Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Update in Wisconsin: 6 GOP Senators Recalled

In my post How the Recall in Wisconsin Works (and an update on the effort) I explained how the Government Accountability Board was scheduled to decide if the recalls are to go forward on May 23 and May 31. Well, on May 23rd the GAB ruled that the petitions against three GOP Senators were sufficient for recall and today the board added three more GOP Senators to the recall list. As for the three Democratic Senators that were also scheduled to be ruled on, the GAB has requested more time to hear the disputes.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
State election officials on Tuesday approved recall elections against three Republican senators but declined for now to take up recall petitions against three Democrats.

Republicans decried as political the decision to take up the petitions against GOP senators but not Democratic senators. Officials with the Government Accountability Board denied that, saying they haven't had time to review detailed challenges by Democrats to the petitions filed against them.

"What the GAB has done is purely partisan and intended to discredit our recall," said a statement from Dan Hunt, who led the effort to recall Sen. Bob Wirch (D-Pleasant Prairie).

Shane Falk, an attorney for the board, said the board has been working overtime to review all the petitions, with half a dozen board employees working on them over the Memorial Day weekend. The board has also had to put in long hours because it just finished overseeing a recount in the April 5 race for state Supreme Court - the first statewide recount in more than two decades.

"We've attempted to work concurrently on all the petitions but we simply don't have enough staff," Falk told the board.

Thomas Barland, chairman of the board, said he was concerned about public perception because some may believe the board is trying to schedule the Democratic recall elections later than the Republican ones.

The board is composed of six retired judges and was specifically designed by the Legislature to be as non-partisan as possible.

"Politics has never been part of our interest or part of our agenda," said board member Thomas Cane.
While I can definitely see why people would think the board is being biased (some Conservative groups are even calling for calling on a state elections official to resign), the board has given a sufficient reason for their holdup in my view. Though both Republicans and Democrats have challenged the recall petitions, the Republicans claimed the way the papers were filed was an issue so it was easier for the GAB to decide on the claim. The Democrats, however, have claimed the Republican petition has signatures that were gathered in fraudulent ways which is causing the hold up.

No matter the reason for the holdup though, the GAB only has until Friday to finish deciding on all recall petitions. While the GAB has said they will try to seek a second extension from the courts, it's unknown how sympathetic the judge will be to the GAB's claims.

The six GOP Senators up for recall are: Sens. Randy Hopper of Fon du Lac, Dan Kapanke of La Crosse, Luther Olsen of Ripon, Sens. Alberta Darling of River Hills, Robert Cowles of Green Bay, and Sheila Harsdorf of River Falls. Democratic Sens. Bob Wirch of Pleasant Prairie, Jim Holperin of Conover, and Dave Hansen of Green Bay still have the possibility of being recalled as well.

If the courts approve the plan, then the recall elections will be on July 12th (there is always the possibility the courts could change the schedule). If there's more than one challenger in any race, July 12 election would become a primary and the general recall election would be Aug. 9 according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. One the recalls have been certified, the only way senators can stop the recall elections is by going through the courts.

From the GAB Recall Manual for Congressional, County and State Officials:
Appeal of Determination of Sufficiency: Within 7 days after an official makes a final determination of sufficiency or insufficiency of a recall petition, the petitioner or the officer against whom the recall petition is filed may file a petition for a writ of mandamus or prohibition with the circuit court for the county where the recall petition is offered for filing. Upon filing of such a petition, the only matter before the court shall be whether the recall petition is sufficient. The court may stay the effect of the filing officer's order while the petition is under advisement and may order the filing officer to revise the election schedule contained in the order, if a revised schedule is necessitated by judicial review. Whenever the recall petitioner files a petition, the officer against whom the recall petition is filed shall be a party to the proceeding. The court shall give the matter precedence over other matters not accorded similar precedence by law.
Following on the heels of the decision of Wisconsin Judge Maryann Sumi to strike down the controversial bill that stripped some unions of collective bargaining rights, it's been a good two weeks for Democrats in Wisconsin. Sumi's decision will help Democrats claim Republican Senators abused their power by violating the state’s open meetings law. Of course, there's always the possibility Republicans could retain their six seats and even gain three if all Democratic Senators are recalled and lose their elections. At this point it looks like Wisconsin Democrats think it's worth the risk.

Previously: Wisconsin Anti-Union Law Struck Down By Judge
How the Recall in Wisconsin Works (and an update on the effort)

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