Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, Republicans seek answers from court
By Greg Janetka
MADISON, Wisconsin: The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board filed a brief in Dane County Circuit Court on June 1 asking for a one-week extension on the deadline to finish its work on the three remaining recall petitions. If approved, the new deadline for the GAB to certify petitions for recall against Dave Hansen, Jim Holperin, and Robert Wirch would be June 10. The case is scheduled to be heard at 1:30 pm on Friday, June 3 - the day of the current deadline.
If the date is postponed, and the recall petitions are ultimately certified, that could trigger the possibility of two distinct recall election dates. Republican incumbents who have already had recalls approved would face recall on July 12, while the Democratic incumbents would be on the ballot on July 19. However, GAB has not certified the Republican recalls yet so the possibility still exists to line-up all 9 recalls on one date, as was intended.
The board was originally slated to hear challenges to six petitions on May 31, but announced that they would be unable to consider the recall petitions for Democratic incumbents Dave Hansen, Jim Holperin, and Robert Wirch due to "numerous factual and legal issues." In a statement they said more time would be necessary in order to ensure a complete record is available for examination.
Recall groups against the three Democrats responded to the announcement by calling for the resignation of GAB Director Kevin Kennedy, claiming the move was politically motivated. David VanderLeest (R), who organized the Recall Dave Hansen campaign and has declared to run against him, said, "I would immediately ask the Senate and the legislature to defund the GAB and replace it with a body that can be unbiased." Meanwhile, Dan Hunt of Taxpayers to Recall Wirch stated, "The election dates and so on don't matter here in the process. This process in my view, how now it's being handled is fundamentally not fair."
Kennedy dismissed the charges, saying his record stands for itself. Board spokesman Reid Magney explained the reason for the move - "The workload of reviewing the challenges to those petitions is so large that with available staff, we haven’t been able to do it yet. The challenges filed by the Democrats are just of a magnitude beyond what the Republicans challenged."
Currently, the GAB has not indicated that it will change the recall dates for the 6 Republican incumbents, with a proposed election date of July 12 still expected. According to the Board’s certification letters from the Republican incumbent hearings, the recall should be legally set by June 3 in order to trigger the July 12 date.
The GAB cleared the way for recall elections against the three Republicans on May 23, when they rejected most of the challenges to the petitions. The Republican argument is based on improperly filed paperwork, similar to the argument they previously used before the GAB and saw rejected. The court petitions allege that recall petitioners did not correctly register with the GAB and thus the 60-day period to collect signatures did not start, meaning every signature collected is "dated outside the circulation period" and therefore invalid.
Spokesman for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin Graeme Zielinski responded to the move, saying, "It's a desperate last-ditch attempt to save the backsides of some pretty out-of-step senators. It will be laughed out of court."
- WisPolitics, "GAB formally asks judge for more time to consider recall petitions against Dems," June 1, 2011
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Review of recall petitions going slowly; July 12 election in doubt," May 27, 2011
- NBC 15, "Six Republican Recalls Approved, Democrats Delayed," May 31, 2011
- WBAY, "Recall Groups Criticized GAB Procedures," May 31, 2011
- Washington Post, "Republicans upset with Wisconsin recall process," June 1, 2011
- Wisconsin State Journal, "Recall-targeted GOP senators challenge validity of petitions," June 1, 2011