Updated March 30, 10:30 a.m. ET
The recall election in Wisconsin against Republican Gov. Scott Walker has officially been triggered, after more than a year of protests, legislative recalls, and petition drives that have made this Midwestern swing state a center of national attention.
The state Government Accountability Board, a non-partisan agency composed of retired judges who oversee elections in the state, voted to certify the recall petitions at a special meeting Friday morning. This tees up a late spring election that will be one of the most closely watched campaigns in the country, second only to the presidential race.
This long-expected decision came following official recommendations from GAB staff on Thursday, after completing the petition review that found 900,938 validated signatures against Walker. (At the meeting today, it was announced that one struck signature, Fungky Van Den Elzen, was found overnight to actually be a real woman’s name — boosting the actual number to 900,939, with the board’s staff attorney Michael Haas apologizing to the woman.) This was 67% more than the required threshold of 540,208, or 25 percent of the total number of voters in the 2010 gubernatorial election, which were collected by the state Democrats and supporters in a 60-day period from mid-November to mid-January.
Recalls in Wisconsin do not feature any direct up-or-down vote on the incumbent, but instead effectively take the form of a special election with the incumbent and a challenger fighting it out to serve the rest of the term. His approval and disapproval ratings are consistently close in polling, and he currently has very narrow leads over his potential Democratic opponents.
On the Democratic side, former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, and Secretary of State Doug La Follette are currently in the race. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who was previously the Democratic nominee against Walker in 2010, could also potentially get in, and Barrett currently leads in the polls for the Democratic primary. The filing deadline for candidates is April 10.
At a meeting two and a half weeks ago, the board voted to approve recall petitions in four Republican-held state Senate seats, and also to set a timeline for the recalls that will have the primaries on May 8, and the general election on June 5.
One of the targeted state senators, freshman Republican Pam Galloway, has since resigned her seat, citing serious illnesses in her family. This resignation also caused the Republicans to lose their one-seat majority in the state Senate — itself the product of recalls last year, in a near-miss attempt by Democrats to gain a majority — though the temporary power-sharing arrangement in the tied chamber might not have much of an effect due to the legislature being out of regular session.
Late Update: The GAB has also voted to certify a separate set of recall petitions against Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, for which board staff found a total of 808,990 validated signatures, an amount 50% above the threshold.