Wisconsin Elections Commission rejects signatures in second attempt to recall Vos

The bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission has rejected another effort to force a recall election of Republican Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos after determining not enough valid signatures were collected by organizers by a petitioning deadline.

Associated Press

June 27, 2024 • Southeast Region

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Robin Vos sits in a wood and leather curved back chair inside a room with the U.S. and Wisconsin flags, and a cabinet with law books and decorative items.

Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos speaks during an interview on Dec. 20, 2023, at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison. The bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission voted on June 27 that a second campaign to recall Vos failed to collect enough valid signatures. ( Credit: AP Photo / Harm Venhuizen, File)

AP News

By Scott Bauer, AP

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission on June 27 rejected an effort to force a recall election of the state’s top Republican after determining that not enough valid signatures were collected.

The vote by three Republican commissioners and one Democratic commissioner means Assembly Speaker Robin Vos will not have to stand for a recall election unless a court intervenes. Vos was targeted for recall by fellow Republicans and supporters of former President Donald Trump.

Recall organizers targeted Vos, the longest-serving Assembly speaker in Wisconsin history, after he refused calls to decertify President Joe Biden’s narrow win in the state. Biden’s win of about 21,000 votes has withstood two partial recounts, lawsuits, an independent audit and a review by a conservative law firm.

Vos further angered Trump supporters when he did not back a plan to impeach Meagan Wolfe, the state’s top elections official.

Elections commission staff had determined that petition circulators submitted 16 more valid signatures than needed to force a recall election of Vos. But the commission broke with the staff recommendation on June 27 and threw out an additional 188 signatures because they were collected beyond the 60-day petition circulation window.

Recall organizers had argued they should be counted because the submission deadline was extended by two days due to the Memorial Day holiday. But commission members who pushed for rejecting the signatures said that the law allowed for moving the date for filing the petition, but that the 60-day deadline for collecting signatures remained unchanged.

The commission’s decision can be appealed to circuit court.

The recall committee issued a statement calling for the elections commission to be dismantled.

“The WEC has demonstrated that it is set up to protect those in power rather than to fairly administer elections and uphold election laws,” the Racine Recall Committee said. “This action silences the voices of Racine County and denies justice to the voters.”

Democratic Commissioner Mark Thomsen urged the panel not to block the recall over what he called a technicality.

“Why should I ignore these 6,000 folks and their right to recall?” he said. “Haven’t they met their burden to at least get the vote?”

Republican Commissioner Don Millis, who was appointed by Vos, made the motion to reject the petition for not having enough valid signatures.

“I disagree with the idea that we’re giving Rep. Vos a pass,” Millis said. “I feel very strongly that any signatures collected on May 27 and May 28 are not valid. I don’t think that we’re denying anyone’s right to recall. It certainly is a close call in terms of the number of signatures.”

Vos has derided those targeting him as “whack jobs and morons.” He did not appear at the meeting, but his attorney argued for not counting the signatures collected past the 60-day deadline.

“This is the easiest way to resolve this,” attorney Matthew Fernholz said.

Trump supporters, including former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, on May 28 submitted more than 9,000 signatures to trigger the recall election.

They needed 6,850 valid signatures to force a recall election in the district where Vos was elected to serve. There were 6,866 valid signatures collected from that district before the commission voted June 27 to reject the additional 188, leaving them with 6,678.

Democratic Commissioner Carrie Riepl joined the three Republican members in voting to reject the recall. She did not give a reason for her vote during the meeting.

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