Wisconsin: Assembly Republicans push through recall, photo ID, absentee voting measures | Associated Press

Assembly Republicans used the final regular session day of the year Thursday to push their proposals that would make it more difficult to remove public officials from office, require photo identification at the polls and limit hours of in-person absentee voting. Democrats, who opposed all the measures but didn’t have the votes to stop them, argued against the changes as an infringement on voter rights and attempt to quash Democratic supporters. Republican leaders defended the proposals, saying they would protect the integrity of the election process by allowing recalls only when those targeted have committed a serious crime, combat fraud by requiring photo identification and install a more uniform system for in-person absentee voting hours statewide. The Assembly isn’t the last stop for any of the hot-button elections issues. All would also have to pass the Republican-controlled Senate, and the change to the recall law for statewide officials would be put to a statewide vote. The soonest that could happen is 2015. The recall measure passed 53-39 with all Democrats opposed.

Wisconsin: Walker withdraws elections board nomination | Associated Press

Gov. Scott Walker wants to replace, without explanation, the former judge who led the nonpartisan elections board during Walker’s recall in 2012, raising questions about his motives for the unusual move. Walker’s office today provided The Associated Press with a copy of the governor’s Oct. 24 letter withdrawing the nomination for Senate confirmation of Judge David Deininger. Walker spokesman Tom Evenson had no comment on why the governor made the move. A Senate committee was to vote on the nomination Tuesday. “I feel like I’ve been fired and I don’t know why,” said Deininger, a former Republican lawmaker who was first appointed to the Government Accountability Board in 2008 by then-Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat. The board was established to be a nonpartisan arbiter of the state’s election and ethics laws, but some of its decisions have so angered Republicans they have called for it to be abolished and reconstituted.

Wisconsin: Election Law Quirk Could Throw Governance Into Disarray | Huffington Post

Right now, Wisconsin has a Republican governor and lieutenant governor. But after Tuesday’s recall elections, the top two officials could be from different parties. In normal elections, the two candidates run on a single ticket. But in recall elections, public officials are on their own. So theoretically, Gov. Scott Walker (R) could hold on to his seat, while Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch (R) could lose to Mahlon Mitchell, meaning Walker would have to work with a Democrat. “Highly unlikely,” former Wisconsin Democratic Senator Russ Feingold told The Huffington Post when asked about this scenario. Both Mitchell and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) also dismissed the possibility, arguing that people were likely to choose two candidates from the same party. “We don’t see that split-ticket scenario at all. We’re not factoring that in,” said Barrett.

Wisconsin: Absentee voting begins for recall election | JSOnline

Absentee voters came to the polls in strong numbers Monday as the first day of early voting started ahead of Wisconsin’s June 5 recall. By 8 a.m., voters were already waiting for the Wausau city clerk’s office to open. In Madison, a line stretched out the door at lunchtime. In Brookfield, the city clerk’s office saw steady traffic throughout the day. “We’re extremely, extremely busy,” Wausau City Clerk Toni Rayala said. “We had much more than we expected, and much faster.” Clerks statewide reported much higher absentee turnout Monday than in the spring presidential primary as well as the May 8 recall primary. Most said the turnout for absentee voters appeared to be on par with that for a typical November general election.

Wisconsin: Mixed ballots OK in recall primary | Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune

When voters go to the polls in a week for a statewide recall primary, they will have the option to cross party lines with their votes. Voters may select only one candidate each in the race for governor and lieutenant governor, but they don’t need to stick to one political party with their votes, which is unusual for a primary, said Cindy Cepress, Wood County clerk. In Wisconsin Rapids, it should be easy to understand the ballots, said Shane Blaser, Wisconsin Rapids clerk. The ballot has two columns, and Blaser is instructing poll workers to tell people to vote for one person in each column.

Wisconsin: Democrats want faux candidates out of recall election | Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune

Democrats asked state elections officials on Thursday to block six Republicans trying to run as Democrats from the ballots for this spring’s recall elections. Democratic Party of Wisconsin attorney Jeremy Levinson filed Thursday’s complaint against the Republican Party of Wisconsin and the six people it recruited to run as fake Democrats, or so-called “protest candidates.” The complaint, filed with the state Government Accountability Board, said the GOP and fake Democrats — Gladys Huber, Isaac Weix, Gary Ellerman, Tamra Varebrook, James Engel and James Buckley — gave false information on documents submitted to elections officials. “The respondents falsified information on these documents, asserting that the six phony primary candidates were ‘affiliated’ with and ‘represent’ the Democratic Party,” the complaint reads.

