Wisconsin elections officials disclosed Monday that a 100-year-old white brick building two miles east of the state Capitol is the previously secret location where petitions seeking the recall of Gov. Scott Walker and five other Republican officeholders are being stored, checked and processed.
While the location of the building had been kept from the public for security reasons, a webcam that broadcast, without sound, the work being done attracted tens of thousands of visitors in the opening days.
The 147,000 sq.-foot building serves many government functions, including housing the state's motor pool and printing and mail services, so it's familiar to many state workers.
"This has been a catchall facility for the state for a long time," said Kevin Kennedy, director of the Government Accountability Board, which oversees elections and is in charge of the work being done. "When I described this as gated with barbed wire, a lot of state employees knew what I was talking about."
For the past month, about 50 temporary workers earning about $10 an hour have been poring through roughly 1.9 million signatures on the recall petitions submitted Jan. 17.
The camera is still running, broadcasting the work being done Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The elections board has until March 19 to determine whether enough signatures were collected to order recall elections for Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four GOP state senators.
The workers on Monday were going through the petitions line by line to flag any of the signatures that should not be counted for one of many reasons, including lack of an address or no date.
They have already gone through 15 packs of red pens.
"The sheer volume is the biggest challenge," Kennedy said.
The work is being done in almost total silence. Eighteen filing cabinets holding the original petitions on more than 300,000 pages of paper stand back-to-back across the center of the room. Stacks of empty boxes that circulators had brought the petitions in are against another wall.
Forty computer terminals are in place for putting information into databases that track the petitions.
"It's like working on a campaign in some sense," Kennedy said. "There's a lot of drudgery here."
Kennedy said it's difficult to say whether the work will get done by March 19. The board was granted a 30-day extension by a judge, but it could seek another one.