The non-partisan Government Accountability Board (GAB) fell under the GOP hammer today, in Leah Vukmir’s powerful Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules (JCRAR) hearing. In a 6-4 partisan vote, the committee passed resolutions which will force the non-partisan and independent GAB to create “rules” regarding opinions they have rendered on voter ID and recall petitions over several months. These “rules” under the newly adopted Act 21 are subject to a virtual “veto” from Scott Walker, essentially eliminating any legislative check on the Governor’s authority. The move also puts the very autonomy of the GAB at risk – autonomy which kept watch over the partisan electoral process in Wisconsin; and was created in 2007 out of a bi-partisan effort to enforce fair election standards in Wisconsin.
The following motions were adopted by JCRAR :
1. “JCRAR finds that the GAB motion to permit technical college IDs meets the definition of a rule and directs GAB to promulgate its action as an emergency rule within 30 days.”
2. Same as above but related to permitting the use of stickers on student IDs to put them in compliance with voter ID requirements.
3. Same as above but related to requiring that address information on recall petitions may only be filled out by the signer or circulator and may not be pre-populated using a database.
In all instances, GAB had already issued opinions which supported the use of college IDs, and the use of stickers to come into compliance with new Voter ID Laws; as well as opining on what was acceptable electronic format for recall petitions. GOP leadership vehemently disgreed with GAB opinion, and the adopted motions will force GAB into creating an Administrative Rule, which, under new Act 21, can be overturned by the Governor. This amounts to pushing the GAB into creating a rule which can be used in the partisan politics of the recall, as opposed to being a neutral regulator.
In a statement to the media, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison) expressed his outrage at the Committee’s actions :
“Today is the day Scott Walker’s political cronies walked away from a bipartisan deal to create the independent GAB that I am proud to say I was a part of creating,”
“Republicans are trying to make it harder for students to vote and they should be ashamed of themselves,” said Pocan, who negotiated with Republicans in 2007 to take partisanship out of our election and ethics agencies. “Today, Republicans sent a strong signal that Scott Walker wants the fairest election he can rig.”
The G.A.B. is made up of six former judges, nominated by a panel of four Wisconsin Appeals Court judges, appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. The six board members serve staggered six-year terms; one member’s term expires each year. Both the Board and its staff must be non-partisan.
The GAB was created by a bi-partisan act of the Legislature, and is funded independently of the Legislature to maintain its autonomy. The Board currently consists of six former Circuit Court Justices from around the state:
|Judge Thomas Barland||
||Chair||Eau Claire||Eau Claire County Circuit Court, 1967-2000||May 1, 2015|
|Judge Gerald C. Nichol||
||Vice Chair||Madison||Dane County Circuit Court, 1988-2004||May 1, 2012|
|Judge Michael Brennan||
||Member||Marshfield||Clark County Circuit Court, 1971-2001||May 1, 2014|
|Judge Thomas Cane||
||Member||Wausau||Wisconsin Court of Appeals, 1981-2007Outagamie County Circuit Court, 1972-1981||May 1, 2013|
|Judge David G. Deininger||
||Member||Monroe||Wisconsin Court of Appeals, 1996-2007Green County Circuit Court, 1994-1996||May 1, 2016|
|Judge Timothy Vocke||
||Member||Rhinelander||Vilas County Circuit Court, 1979-1983
Reserve Judge, 1983-1992 and 1994-present
|May 1, 2017|
In a commentary titled “The Persistence of Partisan Election Administration,” Ohio State University law professor Daniel P. Tokaji states: “The best American model is Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board, which consists of retired judges selected in a way that is designed to promote impartiality.”
Scott Walker and the GOP have discarded the national role model the GAB was; as they have for Collective Bargaining, Public Education, Badgercare, and Wisconsin’s Progressive traditions.
The recall of Scott Walker must succeed – as a message that NO Governor, or single individual, is above the Constitution. Nor is one person or party entitled to such broad and sweeping power so as to effect single party rule in Wisconsin, suppress the true will of the people, and trample the rights of the minority.
Put Wisconsin First – Forward with the recall!