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Wisconsin elections review shows recall targeting GOP leader falls short of signatures needed

Wisconsin Speaker Recall
Posted at 10:02 AM, Mar 12, 2024

MADISON (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, based on an initial review by the state elections commission released Tuesday.

However, questions remain over whether additional signatures could be counted. There are questions about which district boundaries should be in place for the recall targeting Assembly Speaker Robin Vos because of newly drawn maps the Legislature passed last month.

It is up to the six-member elections commission, evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, to decide whether there are sufficient signatures to trigger the recall election. The commission convened an emergency meeting Tuesday and immediately went into closed session to discuss the issue.

Circulators needed to gather 6,850 valid signatures to force the recall of Vos, who angered Trump backers when he refused to impeach the official who oversees the battleground state's elections following President Joe Biden's narrow 2020 victory in Wisconsin.

Recall organizers said they submitted nearly 11,000 signatures to the Wisconsin Elections Commission on Monday. But after an initial review of those signatures, commission staff said there were 9,053 potentially valid signatures. And of those, only 5,905 were from the district Vos was elected to serve in.

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. Only 3,364 signatures collected are in the new Assembly district that Vos resides in, which would also fall short of the total needed.

The initial review was broad and a closer subsequent evaluation may change the totals, commission staff cautioned in its memo.

Given questions over district boundary lines, commission staff said they needed guidance about how to conduct the second review of signatures.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court in December tossed the maps that were in place in 2022, the last time Vos won election, and barred them from being used in future elections. However, the new maps signed into law last month by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers don't take effect until November.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court declined Friday to take up Evers' request to clarify whether Wisconsin's newly approved legislative district maps apply to elections before November, leaving uncertainty about whether signatures for the recall attempt should instead be collected in Vos' newly drawn district. The commission said in its Tuesday memo that if there were a recall, the primary would likely be on May 21 with the general election on June 18.

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.

Petition organizer Matthew Snorek said Monday that he believed all of the signatures collected were from voters who live in the district Vos was elected to represent, not the one under the newly adopted maps. Snorek did not immediately return a message Tuesday seeking comment.

Vos also had no immediate comment on the signature review totals.

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 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.

Vos has repeatedly called into question the validity of the signatures that were collected in the effort to recall him.

Petition organizer Matthew Snorek, who is from the southeastern Wisconsin town of Burlington and owns an extermination business, said he believes there are enough valid signatures to trigger a recall.

The commission has 31 days to determine if the petition has enough valid signatures, which can be appealed in court. If a petition is determined to be sufficient, a recall election must be called for six weeks later.

The commission said in its Tuesday memo that if there were a recall the primary would likely be on May 21 with the general election on June 18.