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Timing Is Everything: Wisconsin Democrats Fret Over Strategy For Walker Recall

Timing is everything.

With the legislative recall campaigns designed to dispose of enough GOP senators to return the upper body of the Wisconsin legislature to Democratic control well underway, attention is now turning toward the future of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

Certainly, should the senate recall efforts turn out well for the Democrats, the excitement will be there to continue the process and take a shot at sending Scott Walker back home to Milwaukee.

The question is when to begin that effort.

Wisconsin law requires that once a petition drive to recall an elected official begins, those engaged in the effort have just 60 days to collect enough signatures to equal 25% of the total number of votes cast in the prior gubernatorial election.

That is a tall order- which is why many Wisconsin Democrats believe that they should get the Walker recall petitioning campaign going just as soon as the senate elections are wrapped up and while passions remain high.

In a normal situation, I think these folks would be right.

The problem is that any electoral strategy of this nature must rely on the election laws of the state when contemplating moves that work to the favor of one political party or the other. Unfortunately, the application of the law in Wisconsin – thanks to one of the most bizarre State Supreme Courts one can imagine – is anything but reliable.

Because of this unusual state of legal affairs, as we will see in a moment, getting the petition drive going sooner rather than later could result in a very unfortunate ending for those who would like to see Governor Walker go away.

First, an explanation of how things are supposed to work in the state.

Under Wisconsin election rules, once the recall petitions are turned in, election officials have 31 days to issue a “certificate of sufficiency” or “certificate of insufficiency”. Assuming the petitions are deemed sufficient, the Wisconsin Constitution requires that an election be scheduled on the first Tuesday six weeks following the certification of the election.

While the law appears completely clear that the only exception to the six week period would be where the party attempting the recall requires a primary to determine who their candidate will be- in which case the primary would be held six weeks after certification with the actual recall election to take place four weeks after completion of the primary- Wisconsin, as noted, does not appear to always operate to the letter of the law.

Thus, the Democratic concern is that were their recall petitions to be delivered for certification by the end of this year, or early in 2012, the GOP would work to move the statutory date when the recall election should take place to the date of the statewide election already scheduled for just a few weeks later.

That election happens to be the Republican presidential primary which is scheduled for the first week in April.

Obviously, if you’re looking to turn out Republican voters to support Governor Walker, the day of the Republican presidential primary would be about as good as it gets.

How, you might ask, could the GOP succeed in delaying an election that should take place no later than, say, the middle of February (assuming the petitions are in by the end of this year), until April?

Assuming that the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, a non- partisan organization that oversees Wisconsin elections, would set the date for a statewide recall election according to the Constitutional requirements, the Republicans would likely engage in any number of challenges for the purpose of delay, including a court action(s) based on the argument that it is not in the best interest of the state to hold an election in February when one is already scheduled for the first week of April. After all, having to pay for two statewide elections when both could be held within a few weeks of the statutory date seems an unnecessary waste of state monies that are in short supply.

Never mind that the early April election just happens to be the GOP presidential primary.

Where would such a court action eventually be decided?

In the Wisconsin Supreme Court – the astoundingly politicized body where the friends of Scott Walker maintain a narrow majority thanks, in no small part, to the now infamous Justice David Prosser.

Maybe the Court would follow the law – maybe they would not.

Thus, were the Democrats to proceed with the recall effort shortly after the conclusion of the senate recalls next month, they may well be placing the future of Scott Walker in the hands of the Wisconsin Supreme Court – the last place they would like the matter to be decided.

The other option would be to wait until after the GOP presidential primary and try to time the recall election to take place on November 6, 2012, the day of the national elections. The strategy would be to pick that day based on the expectation that many Wisconsin Democrats will turn up to cast their vote for President Obama.

Of course, it would be impossible to pull this off given the state GOP’s willingness to get involved with dirty tricks. Were the Democrats to time things contemplating no primary election to pick the Democratic candidate, we can count on the GOP to run a ‘fake’ Democrat, as they did in numerous senatorial recall elections, to force a primary to throw off the timing. Were the Democrats to anticipate a fake primary, and time the recall election for 10 weeks following certification rather than six, the GOP would, no doubt, stay away from such a primary, resulting in the recall election happening a month before the November general elections.

Clearly, the Wisconsin Democratic Party finds itself in a very tricky position and one created by the uncertainty that comes when the state’s top judicial body cannot be counted upon to simply follow the law as written.

And therein lies the moral to the story. When we can no longer trust our judiciary to rule with fairness and according to law, democracy suffers.

While I may hold a few opinions, I really don’t know when the Wisconsin Democrats should seek to hold the recall election.

What I do know is that the Section 12 of the Wisconsin Constitution, drafted in 1926 and amended in 1981, is explicit and completely clear on the subject of how recall elections are to be handled and that no provision is made to alter the prescribed date of a recall election taking into consideration any factors other than those set forth in the state Constitution.

For Wisconsin Republicans -and supporters of Governor Walker- who would seek the political benefits of holding the election to recall Scott Walker on the day of the Republican primary rather than the day prescribed by their Constitution, I hope these people will bear in mind the deeply troubling hypocrisy of holding themselves out as ardent supporters of the Constitution only to turn their back on their own founding document when it is politically expedient to do so.

Personally, I hope the Wisconsin Democrats proceed immediately with the effort to recall Governor Walker.

If the state’s highest court -and those who believe that the Constitution trumps all- are prepared to throw their own Constitution overboard to save their governor, let them pay the price of such lawlessness that will surely come due for them.

If a Constitutional crisis is what it will take for Wisconsin citizens to understand what is happening to their state, I would also encourage Wisconsin Democrats to bet on their Constitution and see if your opposition is willing to pay the price for the sake of political expediency.

Let’s find out if Wisconsin Republicans love Scott Walker more than they love and respect their own Constitution. Let’s find out if they are willing to completely disregard the state’s moral and legal center all for the purpose of rigging an election to give the Governor the best possible chance of succeeding.

If Wisconsin Republicans wish to support their governor by coming out on whatever the legal election date works out to be, that is a valid exercise of their rights as Wisconsin citizens. But they should be willing to do it in accordance with the law of the State.

 

By: Rick Ungar, The Policy Page, Forbes, July 20, 2011

July 21, 2011 - Posted by | Class Warfare, Collective Bargaining, Conservatives, Democracy, Elections, GOP, Gov Scott Walker, Governors, Ideologues, Ideology, Middle Class, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States, Union Busting, Unions, Voters, Wisconsin, Wisconsin Republicans | , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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