Wisconsin: The Real Loser Of The Scott Walker Recall? The State Of Wisconsin | Richard L. Hasen/The New Republic

On June 5, Wisconsin voters will head to the polls to decide whether to recall controversial Republican Governor Scott Walker and hislieutenant governor, Rebecca KleefischThe current pollingshows a close race. But while it’s not yet clear whether Walker will survive the vote, it’s increasingly safe to declare one winner and one loser from the recall election. The winner is the national Democratic Party, which is already reaping benefits. The loser is the cause of civility in the state of Wisconsin. Democrats may not succeed in removing Walker from office, which would be only the third removal of a U.S. governor ever (following a North Dakota governor in 1921 and California’s Gray Davis in 2003). But the recall vote will likely improve the Democrats’ general election prospects. The June election will be a practice run for get-out-the-vote and other organizing efforts in November. That provides an opportunity to both parties to make sure voters are registered to vote–but it’s Democrats who stand to disproportionately benefit, as they usually have a harder time with voter registration, for various demographic reasons (ie: their voters’ incomes are lower; they move homes more frequently.)

Wisconsin: Lt. Governor: Recall message is national | Politico.com

“We’re a harbinger. We’re a canary in a coal mine,” Kleefisch said on Fox News. “Because what happens in Wisconsin has potential to affect every state in this nation whether Wisconsin voters choose to go forward or backward, back to the failed policies of the past that got us in the budget crunch that we fixed in the first place.” Kleefisch argued that the Walker administration had come into office facing a $3.6 billion budget deficit and had made the difficult but necessary decision to fix the budget crisis without raising taxes. “We asked our public sector employees to contribute 12.6 percent toward their health care, about the national average, 5.8 percent toward their pension, which is about half the national average, and we made some changes to collective bargaining, which was [a] financial [issue] to us,” she said.

Wisconsin: GOP Loses Senate Majority, After Recall-Targeted Senator Resigns | TPM

Wisconsin state Sen. Pam Galloway (R) is resigning from the chamber today, citing a family health situation. Galloway was one of the targeted incumbents in upcoming recall elections. This also means that as of now, the Republicans have officially lost their Senate majority, leaving the chamber split 16-16. The recall elections to come will determine who takes the majority. … The recall for her seat, however, is still going ahead as scheduled, though Republicans will have to find a new candidate in what is now the special election for an open seat. The recall rules do provide, however, that her name will not be on the ballot if she resigns this soon.

Wisconsin: Just over 931,000 signatures submitted for Walker recall, Government Accountability Board says | JSOnline

The Government Accountability Board announced Monday that just over 931,000 signatures had been submitted to recall GOP Gov. Scott Walker – well over the 540,208 valid signatures needed, but short of the more than 1 million signatures recall organizers had said they had turned in. It is the first time the board, which runs state elections, has provided any kind of official number of how many signatures against Walker were submitted in January. Nearly 843,000 signatures were submitted against Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, the board found. Staff for the board has preliminarily disqualified about 25,500 signatures against Walker and about 29,000 against Kleefisch. Other signatures could be removed as officials continue their review of them.

Wisconsin: Judge rules voter ID law unconstitutional | JSOnline

A Dane County judge struck down the state’s new voter ID law on Monday – the second judge in a week to block the requirement that voters show photo identification at the polls. “A government that undermines the very foundation of its existence – the people’s inherent, pre-constitutional right to vote – imperils its legitimacy as a government by the people, for the people, and especially of the people,” Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess wrote. “It sows the seeds for its own demise as a democratic institution. This is precisely what 2011 Wisconsin Act 23 does with its photo ID mandates.” Niess’ eight-page ruling goes further than the one issued by another judge last week because it permanently invalidates the law for violating the state constitution. Tuesday’s order by Dane County Judge David Flanagan halted the law for the April 3 presidential primary and local elections, but not beyond that. Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen promised to quickly appeal the decision.

