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Wisconsin Elections Commission rules second Vos recall effort has failed

In 4-2 vote, commissioners said around 188 recall signatures were collected outside 60 day deadline

Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester
Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, has been mum on the Republican majority’s plans for legislation if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, which established a constitutional right to an abortion. He is seen at the Wisconsin State Capitol in 2020 in Madison, Wis. Coburn Dukehart/Wisconsin Watch

For the second time this year, the Wisconsin Elections Commission has ruled conservative activists failed to gather enough valid signatures to recall Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos from office, this time finding that some of the signatures were collected after the legal deadline.

In a 4-2 vote, the commission found that 188 signatures were collected by the Racine Recall Committee outside of a 60-day window in state law. That’s despite a recommendation by  commission attorneys two days earlier saying recall organizers had collected enough signatures to force an election.

At issue were around 188 signatures collected on May 27, which was Memorial Day, and May 28. Because organizers gathered only 16 signatures more than required, subtracting 188 from that total sunk the petition.

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The motion to deem the recall petition insufficient was made by Commissioner Don Millis, who was appointed to his seat by Vos in 2022.

Before the vote, Commissioner Mark Thomsen, a Democratic appointee, urged his colleagues to vote against Millis’ motion “that saves his guy,” insinuating that Millis was protecting Vos. Thomsen noted that some members of the recall effort “probably want to put us in prison” because of past decisions, but he said the Wisconsin Constitution gives them the right to recall officeholders.

“Personally, I think the recall is a waste of time, waste of money,” Thomsen said. “But there is a constitutional right for these folks and for us to say we are going to throw the sufficiency out now on this technical rule is going to be a farce.”

Millis pushed back on Thomsen’s claims and said his motion was “not trying to save anyone’s hide” and voting to exclude signatures collected outside the 60 day period was the right thing to do.

“This is not the first time that we have disagreed with (commission) staff on recommendations,” Millis said. “That’s why we have a commission and not a staff making these decisions.” 

A social media post from the Racine Recall Committee responding to the commission’s vote said “the elections commission has silenced” voters in Racine County.

They repeated claims of Vos protecting WEC Administrator Megan Wolfe, who the group and other conservatives have accused of bending election laws in 2020.

“Despite collecting well over the required signatures, the commission, led by Wolfe, ignored their attorneys’ recommendations to certify the recall petition,” the committee said. “Now, more than ever, we must vote out Robin Vos and demand the dismantling of the Wisconsin Elections Commission!”

While Wolfe leads staff at the WEC, she is not one of the six voting members of the commission.

A spokesperson for Vos did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

It could be difficult for Vos’ conservative critics to vote out the powerful speaker with no recall election on the books. Vos represents an overwhelmingly Republican district, and his GOP challenger in the August primary already dropped out of the race.