Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is going to face a recall election next year.
More than 200,000 Wisconsinites have pledged to join the effort to remove the radically anti-labor governor and pro-recall groups have announced plans to begin circulating the petitions November 15. Even the governor’s aides admit that it is all but certain that the groups will collect far more than the 540,000 signatures that are required to force the governor to face a new election next spring.
And the numbers don’t look good for Walker.
Polling shows that a solid majority of Wisconsin voters disapprove of the governor’s performance, with overwhelming majorities of Democrats and independents favoring his removal. Among self-identified independent voters, a group that favored Walker by a 56-42 margin last November, the split in now 52 percent for recalling the governor to 36 percent for keeping him. Internal polling, which pits the governor against a variety of potential challengers, has him running poorly even against contenders who have never before run statewide races.
Those are nightmarishly bad numbers for a politician who got a taste of the trouble he was in last winter, when his effort to undermine collective bargaining rights for public employees, fill civil service positions with political cronies and undermine local democracy were greeted with some of the largest pro-labor demonstrations in modern American history.
So how does Walker intend to prevail?
By gaming the election process.
Specifically, Walker and his legislative allies have in recent weeks placed enormous pressure on the state Government Accountability Board—which oversees elections—to refrain from writing rules that might make the recall process easier.
The pressure tactics included consideration by the state’s Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules of a proposal to shift final authority over whether GAB rules are implemented to the governor.
That change would create an autocrat’s dream scenario. Strongmen and political bosses have always mused that what matters is not who casts the votes but who counts them. What has the potential to matter even more, however, is who decides how everything about an election—the petitioning, the voter registration, the voter-identification rules, the vote counting, the recounting, everything—goes down. That’s what Walker would have if were to gain control of the rule-making process regarding recalls.
“Allowing Governor Walker to veto any recall rule from the GAB that he doesn’t like, for an election that affects him personally, is the definition of an abuse of power. Gov. Walker and legislative Republicans know that they are in trouble with Wisconsin’s working, middle-class families because of their extreme agenda. But rather than let the voice of the people be heard, Republicans are trying to control the recall election rules in favor of Governor Walker,” argued Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha.