Hundreds of people celebrated on the streets of downtown Madison Tuesday, as a truck full of petitions aimed at recalling Gov. Scott Walker pulled up to the Governmental Accountability Board office. Volunteers carried dozens of boxes into the building as organizers claimed they’ve collected more than one million signatures to force an election. The recall effort began last year in response to Walker’s push to end most collective bargaining rights for public unions. As WUWM’s Marti Mikkelson reports, election officials now have their work cut out for them.
A crowd of people formed a line outside the office near the capitol about an hour before the truck arrived. They cheered when the U-Haul bearing the slogan “We Did it For Wisconsin’s Future” pulled up to the side of the building. Julie Wells of Fort Atkinson helped launch the petition drive. She stood on the back of the truck with dozens of boxes of petitions behind her, and outlined the reasons she wants to see the governor removed from office.
“He attacked our workers by taking away the right to collectively bargain. He attacked our children by drastically slashing the budget for their schools. He continues to sell Wisconsin to the corporations. We could not just sit back and let this happen. We rose up and came together to fight back. We called recall,” Wells says.
After Wells spoke, a representative from each of Wisconsin’s 72 counties carried a box from the truck and into the building. Tamara Wolfgram is carrying a box for Waukesha County, where many people voted for Walker in 2010. She circulated petitions there, and says the fruits of her labor have paid off.
“It was such a meaningful campaign for us to do this recall. There were a lot of people who didn’t think we could gather as many signatures as we did from Waukesha County so I’m just proud to represent that county,” Wolfgram says.
Another person in the crowd is Mike Tate, chairman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. He says he’s amazed at the number of signatures.
“I am a little surprised. I think it’s a huge accomplishment. I think it’s a big sign that we got almost as many signatures as Walker got votes in the 2010 election," Tate says.
Tate oversaw a huge two-month undertaking, with thousands of volunteers fanning across the state, collecting signatures to recall Gov. Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch. He says besides the one million signatures for Walker, more than 800,000 were collected for Kleefisch. Only 540,000 valid ones are needed for each, to force an election. Government Accountability Board Director Kevin Kennedy will oversee the signature verification process and didn’t mince words when he spoke to reporters on Tuesday.
“We have a big job ahead of us. We expect to review close to two million signatures that were filed today. I’m confident we have the people and the equipment in place to get the job done. We dealt with a large number of recall petitions in 2011 but this is likely ten times as much work,” Kennedy says.
Kennedy says it will take several days just to scan the petitions and they’ll be posted on the GAB’s website for public viewing. The law requires the review to be done in 31 days, but Kennedy says it will take longer, and the Board will go to court soon to seek a delay. Petitions were also submitted on Tuesday to recall four GOP senators and Kennedy says he wants all elections to be held on the same day.
Gov. Walker was out of town on Tuesday when the signatures were delivered. He released a statement, saying he looks forward to talking to people about his promises to control government spending , balance the budget and hold the line on taxes.