RECALL OPPONENTS: You can see where they're headed, and it isn't good | Wis.Community

RECALL OPPONENTS: You can see where they're headed, and it isn't good

[img_assist|nid=51968|title=|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=200|height=208]As I've written before, expect recall opponents to be satisfied with nothing less than halting the recall process altogether, no matter how flimsy and silly their arguments. This is Bush v. Gore and the fight over the 2000 Florida vote all over again. The GOP and its enablers will confuse, stall, yell, file endless lawsuits and cry foul until -- they hope and expect -- everyone throws up their hands and walks away.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel today reported on its statistical analysis of recall petitions for Scott Walker. The analysis shows a high probability that while there may be defects in some signatures (for example, no proper address) there won't be anywhere near enough such defects to prevent a Walker recall.

The Government Accountability Board itself is considering using statistical sampling to analyze future petitions in certain narrow ways.

Trouble is, Republicans -- anti-science and politically craven as they are -- have historically dissed statistical sampling as a valid tool for measuring anything. Except, of course, when they do well in statistically sampled polls.

This was true in 2000, when the GOP was suddenly horrified to "discover" that the US Census would use statistical sampling and analysis to figure out the true population of urban areas where many people do not participate in civic life, move frequently and are otherwise hard to enumerate. The GOP saw sampling as a flawed tool that would give more votes to Democrats, so the party fought it, based on absolutist reasoning about legal requirements that the Census must literally count every head.

Which, especially in a country of well over 300 million people, is of course impossible. Especially when political harpies like Michele Bachmann spent much energy warning people that ansering the door for Census workers was dangerous and threatening to your privacy.

Sure enough, Republicans have gone out of their way to try painting the recall petition campaign as an invasion of citizen privacy, even going so far as have their minions threaten that privacy rhetorically in order to slam home the point. Nevertheless, a million Wisconsin residents signed to recall Walker.

[By the way, never mind that proposed laws to check the addresses and other ID of prospective gun owners has been shot down over and over by wingnuts. It's okay to hide out if you're a gun owner, but not if you want to sign a public petition. Because gun owners are always truthful and honest, but anyone who wants to recall a politician is sneaky and conspiratorial. Oh wait, except for people who sign petitions to recall Democrats. And it's likewise very easy to hide your identity when you want to send bags of cash to support the campaign of a candidate for public office. Your personal information, it turns out, is only in play and subject to intense scrutiny when you sign a recall petition or try to register to vote.]

So if the Government Accountability Board doesn't literally visit every "suspicious" address (or, hey, maybe all addresses) and verify residency face to face, wingnuts will cry foul. And even if it were possible to do that, in a reasonable time and at reasonable expense, that still wouldn't suffice. Just watch and see. If you signed the petition two months ago and have since moved? Someone is going to call you a phony. Hell, someone may call you a phony if you still live at your address. The gamesmanship can go on forever.

Perhaps the biggest gamesmanship of all is the pretense that the recall process is horrendously inefficient and thus (false logic) not democratic. It's mostly inefficient because Republicans are busy making it that way. But to the extent that the process is inherently inefficient, that's a feature, not a defect.

Remember Florida's "hanging chads" and the huge arguments over "voter intent" that left many people without an effective vote? Republicans made a mockery of the Florida recount, but when the counting went on and it seemed their stalling tactics would be for naught, they simply hiked on over to the US Supreme Court and got a ruling to halt the process in mid-flight. 

What's to stop them from doing that here? The GAB? The State Supreme Court? 

Don't breathe easy until the elections are held. And then maybe hold your breath awhile after that. When they're in a fight for the party's political survival, the GOP's tacticians know no bottom.

By the way, the Journal Sentinel analysis showed just how snarky the whole debate has become. The very reason that the constitution requires an absolutely huge number of signatures is to ensure that the result reflects the will of at least a significant plurality of citizens. It isn't meant to be exact or precise, nor can it be in any rational scheme. That's why so many signatures are needed.

But the process leaves all sorts of room for errors and unfair omissions. For instance, the Journal Sentinel wrote:

A name was considered invalid in the newspaper review if no record could be found for the signee at the address listed, if the person wasn't old enough to vote or was a felon under state supervision.

Also, a handful of signatures were not counted because they did not meet state election guidelines - one person listed a P.O. box as an address and another didn't include a full date on the petition sheet. In one case, a Milwaukee resident listed her address as "homeless" - it was thrown out.

So maybe if homeless people (you don't have to be registered to vote to sign a petition) put down the address of a shelter they occasionally stay at, would that suffice? Probably not if you're a Republican scrutinizing the listings. After all, the GOP attacked Sen. Lena Taylor's mother for voter-registering homeless people who stayed at her shelter, as if that were somehow a crime or a conspiracy. And note how not including a full date gets you tossed. That may be reasonable policy, but it doesn't mean the person who signed the form was somehow being crooked. But be assured Republicans will suggest otherwise.

Published

February 8, 2012 - 11:26am

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