On Tuesday, January 17, Wisconsin Democrats and affiliated groups will deliver recall petitions to the General Accountability Board (GAB).
If enough signatures are validated by the GAB, it would officially trigger recall elections against Governor Scott Walker, Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, and four additional state senators including Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald.
The big question is – how many signatures will they have?
As we’ve written, Wisconsin law states that a gubernatorial recall can only be triggered by a number of valid signatures that exceeds 25 percent of the number of voters in the last gubernatorial election. In this case, that’s 540,258. The Wisconsin Democratic Party and United Wisconsin have publicly stated that they are going for 720,000 in the event that some signatures are disqualified.
The last update we got was on December 15. After one month of petition circulation, WisDems Chairman Mike Tate announced that they had over 507,000 signatures in hand. After that, they said they wouldn’t be giving any more updates on numbers until they turned in everything to the GAB.
We understand the need for security around the specific number of recall signatures. One good reason: a group on Facebook calling itself “Operation Burn Notice” bragged about destroying thousands of recall petitions in an effort to sabotage the effort. (Destroying or defacing petitions is a felony, punishable by a $10,000 fine and up to three and a half years in prison. They might as well have a Facebook page for “I Like to Steal Cars.” Facebook finally shut down the page in December.)
However, the downside is the suspense. Will the historic effort to oust Scott Walker, which started a year ago after he rammed through the “budget repair” bill stripping rights from thousands of workers, result in a chance for voters to render their verdict? Or will it end before it starts?
This isn’t just about the political horse-race of a prospective election. After a year in office, Scott Walker and his enablers in the Wisconsin legislature continue to ignore the jobs crisis and focus on enriching their super-wealthy donors.
While working families in Wisconsin call for more action on unemployment, Walker has been raising funds and making speeches in DC, Texas, and Orange County, California. Revelations of mismanagement in Walker’s inner circle continue to undermine the public’s trust in his leadership. And while Walker touts his reforms in his travels, outside the state, working families back home continue to suffer: since the collective bargaining law went into effect in July, Wisconsin has seen huge job loss. In November alone, the state lost 2,900 public and 11,700 private sector jobs.
But, whether or not Wisconsin voters will be have the chance to make their voice heard on the Walker agenda is yet to be seen. Last year in neighboring Ohio, organizers shattered expectations when they turned in six times the required number of signatures to put the union-busting Senate Bill 5 on the ballot. Will next Tuesday be a case of history repeating?