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Rebecca Kleefisch recall, Wisconsin (2012)

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An effort to recall Rebecca Kleefisch, a Republican elected in 2010, from her position as the Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin was launched in November 2011. Kleefisch defeated Mahlon Mitchell (D) in the recall on June 5, 2012. A primary election took place May 8.[1]

Supporters of the recall submitted approximately 845,000 signatures on January 17, 2012. In order to qualify the recall question for the ballot at least 540,208 had to be valid.[2]

The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board certified about 809,000 signatures on March 30 and scheduled a primary on May 8 and general election on June 5.[3][4]

Path to the ballot

United Wisconsin, under the name the Committee to Recall Kleefisch, filed a recall petition on November 15, 2011. They had 60 days to collect 540,208 valid signatures, which had to be turned in by January 17, 2012.[5]

A second recall petition was filed against Kleefisch by a group calling itself Wisconsin Common Sense Citizens for Accountability and Recall aka Recall Walker Political Action Committee on November 18. Randy Bryce, treasurer of the Walker Recall PAC, said they were specifically targeting Republicans and Independents and hoped to work with United Wisconsin. "If they don't have enough and they need some more, well, here you go. It's kind of like an insurance policy," he said.[6]

On January 17, 2012, recall organizers submitted some 845,000 signatures to recall Kleefisch. The process of validating the signatures took several months, with GAB completing their work on March 30.[7] In response, Kleefisch stated "we’re proud of what happened over the last year and month of our time in office because we have seen tremendous reform in the state of Wisconsin and the reforms are working.”[8]

Signature verification

Under state law, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board had 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.[9]

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.[10]

The petitions were processed in a secret location, but a webcam was set up to provide a live feed of the work.[11]

Under state law, Kleefisch 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 Kleefisch with the signatures against her, Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess extended the period to 30 days from when Kleefisch received the full petitions.[12] She had until March 5 to file a challenge,[13] but announced on March 1 that she would not be challenging any of the signatures.[14]


Kleefisch defeated Mahlon Mitchell (D) in the recall on June 5, 2012.

Recall of Wisconsin Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, 2012
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Republican Green check mark transparent.pngRebecca Kleefisch Incumbent 52.9% 1,301,739
     Democratic Mahlon Mitchell 47% 1,156,520
     Scattering - 0.1% 3,077
Total Votes 2,461,336
Election Results via Wisconsin Government Accountability Board

Three Democrats made the ballot and faced off in a primary election on May 8, 2012:

  • Mahlon Mitchell (D): Mitchell is president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin. He declared his candidacy on March 19, 2012.[15]
  • Ira Robins (D): In early March, Robins, a 70-year-old private investigator, said he would run as a Democrat if the recall succeeded.[16]
  • Isaac Weix (D): Weix was actually a Republican but ran as a Democrat as a "protest" candidate.[17]
Wisconsin Lt. Governor Recall - Democratic Primary, 2012
Candidate Vote % Votes
Green check mark transparent.pngMahlon Mitchell 51.3% 396,302
Isaac Weix 25.5% 197,148
Ira Robins 21.4% 165,325
Scattering 1.8% 13,575
Total Votes 772,350
Election Results via Wisconsin Government Accountability Board.

Did not make ballot

Two candidates filed to run but did not have enough valid signatures to get on the ballot:[18]

  • Bruce Berman, a 47-year old contract driver, said on March 26 that he was planning to run.[19]
  • Dale Paul of Portage announced in late March he intended to run and took a leave of absence from his job as a guard at the Columbia Correctional Institution to do so.[20]

Did not run

State Rep. Cory Mason said on December 8, 2011, that he was "giving serious consideration" to a run for the office, but ultimately did not file to run.[21]

Legal issues

Joint recall for governor and lieutenant governor

An opinion issued November 3, 2011, by Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen found that, although they run on the same ticket, a recall targeting the governor would not automatically include the Lieutenant Governor. In order to recall both officials, separate petitions would have to be submitted, with separate recall elections held. Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate said they still planned to target both.[22]

Walker lawsuit

On December 15, Walker's campaign and the state Republican Party director filed suit against the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board in Waukesha County Circuit Court. The lawsuit asked 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."[23]

GAB typically 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.[24]

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.[25] 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.[26]

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 had to discuss the decision in order to determine what procedures in their process needed change.[27]

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 then went back to Davis.[28]

Cost of recall

"The Value of a Signature" video by Kleefisch, released the day the recall campaign began

In a November 15, 2011, video called "The Value of a Signature," Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch stated a statewide recall election would cost "$7.7 million - $7.7 million that may already be allocated to merit raises for teachers or health care for the poor or school books for your kids."

A PolitiFact analysis released November 23, 2011, rated Kleefisch's claim as "Half True." The $7.7 million figure was reached by taking the estimated $2.1 million it cost for the nine state senate recalls in the summer of 2011 and applying it to all 33 Senate districts. PolitiFact stated, "Kleefisch’s basic math is accurate -- and her estimate might even be low." They noted, however, that she stated the figure as fact rather than an estimate.[29]

PolitiFact said Kleefisch provided no evidence for the second half of her claim - that money would be used from funds already designated for school or health care. However, they noted that money for the election could have come from funds designated for other programs.

