Vos takes aim at Government Accountability Board

An angry Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) is vowing to change how Wisconsin elections and ethics are regulated.

Vos says the Government Accountability Board is “dysfunctional, unresponsive, and totally undemocratic.” The board, which oversees elections, is composed of six former judges who are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate.

Vos complained about the board’s handling of legislative recall petitioning and voting, and its support for the John Doe investigation into possible illegal coordination between Gov. Scott Walker and conservative groups. He also dislikes the model ballot offered to county clerks for this year’s general election.

“I promise you that two years from now when we are sitting here, the GAB will not be in the current format,” Vos told the Wisconsin State Journal. “I’m really disappointed in the way the GAB operates.”

The speaker wants GAB director Kevin Kennedy to be replaced. “Kevin Kennedy has to go,” Vos stressed last month. The director is appointed by the board of ex-judges outside the civil service system. The GAB was created in 2007 to replace both the State Elections Board and the State Ethics Board.

The goal then was to put distance between the politicians and decision-making about elections, lobbying and ethics. The goal was to provide an aura of neutrality in those crucial areas. Walker, a Republican, said he’d “look at it” but stressed any such change is not a priority for him.

Vos’ outspoken criticism seemed out of place – especially in the middle of the election cycle. Going into the Nov. 4 election, Republicans already controlled virtually every aspect of state government, except the GAB. Gerrymandering by the 2011 GOP-controlled Legislature seems to assure Republican control of the Legislature until 2020.

Matt Pommer is a veteran Capitol correspondent. His column is republished with permission from the Wisconsin Newspaper Association.

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