News & Election Videos

No recommendation made on recall challenges

Scott Bauer

Attorneys for the Wisconsin board that oversees elections are not recommending whether recall petitions targeting three Democratic state senators should be rejected or accepted, leaving that determination to the panel of retired judges that will consider the issue Wednesday.

A memo to the nonpartisan Government Accountability Board signed by its director, Kevin Kennedy, its lead attorney and other staff members released Tuesday addresses the complaints and discusses the evidence related to each one, but makes no recommendation on what to do.

Kennedy said the legal question over whether petitions targeting the three senators were fraudulent, and if so whether only parts or all of the petitions should be invalidated, was a legal determination that the board alone needed to make. The memo was designed to present them with the evidence and facts to help make their decision, Kennedy said.

If the board determines there was fraud, it will also have to consider whether to refer the case for criminal charges, Kennedy said.

The non-recommendation left petition circulators frustrated and angry.

Circulators of petitions targeting Sens. Dave Hansen of Green Bay and Jim Holperin of Conover said they hoped the board staff would have rejected the challenges and recommended that the recall elections be certified.

"Come on. What's up with all of this?" said Kim Simac who circulated the petitions against Holperin and plans to run against him. "What are we waiting for?"

David Vanderleest, who circulated the petitions against Hansen, said the board wasn't getting its work done and should be defunded by the Legislature.

Circulators of the petition to recall the third Democrat, Sen. Robert Wirch of Pleasant Prairie, did not immediately return a message seeking comment. They planned a news conference Wednesday morning before the GAB meeting.

Gillian Morris, a spokeswoman for the state Democratic Party, said the party was "pleased the GAB staff took the mountains of evidence of election fraud seriously. Tomorrow the judges will be able to review the evidence of vast, systemic election fraud before they make their final decision."

Democrats claim that out-of-state petition circulators committed widespread fraud, in some cases misrepresenting what the petitions were for and forging signatures, which should lead to their being invalidated. Petition circulators say the claims are ginned up and politically motivated in an attempt to block the elections.

The three Democrats were targeted for recall after they and 11 of their colleagues fled to Illinois in February to delay a Senate vote on Republican Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to take away collective bargaining rights from nearly all public workers.

The GAB has already approved recall elections for six Republican senators, who were targeted because they voted for the bill. Those recall elections are to take place July 12, but if a Democratic primary is needed the general election will be Aug. 9.

Should the recalls against the Democrats be approved, the primary election for Republicans seeking to challenge them would be July 19. The general election would be Aug. 16.

Three Republicans _ Randy Hopper of Fond du Lac, Dan Kapanke of La Crosse and Luther Olsen of Ripon _ filed lawsuits last week arguing that the recall petitions were invalid. Court dates for those cases have yet to be scheduled. The other Republicans facing July 12 recall elections are Alberta Darling of River Hills, Sheila Harsdorf of River Falls and Robert Cowles of Green Bay.

The Wisconsin Republican Party is encouraging protest candidates to run as Democrats to force primaries in at least two of the recall elections targeting Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald supported the move, saying Tuesday it was a legitimate tool available to Republicans to give their senators more time to campaign.

"If we're going to have recall elections, we're going to make sure our message gets out there," he said. "We're in the middle of something that's clearly hardball politics. ... This is tough politics and we understand that."

Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate issued a statement Tuesday saying voters will be misled and confused by spoiler candidates, it will threaten democracy, and is a waste of money because it will cost counties money to hold primary elections.

Also Tuesday, the government watchdog group Wisconsin Democracy Campaign filed complaints against Hopper, Kapanke and Hansen, saying they failed to disclose required information to the GAB about the occupation and employer of people who donated to their campaigns.

The Democracy Campaign says Hopper had the most, with nearly $43,000 worth of donations missing the required information, followed by Kapanke with about $6,100 and Hansen with nearly $3,000.

Hansen submitted an amended report after the complaint was lodged, and the two Republicans were working on updating their filings, state GOP spokeswoman Katie McCallum said.

The Associated Press