A Dane County, WI judge has approved a request by the state Government Accountability Board (GAB), which oversees elections in the state, to delay some state Senate recall elections and consolidate them into one day on July 12. In the course of making that decision, the judge turned back Democratic objections that some of their recalls should proceed as quickly as possible in June.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:
Signatures were filed against senators starting April 1, and under tight timelines in the statutes, the first election could have been scheduled in mid-June. But Dane County Judge John W. Markson agreed to give the accountability board more time to evaluate the petitions and schedule the elections.
He agreed the board needed more time because of the unprecedented demands on evaluating tens of thousands of signatures for each recall attempt. He also noted the board is bogged down by a statewide recount in the April 5 election for state Supreme Court.
The GAB had sought the extension primarily on the grounds that the extraordinary number of recalls was straining their capacity to review signatures. On the other hand, as WisPolitics reported on Thursday, Democratic Party attorney Jeremy Levinson had argued in a court filing that delaying any of the recalls would do damage to the Dems, and create political space for the Republicans to do mischief with the extra time:
Levinson argues delaying the matter would give the incumbents an “extra-statutory” fundraising advantage, and leave representation of those districts “an open and pending question.”
In addition, Levinson argues that delaying the recall elections may result in laws being enacted that would not be if the recalls are held in the time frame permitted by statute.
“The rush to put ‘Voter ID’ and the concealed carry of firearms before the legislature — to say nothing of the pending budget — confirm that this is an entirely concrete concern,” Levinson writes.
In addition, as Jessica Arp from the local CBS affiliate reported from Judge Markson’s court hearing, Levinson also argued that the earliest petitions, against state Sen. Dan Kapanke and state Sen. Randy Hopper, were filed so quickly as a deliberate decision on the Dems’ part, in order to have the recalls move forward quickly while the issues are still fresh in the public mind.
Ultimately, though, Markson declared that it had become difficult or impossible for the GAB to meet the statutory deadline, and that the public would be better served by having the recalls held on a single day.
The state Senate currently has a 19-14 Republican majority, with Democrats hoping to pick up three seats in recall elections and win a majority, in a backlash against Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-public employee union legislation. In order to initiate a recall, signatures of at least 25 percent of the number of voters in the previous gubernatorial election, within the targeted district, must be collected in a 60-day window.
Democrats have filed recall signatures against six Republicans: Dan Kapanke, Randy Hopper, Luther Olsen, Sheila Harsdorf, Alberta Darling and Rob Cowles. Republicans have filed recall signatures against three Democrats: Dave Hansen, Jim Holperin and Robert Wirch.
Under Wisconsin’s recall law, elected officials must have served at least one year of their term before being recalled — thus exempting the half of the Senate that was just elected in 2010. In addition, Dems have also declared their intention to recall Walker himself next year, when the one-year exemption runs out.