Four Republican senators were ordered Monday to face recalls by the Wisconsin election board, elections that may now be scheduled for June 5.
The Government Accountability Board voted unanimously to agree with GAB staff members' findings that enough valid signatures were filed against all four senators and recalls against Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and three other GOP senators should go forward.
The board also voted to ask a judge for an extension from March 19 to March 30 for its deadline to order the elections, meaning the recall primary could be held on May 8 and the general recall election on June 5. With no extension granted, the recalls would need to happen on May 1 and May 29. The GAB will ask Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess for the extension at a hearing on Wednesday morning.
Recall elections against Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch are also expected to go forward.
On Monday, Kevin Kennedy, director and general counsel of the GAB, said that about 930,000 signatures were filed against Walker. That's the first time an official figure has been released about the number of petition signatures. The GAB said nearly 26,000 had been struck so far, and some 905,000 valid signatures appear to have been filed. Recall organizers had said that number was more than 1 million.
Later Monday, the GAB said that of the 842,860 filed against Kleefisch, there were 813,735 found to be valid. The board's staff continues to search for duplicate signatures.
The numbers reported so far targeting Walker and Kleefisch are far higher than the 540,208 valid signatures required to trigger recalls.
The board met to review challenges for the state's upcoming wave of recall elections and discuss how much additional time may be needed to prepare for them.
Kennedy had released a memo Friday recommending a June 12 general election date.
That memo also said that Democrats and recall organizers turned in enough valid signatures to force recalls against all four GOP state senators targeted, including Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Sens. Pam Galloway, Terry Moulton and Van Wanggaard.
Walker and Kleefisch already had announced they were not challenging the signatures collected against them.
The senators challenged thousands of signatures over a range of issues. Those included challenges that only signatures from people in the new legislative districts approved by the GOP-controlled Legislature last summer should be considered, challenges from third-party groups should be included, and signatures that appear to be similar or identical handwriting should be stricken.
But the GAB memo said staff members reviewed the petitions and complaints and did not find enough invalid signatures to block the elections.
Democrats have expressed frustration with recalls being pushed back into the summer, saying a June 12 recall date would alienate certain groups of voters, like students and parents.
"We just want to get to these elections with as few arguments and sideshows as possible," state Democratic Party attorney Jeremy Levinson said.
He seemed relieved the board opted to ask Niess for only a 11-day extension for recall elections, rather than the two weeks sought by GAB staff members.
When asked if he thought the judge would grant the extension, Kennedy said, "I think that we have outlined a strong case for good cause."
Republican Party of Wisconsin spokesman Ben Sparks released a statement warning of how much the recalls will cost.
"We urge the GAB to continue its efforts to ensure that these recall elections are held on the same date to reduce the growing burden and cost to Wisconsin taxpayers," he said.
The GAB said in its memo Monday that the extension it is seeking would allow all the elections to be held on the same day.