MADISON, Wisc. (CN) – On the eve of today’s deadline, petitioners claim to have far more than the 540,208 signatures needed for a recall election against Gov. Scott Walker, whose anti-union legislation inspired copycat laws around the country.
Recall groups need signatures equal to 25 percent of all votes cast in the previous election for the post – in Walker’s case, the election that put him in office.
United Wisconsin, a grassroots coalition seeking Walker’s recall, claims petitioners have collected at least 720,000 signatures since Nov. 15, and told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel they plan to turn in 1 million signatures today (Tuesday).
“The petitions weigh about 3,000 pounds and will be delivered to the [government] accountability board by truck,” Wisconsin Democratic Party spokesman Graeme Zielinski told the Journal Sentinel.
Five other Republican officeholders also were targeted for recall: Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and five state senators.
State officials plan to go to court today to ensure that all the elections are held on the same day.
The Government Accountability Board has 31 days to determine whether the recalls will be held. If so, they will come 6 weeks later. But if more than one candidate from a party runs, the recall election becomes a primary and the general election for that post is held 4 weeks after the first one.
The Government Accountability Board already has said it expects it will need at least 60 days to certify the recall petitions for Walker and Kleefisch. The board will have to ask a Dane County judge for an extension. It should be able to count the state senators’ recall petitions within 31 days, as those efforts needed fewer signatures.
Walker became the center of national attention shortly after he was elected when he stripped state employees – including teachers, nurses and prison guards – of their collective bargaining rights, curtailed health, retirement and other benefits, and made it more difficult for unions to represent, and keep representing, workers.
State governments around the country followed with their own anti-union legislation.
Meanwhile, Walker has cut more than $800 million from public schools and capped the amount of money public school districts can collect in property taxes. He cut funding for the state insurance program, and signed a Voter ID bill that opponents say will disenfranchise students, the elderly, the poor and disabled.
In a presidential election year, political operatives nationwide will be watching Wisconsin’s recalls to see the electoral effects of Walker’s frontal attack upon unions.
Wisconsin went for Barack Obama in 2008, but swung Republican 2 years later, putting Walker into the governor’s chair. Before that, he was Milwaukee County’s chief executive.
Mike Grebe, Chairman of Friends of Scott Walker, calls the recall “baseless.” In a statement on the Walker for Governor website Grebe said: “Madison liberals, at the direction of special interest unions, are fighting tooth and nail to force the millions of dollars Gov. Walker has saved taxpayers back into the hands of public employee unions. Wisconsinites will not stand for the $9 million power grab this recall is going to cost them and they will not allow the blatantly false accusations of what Gov. Walker’s reforms have accomplished to prematurely end his term.”