Groups creating searchable databases with recall names

MADISON -- Names and addresses of those who signed recall petitions against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker are now online for all to see, after the Government Accountability Board posted the petitions late Tuesday evening. The GAB had originally planned to post those petitions Monday, then held off, citing some had come forward with privacy concerns. Now, some groups are taking the petitions and making their own databases, using their own software to check that signatures are valid, and making the petitions searchable.


The recall petitions against Governor Walker have been online for one day, and some say the GAB's website, where anyone can take a look at these petitions, has been so busy that at times, it crashed.

This isn't stopping a group called "Verify the Recall" from taking the names listed on these petitions and entering them into their own software, and creating a searchable database. Larry Gamble says he is one of 11,000 volunteers who have signed up to help. The software is being provided by a conservative group out of Texas, called "True the Vote." "This will allow you to go in, put in your name, your information, and see if it shows up," Gamble said.

Wednesday, the GAB's director, Kevin Kennedy, did just one interview where he talked about making these petitions available online, on the WisconsinEye news service. WisconsinEye is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit and privately funded statewide public affairs network. Kennedy says concerns from domestic violence victims about their information being placed online did not slow the recall process, but did force administrators to think about the issue. Now, there are concerns some could use the petition information for marketing and other uses. "I would think there might be an attempt. We live in a commercial society. I feel the challenge is, how people are going to react when they find out their friends or their neighbors (signed petitions). How are they going to treat them? Are they going to have a respectable dialogue, or are they going to have, as they say in Washington, an uncomfortable conversation?" Kennedy said Wednesday.

Kennedy says at this point, if a domestic violence victim wants his or her information off the public site, they'd have to go to a judge. Kennedy says he believes petition circulators should have informed anyone who asked, that they would be signing a public document.

The group "Verify the Recall" says their searchable database should be online next week.

Racine State Senator Van Wanggaard's campaign has not only posted the recall petitions online, but they've alphabetized the names of those who signed.

At the "Republican Victory Center" in Racine County, volunteers say they've combed through the petitions to recall Van Wanggaard three times in just two weeks. "The amount of volunteers we've had in here was tremendous. What we were looking for was missing information, inaccurate information, if anyone was outside the district, if any dates were bad,"

Wanggaard's campaign manager, Justin Phillips, wouldn't say exactly how many signatures they plan to challenge, but the campaign did post all 23,000 signatures on Wanggaard's website, in alphabetical order, for those in his district to see. Phillips says it makes it easier for people to make sure their name isn't on a petition. "A lot of people have called in or reached out and said 'hey, is my name on there?'" Phillips said.

The alphabetizing of recall names got mixed reaction from many FOX6 spoke with -- some saying those who didn't want their names made public, shouldn't have signed in the first place, and others saying some may want to create trouble with the information listed on petitions.