WASHINGTON -- In just one month, Democrats have collected more than a half-million signatures from Wisconsinites hoping to kick Gov. Scott Walker (R) out of office, putting them well on their way to hit the threshold to trigger a recall election in 2012, with time to spare.
Wisconsin Democratic Party Chair Mike Tate announced the news in a press conference conference on Thursday, saying that the party still planned to collect more than 700,000 signatures before the Jan. 17 deadline, when recall organizers must turn their petitions into the Government Accountability Office, which oversees state elections. They must have 540,208 valid signatures in order to trigger a recall race.
"Your strength and determination has helped us collect more than 507,000 to recall Scott Walker and we are well on our way to beating our internal goal of collecting more than 720,000," Tate said in his press conference, adding, "You have done something amazing in this grassroots movement, but now is not the time to get complacent or take a single petition for granted. Scott Walker and the Koch brothers are counting on us to rest on our laurels and let their corporate cash lull us to sleep in false confidence. I know you won't let them."
"Scott Walker continues to spend millions on misleading TV ads trying to convince voters that his drastic cuts to education and other 'reforms' are working," said Meagan Mahaffey, executive director of United Wisconsin -- the group organizing the recall -- in a statement. "But the people of Wisconsin are not buying his lies and are moving at record pace to stop Walker's destruction and recall him from office."
A recall election could occur as early as March 27, although it will likely be later if Republicans challenge the petition signatures or file lawsuits.
Once recall organizers turn in their petitions, the GAB will determine how many of those signatures are valid.
As Patch reported, GAB "set off a firestorm this week when one of its staffers said the agency would not automatically strike names like Mickey Mouse and Adolf Hitler from the petitions -- as long as those signatures were dated and had Wisconsin addresses."
The Walker recall is the next step in a campaign to oust Wisconsin Republicans who pushed forward controversial budget legislation stripping collective bargaining rights from state employees. In August, Democrats recalled two Republican state senators from office, but they fell short of the three needed to take control of the chamber.
There have been only two successful gubernatorial recall elections in history, one against California Gov. Gray Davis (D) in 2003 and one against North Dakota Gov. Lynn Frazier (R) in 1921.
Triggering a recall election won't mean that Walker will necessarily get kicked out of office; a candidate still needs to step forward and beat Walker in a match-up.
Tate has said the party won't put a candidate forward until early 2012 in order to keep the fight focused as a referendum on Walker.
The recall effort has become rough in recent days, with allegations flying that activists are being intimidated by Walker supporters and, on the other side, that recall organizers are collecting signatures on private property and are having people double-sign petitions.
Republicans have started a website asking people to report "any cases of fraud, intimidation, or other shady tactics" perpetrated by recall organizers.
"A majority of citizens have grown increasingly frustrated with the recall process, and this effort allows these people to get involved and protect their state from repeated fraudulent activity," said Republican Party executive director Stephan Thompson.
This story has been updated with comment from Wisconsin Democratic Party Chair Mike Tate.