February 7, 2016

GAB signs off on recall elections for Democrats

The Government Accountability Board has certified recall elections against Democratic state Senators Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay), Bob Wirch (D-Pleasant Prairie), and Jim Holperin (D-Conover). The action comes after board members rejected most claims from Democrats that rampant fraud was committed by people paid to gather signatures. A hearing on those complaints took most of the day on Wednesday.

The GAB did reject several thousand signatures on the three petitions, but the final numbers left them well above the threshold to trigger recall elections in each district.

Judge Gordon Myse did successfully push to strike over a hundred signatures collected by one woman, because of repeated claims she lied about the reasons for the petition. Four of the six judges on the panel agreed that the action was needed to send a message that using deceit to gather signatures needs to carry some sort of penalty.

Attorney Jeremy Levinson, who represents the Senators, says it was unfortunate the Board did not go further based on hundreds of affidavits collected from people whose names appeared on the petitions. Still, he hopes the action does show the public there are questions about the validity of the recalls.

Republican attorney Eric McLeod argued the claims of fraud were blown out of proportion and could not be backed up with evidence. McLeod says there will be irregularities that pop up in any effort as massive as the drive to collect tens of thousands of petition signatures, but that does not necessarily point to fraud.

Still, the retired judges on the panel did note that recall petitions targeting six Republican senators did not generate similar complaints. Most of those signatures were gathered by Wisconsin residents living in those districts, rather than a firm contracted to collect signatures for the efforts to recall Democrats.

Pending a judge’s approval, Republican challengers would face off in primary elections on July 19th, with a general election on August 16th. The decision can be appealed in circuit court, but Levinson would not say if Democrats plan to file a challenge.

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:24)

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