Terry Moulton recall, Wisconsin State Senate (2012)

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An effort to recall Terry Moulton, a member of the Republican Party, from his elected position representing District 23 in the Wisconsin State Senate was launched on November 15, 2011.[1] Supporters of the recall submitted over 21,000 signatures on January 17, 2012. The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board voted unanimously on March 12 to order the recall, determining that at least 18,657 of the signatures were valid.[2]

Moulton survived, defeating Kristen Dexter (D) in the recall election on June 5.[3]


See also: Timeline of events of the recall of Wisconsin State Senators in 2012
  • November 15, 2011: Democrats file recall petition against Terry Moulton.
  • January 17, 2012: Organizers turn in over 21,000 signatures to recall Moulton to the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board
  • January 30: Former state Rep. Kristen Dexter (D) announces she will challenge Moulton if a recall is scheduled
  • February 9: Moulton files a challenge, contesting 12,373 of the signatures.
  • March 12: GAB votes unanimously to order a recall election.
  • March 14: Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess signs an agreement scheduling the primary for May 8 with general election on June 5.
  • May 8: Kristen Dexter defeats James Engel in the Democratic primary.
  • June 5: Moulton defeats Dexter to retain his seat.

Path to the ballot

The Committee to Recall Moulton filed paperwork to begin collecting signatures for a recall on November 15, 2011. They needed to collect 14,958 valid signatures within 60 days to force a recall. On November 28, Eau Claire County Democratic Party chair Kristen Dexter said 8,900 signatures - 59 percent of the total needed - had been collected.[4]

On January 17, 2012, organizers said they turned into over 21,000 signatures.[5]

Signature verification

Under state law, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board has 31 days to determine if enough valid signatures were submitted to force a recall. However, with 1.9 million signatures to review for six recalls, they asked a judge for extra time on January 20, 2012. Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess granted the extension on January 25, giving the board an additional 30 days.[6]

The state purchased software from Artsyl Technologies to help with the process. Workers scanned the petitions into computers and the software read the names and converted them into type. A human operator verified the name, correcting any errors before it was entered into a database. The databases could then be used to check for duplicate signatures.[7]

The petitions were processed in a secret location, but a webcam was set up to provide a live feed of the work.[8]

Under state law, Moulton had only 10 days to challenge the validity of the petitions starting on January 18. However, as GAB officials were not able to readily provide Moulton with the signatures against him, Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess extended the period to 20 days.[9]

Signature challenge

Moulton filed an official signature challenge on February 9, contesting 12,373 signatures. According to the challenge, at least 6,261 signatures were from people Moulton no longer represented, along with 265 duplicate signatures and others that were invalid.[10]


Moulton defeated Kristen Dexter (D) in the recall election on June 5.[11]

Recall of Wisconsin State Senator Terry Moulton, 2012
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Republican Green check mark transparent.pngTerry Moulton Incumbent 56.6% 39,864
     Democratic Kristen Dexter 43.3% 30,504
     - Scattering 0.1% 100
Total Votes 70,468
Source: Wisconsin Government Accountability Board

Former Democratic state legislator Kristen Dexter announced on January 30, 2012 that she would challenge Moulton in a recall. Dexter served in the Assembly from 2009-2011. She defeated Moulton in 2008 to win the District 68 seat.[12]

James Engel is a Republican but ran as a Democrat in order to ensure a primary in the race. The state GOP announced in March that they would be recruiting protest candidates for the primaries to make sure the recalls would all happen on the same day.[13]

Wisconsin State Senate District 23 Recall - Democratic Primary Democratic Primary, 2012
Candidate Vote % Votes
Green check mark transparent.pngKristen Dexter 63.8% 17,651
James Engel 35.2% 9,736
Scattering 1.1% 292
Total Votes 27,679

Legal issues

Recalls in old districts or new?

On November 18, 2011, a group of citizens asked a federal court to make sure that the recall elections took place in the old districts where the legislators were elected from, rather than the newly drawn districts.[14] Three days later, a group of Republicans asked the state Supreme Court to require any recall elections take place in the new districts. The new districts, drawn by the Republican majority, would help the GOP.[15]

During the first week of November Republicans in the Senate attempt to fast-track a bill that would have immediately implemented the new Senate districts while allowing the old Assembly districts to remain. A vote on the bill was indefinitely delayed when Republican Sen. Dale Schultz said he would not vote for it, denying the necessary majority.

Republicans filed a second lawsuit in Waukesha County on November 29, requesting a panel of three circuit court judges hear the case. The new GOP suit was filed to make sure proper procedures are followed in the case.[16] On December 2, Republicans asked to withdraw their first lawsuit, a move Democrats immediately tried to block, saying the court should keep the case and dismiss it at a later date. The request came after it was known that Justice David Prosser, sidelined with an illness, would not take part in the case.[17] That same day, Republicans amended their complaint, requesting a single Waukesha County judge hear the case, rather than the three-judge panel.[18]

Three days later, Republicans announced they were switching lawyers in the case, from the law firm of Michael, Best and Friedrich, to attorney Michael Dean. Michael, Best and Friedrich was the same firm used by Republicans during the redistricting process.[19]

Walker lawsuit

On December 15, Governor Scott Walker's campaign and the state Republican Party director filed suit against the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board in Waukesha County Circuit Court. The lawsuit asks that a judge require GAB to search for and strike duplicate signatures, fake names and illegible addresses.

