Wisconsin Elections Commission review finds recall effort targeting Vos falls short on signatures

Organizers of a campaign to recall Republican Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos did not gather enough signatures to trigger an election under one scenario reviewed by elections officials, but it likely will be up to the state Supreme Court to ultimately decide the fate of the recall effort.

Associated Press

March 12, 2024 • Southeast Region

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Matthew Snorek sets a plastic storage box with clasps on its lid and filled with a papers on the surface of a table that also has a laptop computer, plastic beverage container and other papers on its surface.

Matthew Snorek submits petitions to force a recall election targeting Republican Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos on March 11, 2024, in Madison. Vos angered backers of former President Donald Trump when he refused to impeach the official who oversees the battleground state's elections.(Credit: AP Photo / Scott Bauer)

AP News

By Scott Bauer, AP

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Supporters of former President Donald Trump who organized an effort to recall Wisconsin’s top elected Republican did not gather enough signatures to trigger the recall election under one scenario reviewed by elections officials on March 12, but it likely will be up to the state Supreme Court to ultimately decide the fate of the recall effort.

Recall organizers fell more than 900 signatures short of the number needed to force a recall election in the district that Assembly Speaker Robin Vos had represented for years. However, it’s not clear if those boundary lines should be used for the recall.

The liberal-controlled Wisconsin Supreme Court in December tossed the maps that were last used in 2022 and barred them from being used in future elections. However, the new maps signed into law in February by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers don’t take effect until November.

That leaves it unclear about what district boundary lines are in effect for elections before November. The commission said in its March 12 memo that if there were a recall the primary would likely be on May 21 with the general election on June 18.

The six-member elections commission, evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, voted unanimously on March 11 to ask the Wisconsin Supreme Court to decide which Assembly district should be used for purposes of any recall election. The court on March 8 declined a similar request from Evers, but left open the possibility it would decide the issue later.

“I’m lucky enough to be an attorney and it’s very, very murky to me,” Democratic commission member Mark Thomsen said March 12. “Nothing is clear about this process.”

The commission, perhaps after getting clarity it seeks from the Supreme Court, will then have to decide whether enough signatures were collected to trigger a recall election. Any decision it makes can be appealed, with the final decision again resting with the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Vos is the most powerful Republican in the GOP-led Legislature. He was first elected in 2004 and is the longest-serving Assembly speaker in state history, holding the post since 2013.

Vos angered Trump and his supporters in Wisconsin by refusing calls to decertify President Joe Biden’s narrow win in the state in 2020. Vos further angered Trump supporters when he did not back a plan to impeach Meagan Wolfe, the state’s top elections official.

Wolfe decided that she will not be participating in any work related to the review of signatures or the recall, said commission chairman Don Millis on March 12.

The number of signatures needed to trigger a recall election of a lawmaker is based on votes cast for governor and varies by district.

Based on the district Vos was elected to serve in 2022, circulators needed 6,850 valid signatures. Petition organizer Matthew Snorek, who is from the southeastern Wisconsin town of Burlington and owns an extermination business, said March 11 that district was targeted for signature collection.

Elections commission staff said Tuesday that 9,053 potentially valid signatures were collected. And of those, only 5,905 were from the district Vos was elected to serve in, which is 945 signatures short of what was needed.

Under the new boundaries, which Vos voted to enact, the district he was elected to represent in southeast Wisconsin’s Racine County would be split into two. The elections commission staff noted that Vos now resides in the new 33rd Assembly District, under maps signed by Evers, but some of his previous voters are in the new 66th Assembly District. He was elected to serve the 63rd Assembly District.

The commission voted unanimously to have staff do an analysis of how many signatures would be needed and how many were collected in each of those districts.

Recall organizers, in an unsigned statement, said they look forward to challenging the rejection of any signatures they submitted.

Vos, who has repeatedly questioned the validity of signatures collected, had no immediate comment on the signature review totals.

Both petition circulators and Vos can challenge the validity or rejection of signatures. The commission has 31 days to determine if the petition has enough valid signatures. If a petition is determined to be sufficient, a recall election must be called for six weeks later.

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