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By James B. Nelson October 16, 2015

Gov. Scott Walker says board wanted to accept Mickey Mouse, Hitler as valid signatures in recall

Legislative Republicans are fast-tracking a bill to scrap the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, and Gov. Scott Walker turned to Twitter to urge them on.

Republicans say the board engaged in unfair treatment of their candidates during the 2011 and 2012 recall elections for Walker and several state senators. They also are critical of its implementation of a voter ID law and its participation in what one GOP senator has called a "witch hunt" of conservatives.

In advance of a hearing on a bill to replace the accountability board with two new bodies, Walker tweeted eight times Oct. 12, 2015 on the subject, each time using the #ReformGAB hashtag.

In one, he brought up two familiar names:

"GAB wanted to consider Mickey Mouse and Adolf Hitler as valid signatures on recall petitions. #ReformGAB."

Is Walker right?

When we asked Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick for evidence to support the claim, she referred us to a Dec. 14, 2011 report on WISN TV and a story that appeared on Politico on the same day.

Patrick noted that the WISN story said that "these names would be counted as long as they were properly dated and included a Wisconsin address." Patrick also cited a Dec. 13, 2011 video posted by the conservative MacIver Institute and said it shows that the "GAB specifically states they will accept Mickey Mouse and Adolf Hitler as valid signatures."

That got us digging into the PolitiFact archives.

On Dec. 18, 2011, we looked at this claim from MacIver’s video: "Wisconsin election officials to accept Mickey Mouse, Hitler signatures" on recall petitions. We rated it Mostly False.

The claim stems from a comment made by GAB elections specialist David Buerger during a Dec. 13, 2011 meeting of the board. Buerger was asked about Mickey Mouse and Hitler and responded: "We will flag them, but we will not strike them without challenge."

The MacIver video said the board decided to "accept" the fictitious signatures, as in counting them toward the total of about 540,000 that was required to force a recall election. That was not the case. Indeed, Buerger noted explicitly they would be "flagged" for more review, just not automatically stricken.

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Here is one window on how technical the verification process is: In 2011, the board did immediately strike an Adolf Hitler signature -- since it listed an out-of-state address (Berlin, Germany).

As our item noted:

"For such signatures to actually be counted, they would have to pass undetected through petition circulators, the recall committees, a pair of Government Accountability Board reviewers, Walker’s representatives and other groups that review the petitions. If such signatures were found, Walker could formally challenge them to the board to get them stricken."

According to state law governing recall elections, it’s up to the candidate being recalled to challenge names on the petitions. The statute says: "The burden of proof for any challenge rests with the individual bringing the challenge."

Patrick, the governor’s spokeswoman, pointed out that the Walker campaign won a court order on Jan. 4, 2012 directing the board to be more aggressive in seeking out and eliminating "duplicate and fictitious signatures and illegible addresses in recall petitions." That order was later overturned by an appeals court.

GAB spokesman Reid Magney told us in an email:  "Out of 930,000 signatures submitted on petitions to recall the governor, there were 4,001 duplications and four fictitious signatures (Adolf Hitler, Mick E. Mous, Donald L. Duck, and I Love Scott Walker Thanks)."

To be sure, Walker’s claim is not identical to the one we reviewed from MacIver.

Walker tweeted that board wanted to consider the signatures "as valid." MacIver asserted they would be accepted -- which, as we noted, still allows for a challenge that would knock them out.

Our rating

Walker tweeted that the GAB "wanted to consider Mickey Mouse and Adolf Hitler as valid signatures on recall petitions."

But there’s no evidence to support that. The process would not have immediately struck them. Rather, it would have flagged them for review. And there were numerous layers of scrutiny before it would have been determined valid.

Walker took a Mostly False statement and embellished it.

We rate his claim False.

Our Sources

Gov. Scott Walker Twitter account

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Lawmakers clash on campaign finance law, dismantling GAB," Oct. 13, 2015

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Judge rules for Walker campaign in case against state elections officials," Jan. 5, 2012

PolitiFact Wisconsin, "Conservative group says Wisconsin to allow Mickey Mouse, Hitler signatures on petitions to recall Gov. Scott Walker," Dec. 18, 2011

PolitiFact Wisconsin, "One Wisconsin Now says it’s legal to sign Walker recall petitions more than once," Dec. 2, 2011

WISN TV, "Mickey Mouse, Adolf Hitler allowed on Wisconsin recall petitions," Dec. 14, 2011

MacIver Institute video, Dec. 13, 2011

Politico, "‘Mickey Mouse Ok for Walker recall," Dec. 14, 2011

Wisconsin statutes, Recall, 9.10

Wisconsin statutes, Recall, duplicate signatures, 9.10 (2) (i)

Emails, Laurel Patrick, spokewoman, Gov. Scott Walker, Oct. 13, 14, 2015

Emails, Reid Magney, spokesman, Government Accountability Board, Oct. 15, 2015

Telephone interview, Kevin Kennedy, director and general counsel, Government Accountability Board, Oct. 14, 2015

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Gov. Scott Walker says board wanted to accept Mickey Mouse, Hitler as valid signatures in recall

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