WAUKESHA, Wisc. (CN) - Gov. Scott Walker's campaign committee sued the state, claiming the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board "has publicly announced that otherwise qualified signers of a recall petition affecting Governor Scott K. Walker may sign more than once".
The campaign committee claims the Government Accountability Board also announced that "it will not review the petitions for facially duplicative signatures," unfairly placing that burden on the committee.
Democrats and unions are trying to recall Walker for his anti-union legislation.
The Friends of Scott Walker and state Republican Party Chairman Stephan Thompson sued the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board and its members in Waukesha County Court.
The Government Accountability Board is in charge of administering the recall. Walker's campaign committee claims the "GAB has also publicly stated that it will not strike obviously fictitious names such as Mickey Mouse or signatures without a street address."
Walker's Friends claim the board is unconstitutionally refusing to do its duty.
The Friends say the board's position "allows an elector intentionally choosing to sign more than one Walker recall petition to have an unconstitutionally greater say over a recall election than those electors choosing not to sign."
The Walker recall officially began on Nov. 15. Petition circulators must collect at least 540,208 valid signatures by Jan. 13, 2012, for a recall election to take place. If they do, the recall election will be held sometime in the spring.
Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four Republican state senators also have been targeted for recall.
Walker's campaign announced last week that it has raised more than $5.1 million in the most recent reporting period, with 46,976 individual donors.
Walker's committee claims it asked the board on Nov. 17 to clarify whether a qualified elector could sign multiple recall sheets "with the intent or hope that his or her name will be counted more than once."
The board's counsel responded 'that there is no specific prohibition on a person signing a recall petition more than once," according to the complaint.
The board allegedly cited Wisconsin statutes and its own administrative rules, saying it's the challenger's responsibility to detect bogus signatures.
Walker's committee claims the board wrote in its letter: "'We do not recommend that people sign separate recall petition pages multiple times, unless the signer has a reasonable basis to conclude that the first signature will not be counted because of a lack of confidence in the reliability of the circulator.'"
The board allegedly wrote that it does not condone "artificially inflating the number of signatures," because it "carries a risk of harming a recall effort," but said that its primary focus will not be to check for duplicates.
The targeted incumbent may challenge any duplication, and "'the Board has routinely upheld such challenges,'" the complaint states, citing the GAB letter.
"'Our staff constantly responds to inquiries from the public, political committees and the media, and we strive to provide a consistent, clear, and even-handed message based on the law and G.A.B. rules, to not only encourage compliance with the election laws but also to protect the integrity of, and enhance confidence in, the process,'" the board wrote, according to the complaint.
Walker's committee claims the board's position "is erroneous as a matter of law and violates the Wisconsin and United States Constitution, as well as Wisconsin statutes." It claims the board's decision will irreparably harm "the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of qualified electors who choose not to sign a recall petition."
The committee says it will have only 10 days to examine, compare and possibly challenge more than 540,000 signatures, which will be "a practical impossibility."
Walker's committee called last week for "a massive statewide volunteer effort to ensure that the recall effort is not tainted by these repeated instances of fraud."
The complaint was filed in Waukesha County, one of the most conservative counties in Wisconsin. Until last month, such complaints had to be filed in Dane County, home to the state capital, Madison. Walker signed a bill on Nov. 9 that allows individuals to file lawsuits against the state in any Wisconsin county.
Democrats say this was a Republican legal strategy and ultimately another stall tactic. Not only is Waukesha County friendly to Republicans, but a delay in the recall election could result in a simultaneous election with the Wisconsin presidential primary and a stronger Republican turn-out. Or the case could linger in state court until it is appealed all the way to the state supreme court.
The committee wants the court to order the Government Accountability Board "to look for and eliminate facially duplicative signatures, patently fictitious names and illegible addresses during their careful examination of the petition."
It represented by Joseph Olson with Michael Best & Friedrich, of Milwaukee.
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