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UPDATE: Wis. Elections Board Trims Petition Signatures

By: Zac Schultz Email
By: Zac Schultz Email

UPDATED Wednesday, June 8, 2011 --- 6:01 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A Wisconsin state board has voted to accept recall petitions targeting three Democratic state senators which will force them to stand for election in July.

Opponents of the recalls argued Wednesday before the Government Accountability Board that widespread fraud in the collection of the signatures warranted invalidating the signatures.

The board rejected thousands of signatures, but not enough to disqualify the petitions. They voted to certify recall elections for Sens. Dave Hansen of Green Bay, Jim Holperin of Conover and Bob Wirch of Pleasant Prairie.

The board's decision can be appealed to circuit court but the Democrats' attorney says he doesn't know if an appeal will be filed.

The board has previously approved July 12 recall elections for six Republican senators. The election for the Democrats is set for July 19.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.


UPDATED Wednesday, June 8, 2011 --- 7:00 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Attorneys for the Wisconsin board that oversees elections are not recommending whether recall petitions targeting three Democratic state senators should be rejected or accepted.

A memo to the nonpartisan Government Accountability Board signed by its director, 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.

The board was meeting Wednesday to consider how to act on the challenges.

The recalls target Sens. Jim Holperin of Conover, Robert Wirch of Pleasant Prairie and Dave Hansen of Green Bay.

Democrats filed challenges against all three petitions, alleging circulators employed widespread fraud in collecting the signatures. Those pushing for the recalls say the challenges will fail and the delay is politically motivated.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.


UPDATED: Friday, June 3, 2011 --- 5:52p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A Dane County judge says election officials can have another week to review recall petitions against three Democratic senators, but should certify petitions against six GOP senators immediately.

Judge John Markson says there is no need for state election officials to hold off calling elections for the GOP senators. Republicans argued that they made filing decisions based on the original timeline set by Markson and that an extension would unfairly disadvantage the senators. Markson dismissed that claim.

Unless pending lawsuits delay elections, six recall elections targeting GOP senators will be held July 12. The primaries in contests targeting Democrats will likely occur July 19. The general elections against those Democrats would be Aug. 16.

The senators are targeted for their positions on GOP Gov. Scott Walker's contentious collective bargaining bill.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.


UPDATED Wednesday, June 1, 2011 --- 3:05 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- State election officials have asked a Dane County court for more time to finish their review of three recall petitions targeting Democratic senators.

The Government Accountability Board says it will need until June 10 to make final decisions on petitions to recall Sens. Jim Holperin of Conover, Robert Wirch of Pleasant Prairie and Dave Hansen of Green Bay. They now have until Friday to finish those reviews.

The board says it needs more time to review challenges to thousands of signatures on each petition as well. Democrats say out-of-state circulators used fraud and misrepresentation to gather many signatures and that the petitions should be dismissed. The recall groups say the challenges will fail and that the delay is politically motivated.

A Dane County judge will hear the extension request Friday.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.


UPDATED Tuesday, May 31st, 2011 -- 5:23pm
By Zac Schultz
Twitter @zschultz15

Madison: It didn't take long for the Government Accountability Board to approve recall elections against another three republican senators.

Now Sheila Harsdorf, Rob Cowles and Alberta Darling will join Dan Kapanke, Randy Hopper and Luther Olsen in an election likely to be scheduled for July 12th.

"This is simply unacceptable," says Eric McLeod, the lawyer representing the Republicans. McLeod wasn't arguing against approving the signatures. His bigger concern was that the GAB did not take up the petitions against three democratic senators.

The GAB will ask a judge to give them another week to review the legal challenges.

"Any implication of partisan bias in the work this agency does should be of grave concern to the members of this board," says McLeod.

The GAB staff says they were able to lump the republicans together because their legal challenges were identical, but the democrats legal challenges are completely different. "We've attempted to work concurrently on all of the petitions at the same time but we just simply do not have enough staff," says GAB staffer Shane Falk.

The leaders of the groups to recall the democrats held a press conference just outside the room where the GAB was putting the final stamp of approval on Senator Darling's recall.

"This process, in my view, how now it's being handled is fundamentally not fair and it's fundamentally biased," says Dan Hunt of Recall Wirch. "I call on Kevin Kennedy right now to resign."

Delaying a decision on the democrats will give them a different election day from the Republicans, something they say is a partisan move by the GAB.

"I would immediately ask the Senate and the legislature to defund the GAB and replace it with a body that can be unbiased," says David VanderLeest of Recall Hansen.

"Is it bias or just incompetance? You make the call. I know the call I've made," says Chris Kliesmet of Citizens for Responsible Government Network.

"I'm not going to dignify those kind of comments," says Kevin Kennedy, Executive Director of the GAB. He says the staff has already been working all-nighters and weekends to keep up. "We are the referees. The referees in any situation are always going to get criticized. That comes with the territory."

The GAB has until the end of the week to have a judge certify the recalls, but it's possible the republicans will file a court challenge before that happens, hoping to delay the election.


UPDATED Monday May 23rd, 2011
By Zac Schultz

Madison: The seven retired judges on the Government Accountability Board made short work of the legal challenges raised by Republican Senators Kapanke, Hopper and Olsen.

The board voted to accept the signatures needed to move ahead with the recall.

Eric McLeod is the lawyer for the Republican Senators, "I respectfully disagree with the board's conclusion."

McLeod argued the committees to recall the senators filled out the paperwork incorrectly. He wanted all the signatures thrown out. "The petition is fatally flawed and it must be rejected."

GAB staff and the Board rejected that argument. "I think what the board has indicated is a desire to treat a lot of these rules as flexible," says McLeod. "Meaning strict compliance is not necessary."

"What we saw here today was a discussion of a very hyper-technical issues," says Jeremy Levinson, lawyer for the democrats. "really unconnected to the basic purpose of the recall process."

Next Tuesday the GAB will address challenges to the efforts to recall three other Republicans and three Democrats.

The Republicans will use the same legal argument as today and will likely suffer the same fate.

The Democrats are arguing the committees to recall them were corrupt and need to be throw out. "The process of those recall efforts were so flawed and so riddled with improprieties and defects," says Levinson.

"Their legal arguments are unfounded and the board is likely to reject those," says McLeod.

GAB Director Kevin Kennedy says they're expecting a long hearing. "It will probably be a lot more tedious as board members ask more and more questions of the attorneys."


UPDATED April 29, 2011
By Zac Schultz

Madison: A total of of nine state senators could face recall elections this summer, but before the elections can be set the Government Accountability Board needs to certify those petitions, which include nearly 150,000 signatures.

It's unprecedented and when added to the statewide recount in the Supreme Court election, it makes sense the GAB is asking for more time.

Today Judge John Markson approved their request to take until June to deal with legal challenges and certify the first eight recalls. "I am finding that there is good cause to extend the deadlines."

The extension is not without debate.

Jeremy Levinson, a lawyer for some of the groups trying to recall Republican senators says the delay gives more time for incumbents to campaign and raise money. Without the delay, recall elections for Senators Kapanke, Hopper and Olsen would all in June. "What happened here today means that senators who may be destined to lose their jobs just got an extra lease on life for a while."

"Both sides have the opportunity to raise money. We're not weighing that issue," says Kevin Kennedy, Executive Dir. of the GAB. "How this works out or whether it disrupts political expectations that people may have had is really not my concern here today."

Now, the first eight recalls will take place July 12th.

If there are multiple challengers, the primary would be July 12th, and the general election would be August 9th.


UPDATED Friday, April 22, 2011 -- 4:04pm
By Zac Schultz
Twitter @zschultz15

Madison: It's a scene that's been repeated eight times so far; a recall group drops off boxes of petition sheets filled with signatures supporting the recall of a state senator.

But it's not as simple as setting a date for an election and waiting.
By law, the Government Accountability Board has 31 days to review the documents and make sure they were filled out properly and there are enough signatures, 25% of the number of votes cast in that district in the last governor's race.

All of the petitions can be found on the GAB's website. But the GAB doesn't look up individual names to make sure they live in the district or are legal voters.

That's the incumbent's job and they have 10 days to file a complaint.
That's already happened in three recalls and will likely happen in more.

Senators Dan Kapanke and Randy Hopper have filed papers saying paperwork was filled out wrong and some signers don't live in the district.

Democrats are alleging similar misconduct by the groups trying to recall them.

The GAB will rule on the challenges before they certify the petition and that ruling can be appealed in circuit court.

The GAB is planning on asking for more time to certify all of the different recalls and they've asked the Joint Finance Committee for an extra $40,800 to hire more help.

Once the petitions are certified, a recall election is set for the 6th Tuesday after that. Then challengers have 10 days to get signatures to get themselves on the ballot along with the incumbent.

If there is a primary, that will be held on the 6th Tuesday, and a general election will take place 4 weeks after that.

So we're nearly at the end of April. The law gives the GAB 31 days,but they're going to ask for more time, which could take us to the end of June. If the election is 6 weeks later we're into the middle of August, but if that becomes the primary we may not have an election until after labor day, a full six months after the recall effort started.


Posted Thursday, April 21, 2011 -- 5:30pm
By Zac Schultz
Twitter @zschultz15

Madison: Two boxes of manila envelopes contain the signatures of more than 18,000 people in the Green Bay area who want to see Senator Dave Hansen recalled.

David VanderLeest led the effort. "We feel good. The signatures are in and there will be an election for Senator Hansen. We have over 5,000 signatures more than we need, so it was a successful campaign."

Hansen is one of three Democrats who will likely face recall elections this summer. Groups also turned in paperwork on Sen. Jim Holperin (Conover) and Sen. Robert Wirch (Kenosha).

All three groups say the driving force behind the recalls is the fact Democrats left the state in order to prevent a vote in the Senate on Governor Walker's budget repair bill.

"The amount of disappointment in the citizens of the 12th district is deep," says Kim Simac, who led the effort against Sen. Holperin.

"We're seeing the people make heroes out of AWOL and that's just not correct," says VanderLeest.

Dan Hunt says Sen. Wirch actually helped their efforts. "As he left the state senate there was a huge groundswell of opposition to that move so it actually made our job a whole lot easier, particularly when they were gone for three weeks."

"It is what it is." Sen. Hansen (Green Bay) kept this reaction pretty simple. "Some people like what we did and others don't. Obviously we'll give the people a choice. Democracy in action."

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin is alleging many of the signatures were gathered illegally, either by trading alcohol for signatures or other methods.

"Hogwash. Hogwash," says VanderLeest. "We're honest people. We did this the right way...anyone who would say less than that is lying."

"I just know I certainly didn't pay anybody to do anything," says Simac.

Also Thursday a group turned in signatures to force a recall election against Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills).

Darling is the co-chair of the joint finance committee and a big supporter of Governor Walker's collective bargaining changes.

That brings the total of Senators possibly facing a recall to 8, with 5 Republicans and 3 Democrats.

There are still efforts to gather enough signatures for 8 other Senators but it's expected that only one or two more groups will be successful in gathering the required signatures by the deadline.



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