Yes, that meme was way overused when California Governor Gray Davis was recalled and the original actor from the movie, Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected to replace him. But when Wisconsin citizens are collecting signatures to recall all eight eligible Republican Senators, all eight Democratic Senators, and quite possibly Governor Scott Walker, it really is a Total Recall. At least I didn’t use ‘Revenge of the Cheeseheads’.
So what is the possibility of a successful recall in Wisconsin? It turns out that Wisconsinites are actually very familiar with the process. In 1996 they recalled State Senator George Petak and in 2003, State Senator Gary George. In 2002, eight elected officials were recalled in Milwaukee County due to a retirement pension scandal. When Wisconsinites make up their minds about something, they show no reluctance in pursuing it.
Nationally, there have only been two successful gubernatorial recalls; the aforementioned Gray Davis of California in 2003 and Lynn Frazier of North Dakota way back in 1921 (There have actually been three successful recall drives but the third was cancelled because Arizona Governor Evan Mecham was impeached in 1988 before the recall could be completed).
Recall procedures vary from state to state and currently only eighteen states allow recalls at the state level. Illinois allows for a Governor only recall (Note: Rod Blagojevich was impeached in 2009 by a near unanimous vote of 114-1 making a recall unnecessary). All recall procedures have a couple of things in common in order to get on the ballot; collection of signatures from a specific portion of the population and a time period in which to accomplish that.
Wisconsin procedures under article XIII of the Wisconsin Constitution allows for a recall of any elected official only after they have served at least one year. Since Senate races are staggered every two years that means that half the Senators are eligible at any given time. The number of signatures required is “25% of the number of voters that voted in the preceding election of the office of governor within the electoral district of the officer sought to be recalled” (roughly 10,000 – 20,000 per district). Petitioners usually try to exceed that number since the official targeted has the right to challenge signature validity for ten days following submission of the signatures. Recall petitions must be completed within 60 days after registration with the Government Accountability Board.
Of the eight Democratic officials targeted for recall only Jim Holperin had a close race with 51% of the votes in his district. As members of the ‘Wisconsin 14’, these officials have achieved near hero status so it would be surprising if any of them were actually recalled.
Of the eight Republican officials targeted, at least three are in danger of being recalled although with the animus stirred by Governor Walker’s union scandal I suspect none of them feel very safe at the moment. Both Alberta Darling and Randy Hopper won their districts with 50% of the vote. Additionally Hopper has become embroiled in a scandal for leaving his wife to move in with his 26 year old girlfriend who doesn’t even live in his district. The third on the endangered list is Dan Kapanke with 51% of the vote in his district. The safest of the Republicans is Glenn Grothman who won his district with 80% of the vote but he hasn’t done himself any favours by calling the protestors losers on national television. Only three Republican losses are required to tip the balance of power in the Senate.
Recall petitions for the Governor cannot begin circulating until January 3rd, 2012 but preparations are already underway. This will be a bigger hill to climb as a recall for the Governor will require 540,000 signatures (roughly 1/10 of the population) and there’s plenty of time for the enthusiasm to have died down between now and January 3rd. Walker won the Gubernatorial election with 52% of the vote so a recall is certainly within the realm of possibility. A lot will hinge on the outcomes of the State Senate recalls. If the Republican recalls are successful the voters may be bolstered by that success and pursue Walker with fervour.
Democrats report that they are over halfway there in just two weeks while the Republicans are lagging behind in signature collections. Most of the petitions are due between late April and May 3rd so Wisconsin politics will get pretty interesting in June depending on which recall efforts are certified. Then we will know with certainty whether Wisconsinites have indeed acquired a healthy dose of buyers remorse.
- Can you say “Governor Russ Feingold”? (salon.com)
- Well over 50% of signatures gathered for recall of Wisconsin GOP state Senators (dailykos.com)
- Wisconsin recall: 3 GOP state senators trail Generic Dem, more at risk (dailykos.com)
- Amid Labor Standoff, Lawmakers From Both Parties Face Recall Efforts (abcnews.go.com)
- GOP State Senator’s Wife: ‘He had an affair. He Lives Mostly in Madison Now’ (Talking Points Memo)
- Conservatives: We Are Being Outworked And Out-Organized In Wisconsin Recall Campaigns (Huffington Post)