Wisconsin election officials have now closed in on a proposed date for holding the the state’s wave of recalls: June 5, an extension of one week.
The Government Accountability Board (GAB), the non-partisan agency that oversees elections in the state, met Monday to approve recalls against four Republican state senators. They also sought to resolve some of the issues surrounding the recalls of Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, before they officially trigger those recalls.
After discussion amongst the board, and questions with both Democratic and Republican attorneys, the board voted unanimously to ask a judge for a one-week extension — rather than two weeks, as the GAB staff had recommended.
Assuming that this request is granted, that means the primaries will be held on May 8, and the general election June 5.
Under state law, the GAB originally had 31 days to review the petitions. In late January, Dane County Judge Richard Niess granted the GAB a further 30 days, for 61 days total through March 19.
This move was widely expected going into the recall, and was fully part of the GAB’s planned timeline, as a result of the sheer volume of signatures involved — the Dems had submitted over a million signatures for Walker alone, nearly twice the required threshold of just over 540,000, or 25 percent of the total number of voters in the 2010 gubernatorial election.
The March 19 deadline also meant that the primary would be held on May 1, and the general election on May 29 — with the latter coming right after Memorial Day, which would wreak havoc on local governments.
In addition, the GAB staff’s stated goal has been to avoid conflicting too much with the various preparations and post-election activities that the local clerks are already required to do, for both the local elections and Republican primary in the spring, and the party primaries for Congress and state legislature in August.
Also as a notable sticking point, the board staff said that they might need more time to finish all of the odds and ends of signature review for the recall targeting Kleefisch. (The final signature processes for Walker should be completed in time for the current deadline next Monday.)
The staff consulted with local clerks around the state, and came up with a preferred scenario of asking for a further two-week extension — for primaries on May 15, and the general election on June 12.
Democratic attorney Jeremy Levinson opposed a two-week extension, on several grounds: That an extension had already been granted; that there was no doubt that sufficient signatures had been submitted (at one point, Levinson accidentally flubbed his words, saying that the precise count was only needed for “hysterical” purposes — then corrected himself as meaning “historical” purposes); and that the character of the electorate would change going further into June, as public school years end and families start to take vacations.
“So I urge the board to be extremely cautious and restrained in seeking a further extension,” said Levinson.
Ultimately, the board members came around to the view of seeking only the minimal one-week extension to finalize the review on the Walker and Kleefisch recalls, and to avoid the Memorial Day holiday on the election calendar.