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WEC staff: Vos recall organizers submitted enough signatures, but legal question remains

Because Wisconsin Supreme Court declared old legislative districts unconstitutional, whether Vos can be recalled in his old district 'remains an unresolved legal question'

Wisconsin’s Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos talks to the media at the state Capitol, Feb. 15, 2022, in Madison, Wis. Backers of an effort to oust Vos from office over his opposition to former President Donald Trump announced Sunday, March 10, 2024 that they’ve collected enough signatures to force a recall vote. Andy Manis/AP Photo

Conservative activists trying to remove Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos from office submitted enough signatures to trigger a recall election in his old district, according to staff at the Wisconsin Elections Commission. But a big question remains about whether a recall election can happen there in light of Wisconsin’s new legislative maps. 

Recall organizer Matthew Snorek said he submitted more than 9,000 signatures to the WEC on May 28. After an initial review, WEC staff determined that organizers turned in 6,866 valid signatures from residents in Vos’ old 63rd Assembly District.

In order to trigger a recall election organizers needed 6,850 signatures, which equates to 25 percent of the number of people who voted in that district during the last election for governor. According to the WEC staff memo, they cleared that mark by just 16 signatures.

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A social media post from the Racine Recall Committee declared victory Tuesday. Members of the recall effort did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

But whether Vos can even be recalled from the 63rd Assembly District “remains an unresolved legal question” according to the WEC staff memo. That’s because the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s liberal majority declared in December that maps drawn by Republicans in 2022 were unconstitutional, ruling that no future elections could be held using those districts. That includes Vos’ old 63rd Assembly District. 

The WEC asked the court to clarify whether the old maps or new maps passed by Republicans and signed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers in February should be used for potential recall elections. Justices declined that request in April, stating the commission, not the court, has the responsibility for administering elections. 

Retired U.S. Army Col. Conrad Reynolds, who is working with the recall committee, told WPR the people who are currently represented by Vos in the 63rd Assembly District “have a constitutional right to recall him.” He said he hopes the WEC “steps up to the plate and does the right thing.”

“So, there should be an election and whoever wins that election is going to be the representative for (Assembly District) 63 as long as (Assembly District) 63 is in existence,” Reynolds said. “That’s what needs to happen. Anything short of that is denying people their right, their constitutional right.”

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 said contains more than 9,000 signatures. Shawn Johnson/WPR

In his challenge of the recall petition, Vos claimed the court’s December injunction blocking the state’s old maps means a recall in the old 63rd district can’t happen. He also claimed the recall committee didn’t have enough signatures to force an election. 

In an emailed statement, Vos accused the recall organizers of breaking the law “by collecting 347 signatures outside of the statutorily defined 60 day window, putting them 331 signatures below the threshold.”

Vos also said his campaign raised fraud allegations “that were not refuted” by the recall committee or addressed in the WEC memo.

“We are confident they have not met the threshold for recall and will present our argument to the commission on Thursday,” Vos said.

Reynolds said WEC staff told recall organizers they could collect signatures until they were submitted due to the Memorial Day holiday falling within the 60-day period. He said the Vos campaign is “grasping at straws.”

WEC staff did recommend rejecting some of Vos’ signature challenges. But staff made no recommendations as to which district Vos can be recalled from, leaving that up to the six voting members of the Elections Commission.

Should commissioners decide that any recalls should take place under Wisconsin’s new map, the recall effort would fall well short of the threshold needed. WEC staff found 3,807 valid signatures from Vos’ new 33rd Assembly District, where a total of 7,195 would be needed to force a recall.

In May, Snorek was asked what would happen if the WEC found organizers should have gathered recall signatures from Vos’ new assembly district. He said it would be a matter for the courts to decide.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission will meet Thursday at 10 a.m. for “discussion and potential action” related to the Vos recall.