By Geoff Pallay
MADISON, Wisconsin: Yesterday the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board announced it would be unable to consider the recall petitions for the three Democratic incumbents at the upcoming signature certification hearing on Tuesday. Citing “numerous factual and legal issues,” the Board said in its statement that more time is needed to ensure that a complete record will be available for examination — particularly since the decision will likely be appealed to the courts.
In its release, the GAB officials said they do not expect to be able to hold a hearing on the recalls of Democratic incumbents until the week of June 6. This raises potential legal issues, as the initial extension granted to GAB for certification required it to ultimately make determinations before June 3.
Democrats challenged the recall campaigns against Dave Hansen, Robert Wirch and Jim Holperin, citing widespread fraud. Their allegations are that some petition circulators misled citizens about the nature of the petitions. Lawyers for the Democrats have argued that due to these allegations, all signatures submitted by those petition circulators should be thrown out. If the GAB agrees with Democratic challenges, then the recall campaigns would have insufficient numbers of signatures for the recalls to proceed.
Ultimately, the actual date of election is now in doubt. If the GAB still ultimately plans to hold all nine elections on the same date, then a court will be required to grant an additional extension for signature certification. Meanwhile, the recalls that were heard in the May 23 meeting are still not legally certified — because doing so would constitutionally require the election 6 weeks after that date.
If a certification hearing is held on June 7 for the Democratic incumbents, then the earliest date a recall could occur would be July 19. However, it is unclear if the recalls for the six Republicans (assuming they are certified and not challenged in court) would still take place on July 12 or if the GAB would attempt to alter those dates to be in line with the recalls of Democratic incumbents.
It is growing more and more likely that the courts will have their say on the recalls before all is said and done.