Petitions with the names of 1 million Wisconsinites were submitted to state elections officials today, in a move that will jump-start the process of removing the nation’s most notorious antilabor governor from office.
A total of 540,208 valid signatures are required to recall Scott Walker, the Republican governor, who was elected in 2010. On Tuesday afternoon, the United Wisconsin movement that was organized to recall and remove the governor submitted almost twice that number.
"The people have spoken loud and clear and we are ready to put an early end to Governor Walker’s reign," announced Wisconsin AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt.
In addition to the 1 million signatures seeking Walker’s recall, petitions with 845,000 signatures were submitted to force the recall of Republican Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch.
Petitions were also filed to recall four Republican state senators: Terry Moulton in northwest Wisconsin, Pam Galloway in north-central Wisconsin, Van Wangaard in southeast Wisconsin and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, Walker’s legislative point man in the struggle last year over the governor’s move last year to strip collective bargaining rights from state, county and municipal employees and teachers. If just one of the four senators is recalled and removed, control of the chamber will shift from the Republicans to the Democrats—who picked up two seats in recall elections last summer.
In all, close to 2 million signatures were submitted Tuesday, building the historic in-the-streets popular uprising that rocked Wisconsin in 2012 into a electoral uprising that has the potential to rock the politics not just of the state but of the nation in 2012.
The movement to oust Walker will have secured the support of a higher percentage of eligible voters than has ever before sought to recall an American governor.
No other gubernatorial recall drive in American history has gathered the signatures of so large a proportion of the electorate. The total number of signatures submitted Tuesday represents 46 percent of the turnout in the 2010 Wisconsin gubernatorial election. That compares with 23.4 percent that signed the petitions that initiated the successful recall of California Governor Gray Davis in 2003 and 31.8 percent that signed petitions to recall North Dakota Governor Lynn Frazier in 1921.
The figures are ominous for Walker, whose poll numbers collapsed after he attacked the collective bargaining rights of state, county and municipal workers and teachers in a move last winter that provoked mass demonstrations. Neither Walker nor his foes now express serious doubts about the prospect that Wisconsin’s high standard for forcing a recall election will be met.
Petitioners were required to gather 25 percent of the total turnout in the most recent gubernatorial election—540,208 valid signatures—to trigger a new election. That election could take place as early as this spring, although the precise date will not be determined until the petitions have been reviewed and certified by the state Government Accountability Board.