Wisconsin recall webcam attracts bored and curious

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 20, 2012 4:14 PM
Wisconsin recall webcam attracts bored and curious

By Brendan O'Brien

(Reuters) - Reality TV just got a bit more boring with the Wisconsin election board's webcam, allowing voters to watch the monotonous process that could trigger a recall of Republican Governor Scott Walker.

Viewers can watch live streaming video, sans audio, as Government Accountability Board officials and temporary staff pour over 309,000 petition forms. By Thursday afternoon, the webcam had more than 29,000 views.

The board set up the webcam to provide transparency to the highly contentious process of verifying signatures that may trigger a recall of Walker, Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and four Republican state senators.

"The nature of the work and the facility we are using make public access impossible, so our idea was to find a way to give the public a way to look in on it and see what was happening," Government Accountability Board spokesman Reid Magney said. "It is not particularly compelling TV unless you are really bored."

Walker, in a move he and his allies said was needed to address a gaping budget hole, set off a firestorm last year by curtailing the collective bargaining rights of unionized public workers in a move that sparked efforts by opponents to remove him from office.

Wisconsin voters unseated two Republican state senators last summer in a recall vote. But only two governors in U.S. history have been successfully recalled -- California's Gray Davis in 2003 and Lynn Frazier of North Dakota in 1921.

Viewers of the Wisconsin webcam can also catch a glimpse of the Government Accountability Board personnel eating lunch, milling around and apparently discussing the task of counting a million signatures supporting a Walker recall.

The webcam also has a parody Twitter account in which the user has created nicknames such as "Sideburns" and "Ginger" for some of the most visible workers.

The work is being done at an undisclosed location to protect staff and the process, according to Government Accountability Board director and general counsel Kevin Kennedy.

As of Friday, workers were scanning in petitions so they could be reviewed by staff and the public. Magney said it was unclear when this part of the job would be complete.

On Tuesday, as hundreds of recall supporters celebrated, organizers submitted more than 150 boxes of petitions to the Accountability Board office. Recall organizers said they submitted roughly double the number of signatures needed to trigger a recall against the first-term governor.

Kennedy said he would go to court to request more time than the 31 days allowed by law to verify the petitions, indicating he expects the review process to take longer than 60 days.

Recall opponents have been skeptical of the petition verification process and the recall effort, complaining the recall effort has been fraught with fraud including duplicate signatures and the signing of fictitious names such as Mickey Mouse.

They also described the Government Accountability Board plans to verify signatures as too lax.

A judge recently ordered the board to "make reasonable efforts" to look for duplicates and invalid signatures and addresses. In response, the board purchased software intended to help find duplicate signatures. The board has also vowed to have two reviewers examine each signature.

(Reporting By Brendan O'Brien; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Cynthia Johnston)