Wisconsin: Wisconsin recall election to be held June 12, board likely to dismiss challenges | The Badger Herald

The Government Accountability Board requested an additional two weeks to complete the review of the signatures supporting the recall of Gov. Scott Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four Republican senators, despite also announcing the likelihood of denying the senators’ challenges. A statement from the GAB’s petition review staff said they would not be able to finish the reviewing of the 1.9 million signatures by March 19. They are requesting the deadline be moved to March 30, which would result in the primary for Walker’s recall election on May 15, with the general election slated for June 12. These extensions require a judge’s approval. The statement from the GAB also said the staff recommended the board dismiss challenges from the four Republican senators to the petitions, which, if the board dismisses them, would officially trigger recall elections for the senators.

Wisconsin: Government Accountability Board head backs recall election for 4 GOP senators | WiscNews

The head of the Wisconsin state elections board recommended Friday that recall elections proceed against four Republican state senators, including Scott Fitzgerald, and that they take place on May 15 and June 12. Government Accountability Board director Kevin Kennedy said in his recommendation to the full board that his staff found enough valid signatures to trigger recall elections for the senators but is still examining signatures on petitions seeking the recall of Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, who are also Republicans. Kennedy said the proposed election dates make the most sense given the remaining verification work and other timing concerns related to the proximity of the state’s April 3 presidential primaries. The full board was to discuss the issue Monday and if it agrees, ask a Dane County judge for more time on Wednesday.

Wisconsin: Government Accountability Board seeks more time to review Walker recall petitions | Journal Sentinel

State election officials say they likely will need extra time to review recall signatures even though Gov. Scott Walker has said he will not challenge the petitions against him – a move that would give Walker more time to raise unlimited sums of money. Meanwhile, Republican legislators groused Wednesday that the Government Accountability Board was not doing a thorough enough analysis of the signatures even as it was asking them for $975,000 to do its work. “It just seems like they are doing the bare minimum but not enough to instill confidence in the system,” said Rep. Robin Vos (R-Rochester), co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee.

Wisconsin: Software for recall petition database needs human assistance | JSOnline

In their effort to review 1.9 million recall signatures, state election officials are embarking on a project unlike any they have done before, relying on newly purchased software that can convert handwritten names into entries in six searchable databases. Experts say that the type of software the state is using can produce databases in a short time, but that officials must be ready to address numerous errors because computers sometimes misread handwritten letters. “Handwriting recognition software is not great,” said Daniel Lopresti, a computer science professor at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. “A lot of the names are going to have errors in them.”

Wisconsin: Opponents of Wisconsin Governor file petitions to spur recall election, face turning that to votes | The Washington Post

Opponents of Wisconsin’s Republican Gov. Scott Walker submitted nearly twice as many signatures Tuesday as required to force a recall election, but still face the challenge of transforming public outrage over his moves against unions into actual votes to oust him from office. If Walker is worried, he’s not showing it: As the petitions were delivered to election officials, Walker was out of state raising money to defend himself and the agenda that has made him a national conservative hero. The 1 million signatures that United Wisconsin, the coalition that spearheaded the effort along with the Democratic Party, said were collected far exceeds the 540,208 needed and amounts to 23 percent of the state’s eligible voters.

Wisconsin: Democrats file 1 million signatures for Walker recall | JSOnline

Democrats seeking to recall Gov. Scott Walker filed more than a million signatures Tuesday, virtually guaranteeing a historic recall election against him later this year. It would mark the first gubernatorial recall election in Wisconsin history and only the third one in U.S. history. Organizers Tuesday also handed in 845,000 recall signatures against Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, as well as recall petitions against four GOP state senators, including Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau. The sheer number of signatures being filed against Walker – nearly as many as the total votes cast for the governor in November 2010 and about twice as many as those needed to trigger a recall election – ensure the election will be held, said officials with the state Democratic Party and United Wisconsin, the group that launched the Walker recall.

Wisconsin: Democrats to file 1 million signatures for Walker recall | JSOnline

Democrats and organizers will file petitions with more than a million signatures Tuesday afternoon as they seek to force a recall election against Gov. Scott Walker, a massive number that seems to cement a historic recall election against him for later this year. It would mark the first such gubernatorial recall in state history – in all of U.S. history there have been only two successful recalls of a governor. Organizers at 3 p.m. will the signatures against Walker, as well as ones against Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and three GOP state senators. Already, they have filed petitions to recall Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau).

Wisconsin: Judge Rules For GOP On Recall Procedures | TPM

A judge in Wisconsin threw a curveball Thursday evening into the recall campaign targeting Republican Gov. Scott Walker, ruling that state election officials must make a greater effort to screen out fake or duplicate petition signatures — rather than abide by the pre-existing rules, which have placed more of the burden on the Walker campaign.

