A Dane County judge on Wednesday granted the Government Accountability Board additional time to check recall petition signatures against Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, setting up a likely June 5 election.
Circuit Judge Richard Niess said there was "ample good cause to grant the extension."
In a deal filed Tuesday, the recall groups, the recall targets and the GAB agreed to the extension, acknowledging that the existing timeline could have resulted in a general election on May 29, the day after Memorial Day, posing problems for municipal clerks preparing for the election. The GAB also said it needed more time to check the some 1.8 million signatures for duplicates.
Niess said giving the board until March 30 instead of March 19 to complete its work "is the best balance here in terms of speed ... and making sure the recall petitions are in satisfactory form."
Democratically affiliated groups are seeking to recall Walker, Kleefisch, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Sens. Pam Galloway, Terry Moulton and Van Wanggaard.
"This was a result that everybody agrees is reasonable," Joseph Olson, attorney for the four senators, said after the hearing. "I think the big win for the taxpayers of Wisconsin is that all of the recalls will take place on the same day."
Kevin Kennedy, director and general counsel of the GAB, said after the hearing that the board needs additional time to ferret out duplicate signatures on the Walker and Kleefisch petitions. The GAB already said enough valid signatures were filed to proceed with recalls against the senators.
Under the order signed by Niess on Wednesday, the general election could be held May 8, if there are no primaries. GAB spokesman Reid Magney said it won't be known for sure whether there is a primary until candidates turn in nomination petitions, which they can circulate between March 30 and April 10.
If just one candidate challenges each recalled incumbent, general elections for the six seats could be held May 8, Magney said. If there are multiple challengers to the incumbent, that would trigger a May 8 primary, with the general election for that contest to be held on June 5, Magney said.
He added a May 8 ballot could include both primary and general elections.
The GAB said its survey of county and municipal clerks shows the cost of a single recall election will be about $9 million, including approximately $840,000 in one-time costs. A second election is estimated to cost $8.1 million. Were state Senate recall elections to be held on a separate schedule, the four would have cost $1 million each, GAB said.
"This scenario allows all the recall elections to be consolidated on two dates, saving taxpayers additional costs had the elections been held on different schedules," Kennedy said.
Jeremy Levinson, attorney for the recall groups, told reporters after Wednesday's hearing that Niess' decision means "we finally see a finish line."
— State Journal reporter Ed Treleven contributed to this report.