MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin elections board unanimously voted Monday to order recalls against four Republican state senators, determining that enough valid signatures were submitted to make them face elections.
Election officials are still reviewing petitions targeting Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, though it appears nearly certain that both Republicans also will stand for recall since they haven’t challenged the more than 1.7 million signatures submitted.
The Government Accountability Board wants to hold the recall elections May 8, or use that date for primary elections if needed and then hold the general election June 5. Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess must approve the request, since the dates are a week later than what he previously allowed for the elections. A hearing is set for Wednesday.
The recalls were motivated by anger over Walker’s proposal that was passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature last year that effectively ended collective bargaining for most public workers. An earlier round of recalls last summer targeting six Republicans and three Democrats resulted in two Republicans losing their seats, leaving the GOP with a slim 17-16 majority in the Wisconsin Senate.
The latest round targets four GOP senators, in addition to Walker and Kleefisch. If just one Democrat wins in the Senate races, they would capture majority control of the Senate — though lawmakers aren’t scheduled to be in session again this year after this week. The November elections will put majority control of the Senate in play for the next two years.
Recall organizers turned in 930,000 signatures against Walker, and only 26,000 were stricken following an initial review, GAB director Kevin Kennedy said Monday. Groups pushing for the recall said in January that they had collected a million signatures, though it takes 540,208 signatures to trigger a recall.
GAB spokesman Reid Magney released a statement following the meeting saying recall organizers had turned in 842,860 signatures against Kleefisch and board staffers struck 29,125 names during an initial review. Recall organizers need 540,208 signatures to force Kleefisch into an election, too.
Even though recall elections for Walker and Kleefisch hasn’t been approved, Democratic Party attorney Jeremy Levinson called Monday an “exciting day” as the recalls against the four senators moved closer to being put to voters.
“We want these elections as soon as possible,” said Levinson, who is helping recall organizers.
Zac Kramer, executive director of the State Senate Democratic Committee, said he hoped the board’s action would “stop the frivolous attempts by the GOP to halt the recall elections.”
Republican Party spokesman Ben Sparks issued a statement that didn’t mention the board’s actions but bemoaned the estimated $9 million cost of holding a statewide election. The party said it would be a waste to have separate elections.
“We urge the GAB to continue its efforts to ensure that these recall elections are held on the same date to reduce the growing burden and cost to Wisconsin taxpayers,” Sparks said.
Republican senators challenged thousands of signatures, but not enough were accepted by the board to stop any of the recalls from moving forward.
The board rejected broad arguments made by all four of the senators. Those were that new legislative boundaries should have been in effect for the circulation of recall petitions, signatures were collected outside the allowable recall period and should be rejected, signatures that appeared to be by the same person should be struck, and an outside analysis of the signatures by a pair of tea party groups should be accepted and evaluated.
The board determined that:
— At least 18,282 valid signatures out of 20,735 were turned in against Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, more than the 16,742 needed. Fitzgerald is from Juneau.
— At least 19,142 out of 23,712 turned in against Sen. Van Wanggaard were valid. They needed 15,353. Wanggaard is from Racine.
— At least 18,657 out of 20,907 valid signatures were submitted against Sen. Terry Moulton. Circulators needed 14,958. Moulton is from Chippewa Falls.
— At least 18,511 valid signatures out of 21,022 were submitted against Sen. Pam Galloway. They needed 15,647 signatures. Galloway is from Wausau.
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