The state GOP’s lawsuit filed in mid-December against the state Government Accountability Board, which oversees elections in the state, claims that Walker’s 14th Amendment rights of Equal Protection are violated by putting a burden on his campaign to review and challenge petition signatures within a ten-day period. Instead, they say, the GAB must thoroughly search for and directly strike out duplicate signatures, and invalid names and addresses.

Wisconsin: Walker campaign case against election officials allowed to proceed | JSOnline

A state appeals court has refused to halt a legal attempt by Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign committee to force state election officials to more aggressively screen signatures in a recall attempt against him. But the court also cleared the way for recall campaigns to appeal an earlier court decision in the case.

The appeals court’s action allows a hearing to proceed Thursday afternoon in the lawsuit by the Friends of Scott Walker and Stephan Thompson, executive director of the state Republican Party, against the state Government Accountability Board. The hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. in the courtroom of Waukesha County Circuit Judge J. Mac Davis.

The suit, citing constitutional rights to equal protection, asks Davis to order the accountability board to look for and eliminate duplicate signatures, clearly fake names and illegible addresses on recall petitions, which must be filed by Jan. 17. The accountability board reviews the signatures.

Wisconsin: Court rules out intervention by recall groups | JSOnline

A judge Thursday ruled against recall campaigns that sought to intervene in a lawsuit over how state election officials check recall signatures. Waukesha County Circuit Judge J. Mac Davis also set Jan. 5 for the next hearing in the case, in which the Friends of Scott Walker and Stephan Thompson, executive director of the state Republican Party, asked Davis to order the state Government Accountability Board to look for and eliminate duplicate signatures, clearly fake names and illegible addresses. All of the issues in the case are expected to be handled during that hearing.

Jeremy Levinson, attorney for recall groups targeting Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and three Republican state senators, had sought to make the groups, and some individuals connected with them, parties in the case. Levinson also sought to have the Republicans submit to discovery, which could potentially have opened Walker campaign records to scrutiny by Democrats. With Davis denying the motion to intervene, discovery won’t occur, as an attorney for the accountability board said it didn’t see a need to conduct discovery.

Wisconsin: Recall election costs projected in millions | Appleton Post Crescent

At least $650,000 will be needed by state election officials to cover the costs of handling petitions for Wisconsin’s upcoming wave of recalls, according to a memo from the state Government Accountability Board. But that estimate doesn’t include costs for local governments, which are expected to be in the millions statewide.

The election watchdog agency said it will need an additional $652,699 to cover recall expenses, including personnel costs, mainly from hiring and supervising about 50 temporary workers to review as many as 1.5 million signatures, renting additional office space, buying supplies and equipment and doing public outreach about the state’s new voter ID law.

Wisconsin: Elections panel estimates $650,000 state cost for recall efforts | JSOnline

State election officials anticipate they will need an extra $650,000 next year for a new wave of recall efforts that will require them to review petitions with perhaps 1.5 million signatures. Those costs would go toward hiring 50 temporary workers, renting office space to house them and the petitions, and running advertisements about the state’s new requirement that voters show photo identification at the polls.

The preliminary estimates from the state Government Accountability Board do not include the recall costs for local officials, which are expected to be much higher than those for the state if enough signatures are gathered to hold elections. The board is still developing estimates for what the costs would be for local officials. Recall elections this year for nine state senators cost state and local taxpayers $2.1 million, according to the board.

Wisconsin: Would governor recall be a package deal? | JSOnline

In a possible recall election, are Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch a package deal or separate tickets? It’s an unprecedented question for an unprecedented period in Wisconsin politics, and so far there’s no official answer. The Government Accountability Board, which runs state elections, won’t yet weigh in, saying that it’s still researching the issue.

“It’s the unanswered question that somebody needs to provide some guidance on,” said Mike Wittenwyler, a Madison election and campaign finance attorney. “To me, it’s an issue that deserves serious study before this begins.”

So far, any talk of a recall of Walker or Kleefisch by Democrats and unions is just that – neither official is even eligible for recall until early November, one year after they were elected to office. To do it, recall organizers would need to gather a whopping 540,208 signatures across the state within 60 days and then back a pair of candidates in a costly statewide election.