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Vos says recall effort against him is ‘plagued with fraud and criminality’

Wisconsin's powerful Assembly Speaker claims recall can't happen because state Supreme Court struck down GOP-drawn legislative maps

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos uses his hand to point to the side while speaking into a microphone.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos speaks during the 1st District GOP Fall Fest on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, at the Racine County Fairgrounds in Union Grove, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Attorneys for Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos say signatures collected in an effort to recall him from office are “plagued with fraud and criminality.”

They also claim there aren’t enough signatures to trigger an election and a December Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling overturning GOP-drawn legislative maps means a recall “cannot occur” in Vos’ district.

Vos filed his recall signature challenge with the Wisconsin Elections Commission Thursday afternoon. It claims that although organizers of the recall effort submitted 10,702 signatures, the commission itself made an initial finding that only 5,905 of the signatures came from Vos’ previous 63rd Assembly District, under the old GOP maps. 

“The recall petitions were also plagued with fraud and criminality,” Vos’ challenge said.

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“As to the circulators, several have felony convictions, names were forged on signature pages (including those of children), and addresses could not be verified,” Vos’ attorneys claimed. “Turning to the signers, hundreds of them signed multiple times, used illegible writing, or provided incomplete address information.”

Finally, Vos’ challenge said the entire recall effort “must be rejected for legal reasons” because the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s majority struck down Republican-drawn voting maps as unconstitutional. 

“As a result, a recall cannot occur in the District listed on the recall petitions,” Vos’ attorneys claimed.

In a statement, Vos said he is proud to represent Racine County and grateful that the community “continues to stand behind me and my record.”

“This failed effort has proven to be what I said it would be from the beginning — a waste of time and resources,” Vos said. “That is especially true for the residents whose identities have been stolen and the local officials who must now investigate these matters.”

Under the state’s recall laws, those who filed the petitions will have a chance to respond to the allegations. The Wisconsin Elections Commission will eventually vote on whether to order the election.

The recall effort is the culmination of former President Donald Trump and his supporters turning on Vos for not doing more to support Trump’s unfounded claims the 2020 election was stolen.    

Vos has repeatedly called the recall a waste of time and resources at a point when Republicans need to work to preserve their majority in the Wisconsin Legislature under new state voting maps that give Democrats better chances of winning seats in competitive districts. 

Recall organizers, led by Matthew Snorek of Union Grove in Racine County, submitted their signatures March 11. Snorek said they represented the “community’s call to fire Robin Vos is a call for genuine electoral integrity.”

In particular, Snorek and others with the recall effort have accused Vos of blocking the impeachment of Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe, a move that has been pushed by a small group of Republican lawmakers, including some who have called for the 2020 election results to be decertified.  

Vos hurled his strongest insults at recall organizers during a WisPolitics forum Tuesday, calling them “whack jobs,” “morons” and “fraudsters” who pushed their campaign against him in the name of “grift.”

“The people who organized this are so out of touch with reality,” Vos said at the forum. “They are morons. They are stupid. These people do not deserve the respect that anybody gave them.”

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos gestures while speaking.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos speaks during the 1st District GOP Fall Fest on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, at the Racine County Fairgrounds in Union Grove, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Vos attorneys cite alleged examples of ‘fraud and criminality’

Contained within the thousands of signatures collected by those seeking to oust the Rochester Republican, Vos’ attorneys claim 21 affidavits have been filed by people who say their signatures were collected through deceit or outright forgery. 

The challenge says the name of Liz Tymus of Burlington appears on one of the recall petitions, but she told the lawyers she signed after being approached by two men in a parking lot “who asked her if she would sign a petition supporting ‘women’s rights.’”

“The men prevented her from getting into her vehicle and told her that she could not get into her vehicle unless she signed the petition,” the attorneys allege. “It was not until later that Tymus realized she had been coerced into signing the recall petition.”

Another signature came from Preston Kite, but Vos’ attorney’s questioned, “How could that be, as Kite has been held in Racine County Jail since February 4, 2024?” 

An affidavit from Michael Lawrence of Burlington alleges he “witnessed a recall circulator telling bar patrons he was collecting signatures to allow Donald Trump to appear on the presidential ballot.” 

“It is a felony for a circulator to fraudulently procure signatures by misrepresenting the nature of the recall petition,” Vos’ attorneys said.

Vos’ challenge also claims that “at least three minors had their names fraudulently added to the recall petitions” by a circulator from Illinois.

Trump and other election deniers turned on Vos after 2020

After his 2020 Wisconsin loss to President Joe Biden, Trump launched a series of unfounded claims about widespread voter fraud in the state. The following year, Trump issued a statement accusing Vos; Wisconsin Senate President Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield; and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, of “working hard to cover up election corruption in Wisconsin.”

The next day, Vos told Republicans at their state convention that he would hire former conservative state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman to oversee an investigation of the 2020 election. Gableman released an interim report in March 2022 and told lawmakers they “ought to take a very hard look” at decertifying the results from two years prior, a move widely dismissed as legally impossible. 

Months later, Trump and Gableman turned on the speaker and endorsed Republican Adam Steen’s August 2022 primary challenge against Vos. Gableman even recorded a robocall for the Steen campaign, which accused Vos of standing in the way of his investigation.

With Trump’s support, Steen nearly defeated Vos, losing by just 260 votes. When the votes were tallied, Vos told reporters Gableman “is an embarrassment to the state” and fired the former justice days later.

Last month, the Wisconsin Ethics Commission recommended felony charges be brought against Trump’s Save America Committee, state Rep. Janelle Brandtjen, R-Meonomonee Falls, and three county GOP parties for allegedly conspiring to illegally bypass campaign finance rules to funnel money to Steen’s primary campaign against Vos.

Wisconsin Republican state assembly candidate Adam Steen
Wisconsin Republican state assembly candidate Adam Steen speaks at a rally Friday, Aug. 5, 2022, in Waukesha, Wis. Morry Gash/AP Photo

Recall organizers say Vos is blocking failed attempts to fire Wisconsin’s top elections official

Throughout the false claims about the 2020 election, conservative activists and a small group of Republican lawmakers have laid much of the blame for Trump’s loss on Wisconsin’s top elections official, Meagan Wolfe. When her appointment as elections commission administrator was set to expire, the commission’s appointed board deadlocked on reappointing Wolfe in June 2023.

Two months later, the GOP-controlled state Senate voted to fire Wolfe, which drew a lawsuit from Democratic Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, arguing Wolfe was legally allowed to stay in her role until the commission reached a consensus on her reappointment.

A legal brief filed on behalf of Republicans during the case admitted the Senate vote to fire Wolfe didn’t have any legal affect and was merely “symbolic.” In January, Dane County Circuit Court Judge Ann Peacock ruled Wolfe is legally holding her position and the commission isn’t under any obligation to name a new leader.

A small group of conservative lawmakers, including Brandtjen, have filed subsequent resolutions to impeach Wolfe. Vos and other Republicans never allowed a vote on the plan in the full Legislature, which adjourned for the year earlier this month.