GREEN BAY, Wisconsin (Reuters) - Wisconsin voters were heading to the polls on Tuesday for the first of nine summer recall elections triggered by the battle earlier this year over curbs on public-sector collective bargaining in the state.
In Tuesday's special election, Dave Hansen, a Democratic state senator from Green Bay, will defend his seat against Republican challenger David VanderLeest.
Hansen was one of 14 Democratic lawmakers who left Wisconsin for nearly three weeks this winter in an effort to thwart Republicans from passing the measure, which stripped teachers, correctional officers and other public employees in the state of most of their union bargaining rights.
The bill, which ultimately passed both chambers of the Republican-controlled legislature and was signed into law by Republican Governor Scott Walker, also forces most public workers to pay more for their retirement and healthcare.
Only police and firefighters were exempted from the controversial new law.
In all, nine state senators -- three Democrats who opposed the measure and six Republicans who supported it -- will be forced to defend their seats in the special elections, which could break the Republican hold on the state Senate.
The six Republicans will all face voters in recalls scheduled for August 9.
The two remaining Democrats will defend their seats in recalls scheduled for August 16.
The Democratic challengers hoping to unseat the GOP incumbents in the August 9 races emerged from last week's Democratic primary.
The Republican challengers who will try to unseat the two Democratic incumbents in the August 16 races were being chosen on Tuesday in special Republican primaries in the 12th and 22nd state Senate districts.
(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien; Writing by James B. Kelleher; Editing by Jerry Norton)