GAB delays online Walker recall petition database as threats and Republican rhetoric drive privacy concerns | WisCommunity

GAB delays online Walker recall petition database as threats and Republican rhetoric drive privacy concerns

[img_assist|nid=129742|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=279|height=147]Score another point for Republican-friendly goons who promise to harrass the million or so Wisconsin citizens who signed recall petitions against Scott Walker -- and score a second point for Republicans and their think tanks who continue to sow chaos in their effort to discredit the recall elections.

Late Monday afternoon the Government Accountability Board unexpectedly issued a statement saying recall petitions for Walker would not be posted online as scheduled. The GAB is “evaluating the privacy concerns of individuals who have contacted us about posting the petitions online.” From WITI-TV News in Milwaukee:

A Wisconsin ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] spokesman told FOX6 last week they’ve also been contacted by people who fear retaliation at work, or are afraid because of previous domestic violence trouble, and these people don’t want the petitions made public online. “There should be some protection for privacy rights when someone has a legitimate fear that their political participation could have severe repercussions,” the ACLU spokesman said.

Because the GAB has already posted online the recall petitions in the effort against the four Republican senators, and has already given the Walker recall petitions to the Walker campaign offices for review, questions are now being raised about where the GAB is drawing the line between transparency and privacy.

The conservative MacIver Institute told the TV station it would file a freedom of information request for copies of the petitions, which is rather bizaare given that the Walker campaign already is busy entering petitioner names into its own searchable computer database. Apparently, the folks at MacIver want us to regard GAB's hesitancy as some kind of conspiratorial government secrecy.

But, in fact, the cat is already out of the bag. The ACLU is right to pass along privacy concerns and the GAB is right to consider them, but the GAB really now has little choice but to let the process go forth as the law requires. Anything else likely would trigger huge Republican outrage, even though Republicans themselves already managed to alter and slow the process in mid-flight by getting a friendly Waukesha County judge to issue an order that did both.

Conservatives who criticize any GAB hesitancy are hypocrites in another way. After all, it was Republican friendlies (mainly, the conservative Media Trackers "watchdog" site) who first tried to suggest that people ought to think twice before signing, since the recall petitions would be available to the public. Thus, went the argument, the recall process would violate the privacy of signers. Media Trackers just failed to add that the privacy threat would come mostly from the direction of the GOP and its partners.

Nor should we forget: It was Republican friendlies who threatened to harrass signees, Walker sympathizers who attempted to steal or de-face petitions, and pro-Walker bloggers who threatened to sign multiple petitions or otherwise try to disrupt the gathering of signatures, even while passing around unsubstantiated rumors of people signing phony names, or signing 80 times. This is the Wingnut Outrage Machine, ramping up to feed its base for yet another rabid, skewed campaign.

So do not be surprised if you soon hear Republican officials arguing in the court of public opinion and probably in actual court that -- because of all of the above -- the entire petition-gathering process is suspect and badly flawed and ought to be quashed. Besides, like, ah, well, you know, this whole recall thing is disenfranchising Scott Walker. And recalls are a violation of the state constitution's language mandating recalls. Or something.

Forgive me when I say that this all reminds me of the old joke about the kid who murdered his parents and then pleaded for the court's mercy because he was an orphan. There's no other way to view it: As they've done in the 2000 Florida elections and elsewhere, Republicans once again are implementing their shock doctrine of fear and confusion in an attempt to change the subject and derail democracy. 

ADDENDUM: Several online correspondents on other blogs have discussed this matter and point out that there is a class of confidential registered voters -- individuals who have court orders of protection based on domestic or other abuse. These citizens are on the public poll lists, but their  addresses are not to be made available to the public. Presumably, the GAB is now considering the ramifications of posting the petitions in a searchable, worldwide, online database. And perhaps it is considering whether the lists already provided to the Walker campaign may have included proscribed address information.

Said one commentator (highlighting mine): "Confidential voters names (names + voter number only) are listed on a separate page in each registered voter ward listing. The only people who have access to these address are authorized staff of the state GAB. They are the only people who can verify these signatures, not the Democratic Party, nor the Republican Party, nor any volunteer organization. Some how, some folks think [that] to be a victim of a crime, one should lose some or all of their basic civil rights." See Deke Rivers' political blog:


January 30, 2012 - 10:35pm