MILWAUKEE -- One of the controversial issues facing the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board as they process, and then post online, the recall petitions filed against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, and four state senators, is balancing the need to publicize the petitions, and people's right to privacy. The recall petitions are public documents, but some say they fear their safety could be at risk.
The ACLU says their biggest concern with making these recall petitions public isn't as much political retaliation as it is domestic violence victims who have genuine concerns about their safety.
The Wisconsin ACLU says they've heard concerns from those who signed recall petitions, and didn't expect their name would be public. The Government Accountability Board says they've also heard from those concerned about the petitions being posted on the GAB's website.
As was the case with the Wisconsin State Senate recall last summer, this recent round of recall petitions are a matter of public record, and are technically available for anyone who wants to look at them. However, not everyone realized that when they signed, and some have even requested the GAB now sort through the million signatures turned in, and black out their name. "That would assume that we have the ability to find their name on the petition. It would be an incredible amount of time to go find individual names in these petitions," GAB Spokesman Reid Magney said.
Because of that difficulty, the ACLU says the greater issue is if the names are put into an online searchable database. "The database is certainly a bigger concern, because it does make it easier for somebody who does have nefarious purposes," Larry Dupuis with the ALCU said.
The GAB says they don't know yet if that will happen, so for now, the name and address of those who signed petitions are available through the GAB's website, but the odds of finding a person are literally one in a million. "It's not practical to have copies at the office or to make people come in. The state's open records law says you have to make them available, and that's what we're doing," Magney said.
Dupuis says there is a law that allows victims of domestic violence to be excluded from poll lists. These victims become "confidential electors." The ACLU has requested the GAB keep those same "confidential electors" out of any searchable database, but so far, no decisions on that have been made.