Wisconsin Democrats, who have been waging a campaign to recall Republican state senators and take a majority back in the chamber, are now firing back at the Republican counter-campaigns to recall the Dems. On a conference call with reporters on Thursday morning, state Dem chair Mike Tate and attorney Jeremy Levinson predicted that they would able to successfully challenge the validity of much of the signature-gathering effort by Republicans — which Tate repeatedly called a “racket.”
“At the heart of the Republican effort from the start was a mercenary spirit that naturally used deception and fraud to gain signatures,” charged Tate. “In the coming days, you will see affidavits from citizens in these targeted districts who were deceived into signing petitions by the Republican roadies who often refused to identify themselves by their real names.”
In particular, Tate said that the Republicans brought in paid signature gatherers from out of state, who were paid on a per-signature basis, and that some of these gatherers had criminal records.
The issue previously came to a head in late March and early April, when one of the state GOP’s canvassers, a Colorado man with a criminal record, was fired after he was accused of stealing a backpack containing a couple’s keys and cell phones from Lambeau Field, the home football stadium of the Green Bay Packers.
In addition, Tate said that the Dems had stories on hand of people being misled into signing: “We’ve had people lying saying this is in support of [Democratic state Sen.] Dave Hansen, not to recall Dave Hansen. There are going to be examples of these mercenaries who are paid to collect as many signatures as possible, not valid signatures.”
Also, Levinson said that Democrats would not even necessarily have to scrutinize all the individual signatures, looking for ones to disqualify. “We know as fact that they have had people circulating signatures who are legally prohibited from doing so. Those signatures should all be tossed,” said Levinson, also adding: “To circulate a petition, you either need to be a qualified elector [voter] in wisconsin or eligible to be a qualified elector in Wisconsin.”
TPM asked Tate whether they had yet found any instances similar to what was observed with ACORN’s per-voter registration efforts in 2008, where a pay structure could lead to workers fraudulently filling out the forms themselves with fake names. Tate pointed out that they have not yet had the opportunity to review the petitions themselves, but also noted that such practices actually led to Wisconsin outlawing per-voter registration payments in the last few years.
“The fact is nobody saw this kind of recall activity coming,” said Tate, thus leaving a per-signature recall payment structure apparently legal. He also added: “Until we get a chance to look at the sheets, which are being turned in today, we don’t know. But I guarantee to the reporters on this call, there will be fraudulent signatures turned in.”
By contrast, said Tate, the Dems had volunteer efforts to gather signatures, plus paid organizers overseeing the volunteers who may have gathered some signatures themselves along the way.
The state Senate currently has a 19-14 Republican majority, with Democrats hoping to pick up three seats in recall elections and win a majority. They are collecting signatures in all eight Republican-held districts that are eligible. Under Wisconsin’s recall law, elected officials must have served at least one year of their term before being recalled — thus exempting the half of the Senate that was just elected in 2010.
In order to initiate a recall, signatures of at least 25 percent of the number of voters in the previous gubernatorial election, within the targeted district, must be collected in a 60-day window.
Democrats have announced that they will file signatures on Thursday against Republican state Sen. Alberta Darling, and have already filed signatures against four others: Dan Kapanke, Randy Hopper, Luther Olsen and Sheila Harsdorf. Republicans filed signatures on Thursday against three Democrats: Dave Hansen, Jim Holperin and Robert Wirch.