MADISON, Wisconsin: The recall elections that have gripped Wisconsin for most of the year will come to a close tomorrow as the last two incumbent senators meet their fate. Polls will be open from 7am-8pm CDT as voters in the 12th and 22nd districts decide to either retain Democratic senators Jim Holperin and Robert Wirch or elect newcomer Republicans Kim Simac and Jonathan Steitz. Although the results from last Tuesday’s recalls ensured the Republicans a continued majority in the Senate, these two races will determine the size of that majority, which currently stands at 17-16.
Polls conducted over the last few weeks have mixed foreshadowing of the races tomorrow.
New polls conducted by Public Policy Polling for the liberal-leaning Daily Kos released today show the Democratic incumbents leading in both races by double digits. The polls, conducted August 12-14, have a margin of error below +/- 3.0 percent. Meanwhile, conservative leaning Red Racing Horses commissioned a poll from We Ask America for the district 12 race. It shows a much closer race than the PPP poll. It has a margin of error of +/- 2.62. Here are the results:
|August 16, 2011 Recall – District 12 – Daily Kos/PPP Poll|
|August 16, 2011 Recall – District 12 – Red Racing Horses/We Ask America poll|
|August 16, 2011 Recall – District 22 – Daily Kos/PPP Poll|
Last minute contributions to the candidates have continued to flow in. Amended reports filed with the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board show the Republican challengers bringing in tens of thousands over the last two weeks, while donations to Democrats were much less. Kim Simac reported raising $72,443.15, while Jim Holperin reported just $3,540.00. Jonathan Steitz brought in $22,200.00 to Robert Wirch’s $7,156.35.
However, while the Democratic candidates themselves have not been the recipients of large sums of money, some organizations that are supporting the Democratic incumbents have seen steady streams of contributions in recent weeks. We Are Wisconsin reported the following contributions since August 9:
- AFL-CIO: $68,000 (August 11)
- Greater Wisconsin Committee Political Action Committee: $50,000 (August 13)
- In-kind donations totally more than $57,000 from several organizations including AFSCME and the WI PEOPLE Conference
The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign estimates both sides have combined to spend a total of $2.3 million on the Wirch race, while the Holperin race has reached $4.5 million in spending. All told, it seems likely that spending on the 9 recalls will eclipse $40 million.
Needless to say, voters are being inundated with advertisements in these waning moments of the recall campaigns.
Allegations flew on Sunday as Wirch and Steitz took part in a debate on the TV show “UpFront with Mike Gousha.” Wirch accused Steitz of working for corporate interests, while Steiz accused the incumbent of class warfare. Wirch defended his actions regarding the collective bargaining bill, calling it “the worst attack on working people in the history of the state of Wisconsin.” Steitz shot back that “the worst attack on working families is the overspending and the continual tax increases Bob Wirch has been advocating for.”
First test of new voting rules
Last Tuesday’s recalls were the first real test for several of the new voting laws enacted this year by the state legislature. In this “soft implementation” phase, voters were required to sign a poll book and asked for identification, something that will become mandatory when the rules go into full effect next year. Evidence from the recalls show clerks may need to tweak their way of doing things in order to avoid confusion and long lines.
Several precincts in the Green Bay area reported hour long lines, hampering voting. State Rep. Chad Weininger (R), a former city clerk, expects legislation will soon be introduced to deal with some of the issues that have arisen. “What we need to do is sit down and have the local clerks come together and look at the process flow. November (2012) is coming around pretty soon, so we need to have processes in place so we don’t have long lines,” he said.