Stephan Thompson, executive director of the state Republican Party, stated, "The decision of one individual who chooses to sign a recall petition should not carry more weight than the decision of another who chooses not to sign. This lawsuit seeks to protect the Wisconsin electors whose voices have been trumped by those purposefully signing multiple petitions."[20]

Currently, GAB reviews signatures to ensure there are enough to trigger a recall and verify they include a Wisconsin address and are dated during the recall period. It is up to challengers to point out potential issues with signatures.[21]

On December 20, The Recall Walker Committee, as well as the committees to recall Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and three Republican state senators, filed a motion asking a judge to dismiss the suit. They argued that the suit was designed to create uncertainty, disruptions and expenses in the recall process.[22] At a hearing on December 29, Judge Mac Davis, a former Republican state Senator, denied the motion to intervene, citing the need for speed and desire to avoid possible "chaos" that could come if new parties were allowed in the case.[23]

Davis issued a ruling on January 5, 2012, stating that GAB must take "reasonable" actions to eliminate duplicate and illegal signatures from recall petitions. However, he gave them discretion to decide how to achieve that, noting that requiring such action "is limited by the resources and ability they have or are reasonably able to obtain." GAB Director Kevin Kennedy said they will have to discuss the decision in order to determine what procedures in their process they will need to change.[24]

On February 3, the Fourth District Court of Appeals in Madison overturned the ruling that denied recall organizers from joining the suit, stating that they had a valid interest to join. The ruling also threw out Judge Davis' decision that GAB must actively seek to strike fake and duplicate signatures. The case went back to Davis.[25]

Campaign contributions

John Kidd, treasurer of the committee working to recall Moulton, said that, between November 15 and December 15, 2011, the organization raised $4,129 and spent all of it.[26]

Terry Moulton Campaign Finance Reports (GAB ID No. 0104124)
Report Date Filed Beginning Balance Total Contributions (Expenditures) Cash on Hand
Special Pre-Primary 2012 report[27] April 30, 2012 $118,136.86 $102,631.42 $(25,482.50) $195,530.78
Recall 60 day report[28] January 23, 2012 $102,771.54 $15,645.00 $(279.68) $118,136.86
Recall 30 day report[29] December 15, 2011 $57,285.02 $35,461.04 $(5,669.93) $87,076.13

Ads relating to the campaign

Additional reading

Official documents

See also

External links


  1. FOX 6 Now, "Recall paperwork filed Tuesday for four senators, including Van Wanggaard," November 15, 2011
  2. The Journal Times, "Wis. board orders recalls against 4 GOP senators," March 12, 2012
  3. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Recall votes set for May 8 and June 5," March 14, 2012
  4. The Chippewa Herald, "Democrats say Moulton recall signatures at 59 percent," November 29, 2011
  5. WQOW, "Moulton recall organizers turning in signatures," January 17, 2012
  6. Green Bay Press Gazette, "Judge extends recall verification period," January 25, 2012
  7. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Software for recall petition database needs human assistance," January 21, 2012
  8. News 8000, "Webcam set up for Walker recall signature review," January 10, 2012
  9. ABC 7, "Judge gives Wis. gov more time to challenge recall," January 25, 2012
  10. WQOW, "Recall signatures: Sen. Moulton challenging more than half," February 9, 2012
  11. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "4 Democrats easily win Senate primaries," May 9, 2012
  12. Leader-Telegram, "Dexter to challenge state Sen. Moulton in recall," January 30, 2012
  13. The Republic, “Wisconsin Republicans name fake Democrats for recall primaries,” April 4, 2012
  14. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Group asks court to ensure recall elections are held in old Senate districts," November 21, 2011
  15. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Republicans sue to place recalls in new districts," November 21, 2011
  16. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Republicans file second suit seeking new districts for recalls," November 30, 2011
  17. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Republicans withdraw redistricting lawsuit with state Supreme Court," December 2, 2011
  18. Courthouse News Service, "Dueling Claims over Wisconsin Redistricting," December 5, 2011
  19. The Republic, "Republicans change lawyers in case challenging Wisconsin redistricting," December 5, 2011
  20. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Walker, GOP sue state elections and ethics agency over recall effort," December 15, 2011
  21. Appleton Post Crescent, "Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker recall effort hits 90 percent, group says," December 16, 2011
  22. The Republic, "Recall Walker backers ask court to dismiss lawsuit," December 20, 2011
  23. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Court rules out intervention by recall groups," December 29, 2011
  24. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "General Accountability Board ordered to boost vetting of recall petitions," January 6, 2012
  25. The Republic, "Wis. appeals court vacates ruling on how state elections board must review recall signatures," February 3, 2012
  26. NBC 26, "Recall committee raises $4k against Wisconsin Senator," December 15, 2011
  27. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "Friends of Terry Moulton - Special Pre-Primary 2012," April 30, 2012
  28. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "Friends of Terry Moulton - Recall 60 day report," January 23, 2012
  29. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "Friends of Terry Moulton - Recall 30 day report," December 15, 2011