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For the second time this year, Vos critics submit recall petitions

Organizers gathered more than 9K signatures, almost 2K more than needed if found to be valid

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Matthew Snorek, one of the organizers of an effort to recall Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, holds up a box of what he says contains more than 9,000 signatures.
Matthew Snorek, one of the organizers of an effort to recall Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, holds up a box of what he says contains more than 9,000 signatures. Shawn Johnson/WPR

For the second time this year, conservative critics of Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos say they’ve submitted thousands of signatures to force a recall election of the powerful Republican, though it remains unclear whether their latest effort will succeed or again fall short.

Standing outside the downtown Madison office of the Wisconsin Elections Commission Tuesday, recall organizers said they had gathered more than 9,000 signatures to recall Vos. If all the signatures are found to be valid, it would be more than enough to force a recall election against Vos.

“When the sufficient number of signatures is validated out of this batch, Robin is going to lose the recall race,” said former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, who has feuded with Vos for the past couple years. “I know that. He knows that. Everybody knows.”

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In a written statement, Vos said recall organizers had “engaged in election fraud on a massive scale” in the first attempt, and alleged that the latest effort would have similar problems.

“Once again, we look forward to rooting out any criminality and ensuring that anyone who participates in an effort to defraud Wisconsin voters is held accountable,” Vos said.

The initial recall was launched in January by outspoken supporters of former President Donald Trump, who were angry with Vos for criticizing Trump and for blocking an effort to impeach WEC Administrator Meagan Wolfe. That effort failed after the bipartisan members of the Elections Commission voted unanimously that organizers failed to submit enough signatures.

Organizers launched a second recall in late March, arguing Vos “should be recalled for his tacit support of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP),” a “lack of election integrity” and “flagrant disrespect for his own constituents by calling them ‘whack-jobs, morons and idiots.’” Those insults and others were lobbed at recall organizers by Vos after it was clear the first recall attempt was headed for failure.

Former Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman speaks outside the Wisconsin Elections Commission offices in Madison in support of an effort to recall Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. Recall organizer Matthew Snorek (left) said organizers turned in more than 9,000 signatures.
Former Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman speaks outside the Wisconsin Elections Commission offices in Madison in support of an effort to recall Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. Recall organizer Matthew Snorek (left) said organizers turned in more than 9,000 signatures. Shawn Johnson/WPR

Number of signatures, where gathered, key to recall

Whether this latest recall effort succeeds will depend on how many signatures organizers gathered and — just as importantly — where they gathered them.

Under Wisconsin’s recall law, organizers need to gather a number of signatures from residents of Vos’ district equal to 25 percent of the number of people who voted in the last election for governor. That number varies from district to district.

In Vos’ old 63rd Assembly District, which was struck down by the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s liberal majority as unconstitutional in December, 6,850 signatures would have been needed to force a recall.

Under replacement maps passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Tony Evers, Vos’ new seat is the 33rd Assembly District. There, the WEC has said organizers would need 7,195 signatures to force a recall election.

Because organizers would have fallen short in either of the districts for the first recall attempt, the WEC rejected the effort, but the agency never declared which district lines should be used in any subsequent recalls before the November election. The WEC did ask the Wisconsin Supreme Court to weigh in on the matter, but the court declined.

Recall organizer Matthew Snorek said the bulk of the signatures for the latest petition drive were gathered from Vos’ old district.

“Whoever put him into office should have a legal ability and right to remove him from office,” Snorek said. “So the focus was heavily on where he was elected in the 63rd as it stood in 2022 when he last ran.”

Asked what would happen if the WEC finds that organizers should have gathered signatures from Vos’ new district, Snorek said that would be a matter for courts to decide.

“I think that’s where we get to involve our courts and our lawyers,” Snorek said. “And that’s way above my my pay grade.”

Wisconsin Speaker of the Assembly Robin Vos speaks during a news conference, Sept. 18, 2023, at American Family Field in Milwaukee. A divided Wisconsin Supreme Court on Tuesday, March 19, 2024, asked for arguments within two days related to a question over what legislative boundaries should be in place for a potential recall election, targeting Vos, organized by supporters of former President Donald Trump. Morry Gash/AP Photo

With petitions filed, challenge clock begins

Vos has 10 days to challenge signatures that were collected. During the first recall attempt, he submitted affidavits from people who claimed their signatures were collected through deceit or outright forgery.

The Elections Commission has 31 days to decide whether the petition has enough valid signatures. Whatever it decides can be challenged in court.

Should a recall election be ordered, and Vos be defeated, he would have to leave office, but he would still be able to run for the Assembly again as part of the 2024 election cycle.

That could potentially set up a scenario where Vos faces recall and general election primaries just a week apart.

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