Conservative group files request to obtain Walker recall signatures

CREATED Jan 31, 2012 - UPDATED: Jan 31, 2012

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MADISON - A spokesman for a Wisconsin-based conservative think tank said Tuesday that the organization has made an open records request to obtain electronic documents with signatures and other information obtained on petitions for the recall of Republican Governor Scott Walker.

That request is coming despite another group's claim that the privacy and safety of some of the petition signers could be at risk.

"We are filing an open records request this morning with the Government Accountability Board, saying, 'Hey, you've got that electronic record of signatures.  Great.  Its a public document.  We'll take it.  Thanks,' " said Brian Fraley of the MacIver Institute on Newsradio 620 WTMJ's "Midday with Charlie Sykes."

"We're not going to put it in a drawer and hide it.  We're going to make sure the documents are publicly available."

According to a spokeswoman with the ACLU, the GAB halted their planned online release of the recall petitions Monday after it "heard from individuals who have some privacy concerns." 

"Hopefully that will translate into a measure of more caution as they proceed with disclosing this public document," said Stacy Harbaugh, the ACLU of Wisconsin's communications director in an interview with Newsradio 620 WTMJ's Jay Sorgi.

GAB spokesman Reid Magney refused to comment on whether the organization would post the recall signatures online.

Harbaugh said that many individuals use the status of "confidential elector" in order to take part in voting or signing petitions without having their public information disclosed, but that the GAB did not inform the public and recall organizers about people's right to sign up for confidential elector status before signing the petition.

"There was also no information given before the recall process started that said what was going to happen with these documents," claimed Harbaugh.

However, Fraley believes that the state has those confidential elector procedures, and that recall petition signers "should have thought of this ahead of time.  (The GAB has) done these recalls before.  There's been nomination papers before.  This isn't something that you do on a whim after the fact.  It's easy to say, 'Well, we could create a database now.  If you don't want your name disclosed, let us know.' "

"You signed a public document.  It's a public document."

Harbaugh advocates that in situations where people vote or sign public documents, but wish to have their records remain private, they should go through the confidential elector process.

"For anyone who feels that they are in danger as targets of stalking, survivors of domestic violence, those individuals can get their information shielded on something like a polling book.  All that information is on the GAB web site," explained Harbaugh.

Harbaugh said she did not know if anyone signing up after they signed a recall petition would then have protection for election and recall efforts in which they have already participated, such as the Walker recall petitions.