|A guide to Tuesday’s recall primary|
|A guide to Tuesday’s recall primary|
|Written by RIck West/Janesville Messenger|
|Thursday, 03 May 2012 14:12|
Democratic hopefuls, from the left, Tom Barrett, Kathleen Falk, Kathleen Vinehout and Douglas LaFollette. Photo by Michael P. King/Wisconsin State Journal
JANESVILLE — Wisconsin voters will make history Tuesday when they go to the polls in the first-ever statewide primary recall election. On the ballot will be Republican and Democratic primaries for governor and a Democratic primary for lieutenant governor.
Five Democrats are on the ballot for governor, however, the gubernatorial recall election is not just a primary to determine which Democrat will face Gov. Scott Walker in a June 5 recall, Arthur Kohl-Riggs, a 23-year-old activist from Madison, also is on the Republican ballot opposing Walker. Gladys R. Huber also is on the ballot for the Democrats, but Republicans acknowledged they put her on the ballot as a protest candidate to guarantee a primary. Three Democrats face off Tuesday in a primary election for lieutenant governor.
Tuesday’s election is unique because the governor and lieutenant governor primaries are treated as separate elections, which means voters are allowed to vote in either the Republican or Democratic gubernatorial primary and still cast a vote in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor.
“The ballot might be confusing, so I think we’re going to see a lot of spoilage with the May 8 ballot,” said Rock County Clerk Lori Stottler.
In addition to the statewide primaries for governor and lieutenant governor, four state senators face recalls this year: Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau; Van Wanggaard, R-Racine; and Terry Moulton, R-Chippewa Falls. The fourth senator, Pam Galloway, R-Wausau, has resigned her seat in the Senate.
The right to request recall elections, which allow citizens to remove an elected official from office through a direct vote before his or her term has ended, was added to the Wisconsin Constitution in 1926 and amended in 1981.
Susan Johnson, chair of the political science department at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, said recall policies were adopted, for the most part, during the nation’s Progressive Era, in the late-19th and early-20th century.
“A majority of states allow for at least some type of recall, particularly for local officials,” Johnson said. “A smaller number of states, 18, allow for some or all statewide elected officials to be recalled.”
Johnson added that there is no recall policy for elected officials at the federal level and said recalls are most prevalent at the local level.
“Scott Walker is only the third governor in U.S. history to be subject to a recall election,” Johnson said. “Before this current spate of recall elections in Wisconsin, there had been few recalls in the state.”
The only other sitting governors to be recalled were in California in 2003, when Arnold Schwarzenegger won a recall election over Gray Davis, and in North Dakota in 1921, when Lynn Frazier was removed from office and replaced by Ragnvald A. Nestos.
Cost of recall
For staff in county and municipal clerk offices statewide, Tuesday’s recall primary comes just five weeks after the April spring election, resulting in an added workload, overtime and expenses not easily calculated.
“Anytime you add an election to the cycle, there’s extra cost,” said Rebecca Houseman, municipal clerk for the city of Beloit. “It’s the cost of our time working on the (recall election) and the cost of time that’s not being spent on the other responsibilities of our office.”
Election administration also is a significant responsibility for county clerk offices.
“Preparation of ballot assignment charts, preparation of a host of legal notices, downloading memory cards, assembly of election supplies and working with the municipal clerks … are all important components to this process,” said Kimberly Bushey, Walworth County clerk. “At this time I can’t give an estimate of exactly how much time has been spent, but I can tell you that the staff resources necessary is significant.”
This added workload comes at a time when county budgets are tight and many offices have reduced staffing.
“It’s exhausting and overwhelming,” Stottler said. “It doesn’t matter if one voter comes out or all the voters come out, the work we have to put in … and the cost is the same.”
Stottler and Bushey said the added cost for the recalls was not included in the offices’ 2012 budgets because the recalls were not finalized at the time budgets were approved last fall.
“(The county) does have a fund that I will be able to use to amend my budget at the end of the (recalls),” Stottler said. “We have been working as leanly as possible and have yet to be outside of the budget by too far.”
With this being the first-ever statewide recall election, Bushey said there is nothing comparable to aid in calculating the additional cost.
“At this time we have not yet received all of the bills,” Bushey said.
Stottler said the cost of printing ballots in Rock County could exceed $35,000.
With no past recall election to use as a baseline, the Government Accountability Board has not issued an official voter turnout prediction for Tuesday’s primary. Stottler said Rock County would print ballots equal to about 85 percent to 90 percent of registered voters.
“It’s one election (in which) we don’t want to run out of ballots,” Stottler said.
In addition to printing and supply costs, municipal clerk offices face the added costs of training and paying poll workers, who often work as long as 16 hours on Election Day.
Houseman said the costs are determined per municipality, but in Beloit, poll workers receive $10 for training and $110 to $145 on Election Day.
“We weren’t sure if there would be a recall or if there would be a primary and a recall, so we did not add anything to our 2012 budget (to cover these costs),” Houseman said, adding that she is confident enough citizens, about 120 needed in the city of Beloit, would apply to work at the polls on Tuesday.
“I think the vast majority of the poll workers who’ve worked the last two elections this year will be there,” Houseman said. “But as we get to the summer months … which are not typically election months … some people will have scheduled vacations, but the vast majority will be working.”
No voter ID
When voters go to the polls Tuesday, they still can expect to be asked to sign the poll book, but can keep the photo identification in their wallet or purse. Recent appeals court rulings have blocked Wisconsin’s voter ID law during the upcoming recall elections.
“The order strictly prohibits a clerk or inspector from enforcing the law and asking an elector to produce photo ID in order to receive a ballot,” Bushey said.
The law, passed by the state Legislature last year, requires voters to present a state-issued photo ID when they cast ballots in federal, state and local elections. That law, however, was blocked last month by two separate state appeals courts, which ruled the law was unconstitutional. The Wisconsin Department of Justice appealed both decisions, but the Wisconsin Supreme Court refused to take up the cases, which were consequently sent back to the appeals courts.
“The Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision to decline our certification means, as a practical matter, that there will be no definitive court ruling before the May 8 and June 5 recall elections,” read a statement released by the District 4 Court of Appeals.
Just like with any other election, the county board of canvass will be required to canvass Tuesday’s results and transmit them to the Government Accountability Board.
Then four weeks later, it all happens again for the June 5 recall election.
“I think that once the (recall) door is opened, it is often difficult to close and I would expect that we may see more recalls, or attempts to force recall elections, in the future,” Johnson said. “We saw some evidence of this when a few state senators were threatened with recall after the contentious vote on the mining bill earlier this spring.”