• WisPolitics


Friday, July 8, 2011

 2:00 PM 

Judge denies recall challenges

A Dane County judge this afternoon denied challenges to all nine state Senate recalls, clearing the way for the elections to move forward.

Dems had argued the efforts to gather signatures in the three recalls certified against their incumbents were rife with fraud and should be rejected.

"I reject the notion that there was widespread fraud proven before the Government Accountability Board that was simply ignored without remedy," Judge Richard Niess said this afternoon.

Niess said no standard exists in Wisconsin law to strike all signatures gathered by circulators accused of fraud in the petition process. Instead, Niess said, the signatures are to be gathered individually and challenged individually.

"There was a concerted effort to get to the bottom of it," Niess added, referencing a nine-hour GAB meeting to authorize the recalls of Dem Sens. Dave Hansen, Jim Holperin and Bob Wirch.

Dem attorney Jeremy Levinson said he had "respectful disagreements" with the decision, but that in the interest of moving the process forward "at this point ... there will be no appeal."

Levinson said he anticipated a greater ability to combat allegations of fraud by the legal system, and said aspects of the decision "suggest that Wisconsin law provides far less tools to protect the system from fraud than we believe to be the case."

"It's a problem," Levinson said.

Meanwhile, Republicans had challenged the recalls certified against their six recalled incumbents, arguing the groups set up to collect signatures were not properly registered with the state.

Niess issued a written statement finding that "the statutes unquestionably authorize the precise procedure" utilized by the committees to recall the Republican senators.

Niess wrote that no state laws or rules require the signing of personal registration statements before filing a recall petition, and, furthermore, that the GAB's original decision conformed to the "strong constitutional mandate guaranteeing the people's right to unrestricted recall elections."

GOP attorney Eric McLeod said he couldn't comment on a potential appeal, but that his clients had been preparing for recall elections all along.

-- By Greg Bump and Andy Szal

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