It was a crushing defeat for Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse on Thursday at the Waukesha County Courthouse, as the Friends of Scott Walker successfully sued in order to ensure that those characters would not steal our recall process. Attorney Jeremy Levinson called the day’s events “political theatre”, an apt way to describe the arguments, rationale, and ruling that took place during the Walker v. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB) lawsuit hearing this afternoon.
Jay Bullock stated in a post earlier today, “The GOP, the party that opposes frivolous lawsuits and judicial activism, is jubilant today that its frivolous lawsuit produced a piece of judicial activism.” He’s correct. This case was frivolous and should have been dismissed.
A central argument presented by the Friends of Scott Walker was that because the Wisconsin GAB let one signature by “Bugs Bunny” slip through during the Holperin recall process, the agency could no longer be trusted to do its job.
As Kevin Kennedy, the director of the GAB, who has overseen nine recall elections in the last year alone, fielded questions about Bugs Bunny during his testimony, I’m not sure how he kept his frustration in check. When one of Walker’s lawyers asked Kennedy if the GAB had counted “Bugs Bunny” as a valid signature during the Holperin recall and Kennedy replied, “yes,” he tried to explain why it was counted, but the explanation didn’t seem to matter.
But context does matter. The reason Mr. Bunny’s vote was counted is an extremely important piece of evidence, as it proves that the GAB was not negligent. The GAB didn’t just allow Bugs to get his name through with a wink and a nod, like some idiotic, untrustworthy organization.
The GAB did not strike Bugs Bunny’s signature because the signature had not been challenged, and the agency can’t strike a signature without a challenge.
Jeremy Levinson, who was the attorney for the Democrats during the Holperin election, later explained why the signature had not been challenged. He said, “To get an affidavit dealing with the Bugs Bunny signature from Jim Holperin’s district which is…very far away from Madison, wasn’t worth the resources of the legal challenge because even if we had struck Bugs Bunny, Senator Holperin would still have had an election. That was a conscious decision, that didn’t slip through the cracks.”
The Friends of Scott Walker also said they were worried about “eligibility of addresses” and “potential duplicate signatures.” They argued that Equal Protection rights were at stake, and cited the person who bragged about signing Walker’s recall petition eighty times as an example. They claimed that “that person takes away the voting right of a person who chooses not to sign.” The plaintiffs also said the GAB didn’t “sense an obligation to ferret out signatures” that may not be legit, due to comments GAB staff had previously made to the media.
The closing statements made by the GAB’s attorney were extremely compelling. He said “we shouldn’t make this up as we go along,” and that the plaintiffs were “attempting to micromanage” the staff review prior to the determination. He shot down the plaintiff’s claim of Equal Protection (“they’re really reaching”) and argued that this shouldn’t be a “case about staff comments.” Finally, “The whole process of review doesn’t have to be overturned because perfection cannot be guaranteed.”
In the end, the judge said he was concerned about published GAB remarks which “left an impression that they don’t intend to follow the law,” and that “if we let an unqualified person sign, each signature erodes the rights of qualified people because the pool of qualified electors is finite.” Judge Davis said the GAB has an obligation under the law to strike duplicate signatures, fictitious signatures, and signatures that are not eligible due to municipality.
Kevin Kennedy said he isn’t sure exactly what will change yet, as “that remains to be seen.” But I guess we can all rest easier tonight, secure in the knowledge that Governor Walker has protected the electorate from the likes of Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse.
Here’s my interview with Atty Jeremy Levinson. Warning: video quality is VERY rough: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=coKu3NJHPdI