According to data released by the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board on January 6, 2012, the cost of a recall against Walker was estimated at a minimum of $9 million. GAB asked election clerks around the state to estimate the costs of a possible recall election based on November 2010 and April 2011 elections. The 72 county clerks reported an estimate at $2.35 million, while municipal clerks reported $5.82 million. GAB estimated its costs at $841,349.[30]

Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate acknowledged the estimate, stating, “the $9 million cost of a statewide recall election is great, but the cost of doing nothing is far greater. This undertaking is the biggest investment in the future of our state and families we can make.”[31]

The estimates were requested by Rep. Robin Vos (R) who was seeking to limit recall elections. Vos criticized the recalls as a waste of taxpayer money, stating, "It's about time taxpayers learned the cost of these unnecessary recall elections. The citizens of Wisconsin should have known the estimated cost on local governments before a single petition was circulated. Is this how they want their valuable taxpayer dollars spent?"[32]

Campaign contributions

People for Rebecca Campaign Finance Reports (GAB ID No. 0104890)
Report Date Filed Beginning Balance Total Contributions (Expenditures) Cash on Hand
Special Pre-Primary 2012 report[33] April 30, 2012 $87,917.71 $540,562.20 $(203,623.97) $424,855.94
Recall 60 day report[34] January 23, 2012 $72,549.96 $34,061.00 $(18,693.25) $87,917.71
January Continuing report[35] January 23, 2012 $74,670.12 $6,635.00 $(8,755.16) $72,549.96
Recall 30 day report[36] December 15, 2011 $26,155.43 $86,743.01 $(45,004.25) $67,894.19

Ads relating to the campaign

Additional reading

Official documents

See also

External links


  1. Associated Press/C-SPAN, "Campaign 2012 - Wisconsin Election Results," June 5, 2012
  2. BusinessWeek, "Wisconsin Officials Get More Time to Study Recall Petitions," March 13, 2012
  3. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Recall votes set for May 8 and June 5," March 14, 2012
  4. WTAQ, "Recall elections officially ordered against Gov. Walker, 5 other GOP lawmakers," March 30, 2012
  5. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "Committee to Recall Kleefisch," accessed November 16, 2011
  6. Channel 3000, "Second Recall Group Filed against Walker," November 19, 2011
  7. Appleton Post Crescent, "Organizers say they have collected more than 1 million petition signatures in effort to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker," January 17, 2012
  8. Wisconsin Radio Network, "Kleefisch ready for recall," January 10, 2012
  9. Green Bay Press Gazette, "Judge extends recall verification period," January 25, 2012
  10. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Software for recall petition database needs human assistance," January 21, 2012
  11. News 8000, "Webcam set up for Walker recall signature review," January 10, 2012
  12. ABC 7, "Judge gives Wis. gov more time to challenge recall," January 25, 2012
  13. Janesville Gazette, "Recall challenge deadline looms for Wis. senators," February 6, 2012 (dead link)
  14. WISN, "Lt. Gov. Kleefisch Won't Challenge Recall Signatures," March 1, 2012
  15. Post Crescent, "Wisconsin firefighters union head Mahlon Mitchell enters lieutenant governor recall race," March 19, 2012
  16. Muskego Patch, "Ira Robins Will Challenge Rebecca Kleefisch for Lt. Governor," March 6, 2012
  17. Caledonia Patch, "'Fake Democrats' Names Released for Governor, Lt. Governor Recalls," April 5, 2012
  18. WAOW, "5 recall candidates don't have enough names," April 11, 2012
  19. Post Crescent, "Democrat Bruce Berman of Marinette to run for Wisconsin lieutenant governor in recall," March 26, 2012
  20. Portage Daily Register, "Portage man joins race for lieutenant governor," March 26, 2012
  21. The Journal Times, "Mason considering a run for Lt. Gov., Lehman mulling another run for state Senate," December 9, 2011
  22. Post-Crescent, "Wisconsin governor, lieutenant governor recalls must be separate, attorney general says," November 3, 2011
  23. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Walker, GOP sue state elections and ethics agency over recall effort," December 15, 2011
  24. Appleton Post Crescent, "Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker recall effort hits 90 percent, group says," December 16, 2011
  25. The Republic, "Recall Walker backers ask court to dismiss lawsuit," December 20, 2011
  26. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Court rules out intervention by recall groups," December 29, 2011
  27. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "General Accountability Board ordered to boost vetting of recall petitions," January 6, 2012
  28. The Republic, "Wis. appeals court vacates ruling on how state elections board must review recall signatures," February 3, 2012
  29. PolitiFact, "Rebecca Kleefisch says recall election would cost $7.7 million that could already be allocated to teacher raises, health care for poor," November 23, 2011
  30. BusinessWeek, "Survey: Wis. gov recall will cost $9 million," January 6, 2012
  31. Wisconsin Radio Network, "Raising questions about recall costs," January 10, 2012
  32. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Walker recall cost estimated at $9 million," January 6, 2012
  33. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "People for Rebecca - Special Pre-Primary 2012," April 30, 2012
  34. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORT: STATE OF WISCONSIN: Recall 60 day report: People for Rebecca," January 23, 2012
  35. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORT: STATE OF WISCONSIN: GAB-2: People for Rebecca," January 23, 2012
  36. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORT: STATE OF WISCONSIN: GAB-2: People for Rebecca," December 15, 2011