GAB certifies three recall elections for Wisconsin Democrats, sets election for July 19

Jun 8 2011

By Geoff Pallay and Greg Janetka

MADISON, Wisconsin: After nearly 9 hours of deliberations, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board certified the recalls of three Democratic incumbents and set an initial election for July 19.[1] Thousands of signatures considered invalid or fraudulently collected were struck from the petitions, but the resulting number was not enough to reject any of them outright.[2]

After hearing challenges to the petitions made by the incumbents, as well as presentations from the respective recall committees and board staff, the Board certified 19,255 signatures to recall Jim Holperin, 17,138 for Robert Wirch, and 15,540 for Dave Hansen.[3] Recall elections for the six Republicans will take place July 12.

However, the certainty of July 12 and July 19 election dates still remains unclear. There are pending lawsuits filed by GOP incumbents that, if history is any indication, could end up pushing back the election dates. Attorneys for Dan Kapanke, Luther Olsen, and Randy Hopper have also filed petitions to stop the recalls against them. Hearings have not yet been scheduled for those cases.[4] Meanwhile, Jeremy Levinson, the attorney for the Democratic incumbents, did not indicate whether an appeal would be filed based on GAB’s ruling today.[5]

Arguing before the Board, Levinson said widespread fraud put into question all of the petitions submitted against Democratic senators, stating, “Part of our presentation today is the way in which this was done makes it clear that not enough signatures appear on these petitions to trigger a recall, and more cannot be relied upon because of the fraud and malfeasance that permeates the entire process.”[6] Democrats also questioned the use of paid petition circulators, which, they say, led in part to the fraud. Eric McLeod, representing the recall campaigns, accused the Democrats of “perpetrating fraud on the board,” and referred to the Democrat’s assertion of fraud as “empty rhetoric.”[7]

GAB staff attorney Shane Falk said the question the Board had to decide was whether the will of the electorate could be determined due to the alleged fraud and paid circulators. “At a certain point, the will of the electorate cannot be determined because of malfeasance,” he said. [8] In the end the six-members of the GAB acknowledged the claims of fraud brought by Democrats, but decided it was not clear enough to throw out entire petitions. Democratic spokeswoman Gillian Morris expressed disappointment in the decision, but said “I’m confident that voters of Wisconsin will support senators who stand up for working families and seniors.”[7]

Once the recalls are officially certified, candidates planning to run will be required to obtain at least 400 verified signatures and submit them to the GAB four weeks prior to the election. All three districts have seen multiple candidates express a desire to challenge the incumbent, which would indicate the likelihood of primaries on July 19.

2011 Wisconsin Senate Recalls

Senators Facing Recall
Robert CowlesAlberta DarlingSheila HarsdorfDave HansenJim HolperinRandy HopperDan KapankeLuther OlsenRobert Wirch

Other Recall Information
Recalls by YearRecall Law in WisconsinRecall laws in other statesRecalls in Wisconsin2011 Scott Walker Budget Repair BillProtests over Budget Repair BillWisconsin Government Accountability BoardRecall timeline