in public, you have no expectation of privacy, and the importance of verifying the integrity of the system is more important than the individuals who might get bruised feelings when their next door neighbor looks them up.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  11. ptfe says:

    Wow, the same tired argument as last time being used by the other side. It was weak when the Prop 8 goons made it, it’s even weaker now. If you’re concerned that your name appearing on a petition will bring economic harm to yourself…well, that could just as easily happen if you raise your voice too much in a coffee shop. (On the other hand, if the government does not protect citizens acting legally from physical harm, it is failing at its core purpose — a completely separate issue.)

    Transparency can’t be one-sided, and individuals who don’t want their names to be released for signing a public petition are cowards.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  12. Just nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @G.A.Phillips: I can see them now: the dozens of Google maps with hundreds of tiny crosshairs all over them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  13. sam says:

    Cut GA some slack. He’s too stupid to realize that the people running his party despise him and folks like him. Not much education, not much talent, holding on as tightly as he can to some loony politico-religious ideology to get him through a world in which he, rightly, feels inadequate. To the folks in charge of him, politically and economically, he’s nothing more than an idiot pawn to be used and then discarded. Pitiful, really. You have to have some sympathy when you consider what will likely happen to him down the road when he’s old and out of work and out of money–and, if his controllers have their way, no place to turn to. Somewhere in his peabrain he must be deeply fearful of that future. Who, in his place, wouldn’t be?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  14. Gromitt Gunn says:

    As to the actual substance of the article, yes petitions should be public knowledge.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  15. Franklin says:

    The comparison to secret ballots is an interesting one, but I concur that there’s no expectation of privacy on a petition.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  16. G.A.Phillips says:

    :

    Dude that verification link doesn’t verify much. Seems to be a link to
    raw petitions.

    I was just showing the first and giving the ability for libs here to see the massive fraud for themselves. The verification site is being implemented as we speak.
    but here are a few…verifications of fraud.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/70374701@N07/?saved=1

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/70374701@N07/6807337939/in/photostream

    @G.A.Phillips: Links to the raw petitions prove fraud? In what world? Down here in Texas we call purveyors of this type of empty rhetoric “all hat and no cattle.”

    That’s because you are like sam, don’t get much, because you are told how to figure or have crap figured out for you by other liberals.

    Oh and Sam, you little Alinsky fanboy, what the **** do you do? draw a pension off the tax payers? or two or three?What did you ever do? Was any work Involved?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  17. mattatat says:

    @G.A.Phillips: One of your links doesn’t even provide anything questionable. As for the other link there’s a couple that are clearly wrong but that means you need to find 499,999 cases to try to invalidate the recall…

    I honestly don’t think anyone here thought that all 1 million signatures would be perfect. It’s obvious when you’re dealing with something like this that there will be people approaching the signature with a non serious intent.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  18. matt says:

    I meant 499,999 more examples…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  19. G.A.Phillips says:

    One of your links doesn’t even provide anything questionable. As for the other link there’s a couple that are clearly wrong but that means you need to find 499,999 cases to try to invalidate the recall…

    lol. this was what a couple of people found on their own. There is massive fraud but I am sure they have enough John Hancock’s…good golly bro do I got to explain everything step by step around here.Stop being so determined and read my crap:)

    There is voter fraud coming form the left liked always and these people need to go to jail and so do their handlers…..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  20. matt says:

    @G.A.Phillips: It doesn’t matter if there is 0 fake signatures or 200 there’s still well over the amount required to recall the governor so you really have no point unless you can point to over 500,000 fake signatures..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1