Saying it’s balancing privacy concerns with state law, the Government Accountability Board is posting 153,335 pages of Governor Walker recall petitions online — but not as a searchable database.
The GAB posted the documents on its web site Tuesday as PDF files (click here).
The signatures, which were supposed to be made public Monday, were kept private while elections officials considered concerns about personal privacy.
“Our staff had to do a thorough analysis under Wisconsin’s Public Records Law. These are serious issues which must be given thorough consideration and addressed in light of the Statutes and the responsibilities of the Board,” the GAB said in a statement Tuesday evening.
The GAB cited state law, the opinion of a judge who is GAB chairman, and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in making its decision:
Weighing all of these concerns and public interests, we have concluded that the balancing test of the Public Records Law favors disclosure of the entire recall petition without redaction of information on a recall petition, even when individual signers have expressed a concern arising from prior abuse or violence committed against them by a person who is now subject to a restraining order. During recall elections in 2011, the Board posted the entire petitions in PDF format on its website, and has followed the same practice with the recall petitions currently pending against four State Senators.
It took the GAB two weeks to scan more than 150,000 pages of petitions for Governor Walker’s recall so the public can see them online, but some are worried about people seeing the address next to their signature.
Golden House executive director Karen Faulkner says that’s a legitimate concern for a sexual assault or domestic abuse victim.
“I think for a limited number of victims, having their home address and telephone number publicized is a concern for their safety, for their children’s safety,” Faulkner said.
“I think that the concern is that an abuser — a former abuser or a current abuser — could use that information to locate someone,” she said.