2012 Wisconsin Senate recall elections

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Recall elections for four Wisconsin state senators were held during the spring of 2012. Voters put four state senators up for recall, all Republicans, because of the budget repair bill proposed by Governor Scott Walker and circumstances surrounding it. Democrats targeted Republicans for voting to significantly limit public employee collective bargaining. Scholars could cite only four times in American history when more than one state legislator has been recalled at roughly the same time over the same issue. The recall elections occurred on June 5, with May 8 being the date of the primary election.[1]

These recall elections followed the largest group of recall elections in U.S. history during the previous year, in which Republicans kept control of the Wisconsin Senate. In the June 5, 2012 recall elections, Democrats appeared to have taken over one seat from Republicans. Although the victory gave Democrats control of the Senate, the state legislature would not be in regular session again until after the November 2012 election when control of the legislature would again be contested.[2][3][4] After the November 2012 election, Republicans regained control of the state Senate due to the resignation of one Democrat and two losses by Democrats to Republicans.[5]

Successful petitions[edit]

Dist. Location Incumbent Party Signatures
approved (%)
13 Fort Atkinson, Watertown, Beaver Dam, Juneau Scott L. Fitzgerald Republican 16,742 18,282 (109%)
21 Racine, Elmwood Park, Sturtevant, Union Grove Van H. Wanggaard Republican 15,353 19,142 (125%)
23 Neillsville, Eau Claire, Chippewa Falls, Bloomer Terry Moulton Republican 14,958 18,657 (125%)
29 Wausau, Park Falls, Ladysmith, Medford Pam Galloway Republican 15,647 18,511 (118%)

Additional recall election proposals[edit]

Paperwork was filed with the state Government Accountability Board in March 2012 authorizing an effort to collect recall signatures against Senator Bob Jauch (D-Poplar) and explore recalling Senator Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center). Both efforts were launched by persons affiliated with the Citizens For Responsible Government Network, saying both Senators cost the state jobs. Both Senators opposed a bill that would have helped a Florida company open an iron mine in Wisconsin's north woods.[citation needed] The mining bill would have reworked Wisconsin's permitting process to help Gogebic Taconite open an iron mine just south of Lake Superior in Jauch's district. The company had claimed the project would create hundreds of needed jobs in northwestern Wisconsin, and Republicans touted the bill as their signature job-creation legislation this past session. 15,270 signatures were required to force Jauch into a recall election. 14,545 signatures were required to force Schultz into a recall election.[6] The group came up short in their efforts to obtain signatures and said they would try again after the Walker gubernatorial recall election on June 5, 2012.[7]


Dist. Date of poll Candidate Result in
most recent poll
Poll information
13 April 13–15 Scott Fitzgerald (R-inc.) 54% Conducted by PPP [8]
Lori Compas (D) 40%
21 Van Wanggaard (R-inc.) 48% Conducted by PPP [8]
John Lehman (D) 46%
23 Terry Moulton (R-inc.) 51% Conducted by PPP [8]
Kristen Dexter (D) 41%
29 Jerry Petrowski (R) 51% Conducted by PPP [8]
Donna Seidel 37%



Date Dist. Candidate Party Votes Percent
May 8 13 Lori Compas Democratic 21,246 72%
Gary Ellerman Democratic
8,212 28%
21 John Lehman Democratic 20,273 68%
Tamara Varebrook Democratic
9,507 32%
23 Kristen Dexter Democratic 17,638 64%
James Engel Democratic
9,725 36%
29 Donna Seidel Democratic 17,920 64%
James Buckley Democratic
9,992 36%
Total 114,513

General elections[edit]

Date Dist. Incumbent Party Votes[9] Percent
June 5 13 Scott Fitzgerald Republican 47,116 58.4%
Lori Compas Democratic
32,870 40.7%
21 Van Wanggaard Republican 35,539 49.4%
John Lehman Democratic
36,358 50.6%
23 Terry Moulton Republican 39,843 56.7%
Kristen Dexter Democratic
30,479 43.3%
29 Jerry Petrowski Republican 44,027 61.4%
Donna Seidel Democratic
27,702 38.6%

District 21[edit]

The initial vote on June 5 showed Democrat John Lehman defeating incumbent Republican Van Wanggaard by a margin of less than 800 votes. The election canvas, a week later on June 12, confirmed Lehman won. However, on June 14, the Racine County Sheriff's Office announced it was investigating allegations of voting irregularities at the Dr. John Bryant Center in Racine, as well as reports of voter registration forms in the trash behind the Cesar Chavez Center, also in Racine. Wanggaard had until 5 p.m. on June 15 to request a recount.[10]

On June 15, Wanggaard asked for a recount, which began on June 20, and was completed by July 2.[11] On June 25, it was revealed that possibly thousands of voters, including 116 voters in Ward 2 of Racine, did not sign the poll book before obtaining their ballot, a violation of a new Wisconsin law passed in 2011. Despite objection by the Wanggaard campaign, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board refused to strike the votes as invalid. The Government Accountability Board pointed out that it would not be easy to determine which ballot was used by someone who signed the poll book and which was not. Also the Government Accountability Board noted "Invalidating ballots based on the failure to require a signature would disenfranchise a voter due to an election official's error" as a poll worker is supposed to have voters sign the poll book before giving them a ballot rather than after. The State Senate Democratic Committee argued republicans wanted "voter disenfranchisement" that this was "a clerical error" and "not voter fraud. Its not voter irregularities." [12] The missing poll book signatures were largely due to newly registered voters who had already given a signature when filling out registration forms.[13] Lehman was declared the winner by 819 votes in certified recount numbers.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Judge OKs petition review extension, June 5 recall election". Host.madison.com. 2012-03-15. Retrieved 2012-06-08.
  2. ^ STEPHANIE JONES. "Lehman declares win: The Journal Times Online". Journaltimes.com. Retrieved 2012-06-08.
  3. ^ Todd Richmond. "Senate power likely shifts to Dems; Wanggaard ponders recount". Host.madison.com. Retrieved 2012-06-08.
  4. ^ Jack Craver. "Madison Politiscope: Democrats claim the state Senate — does it matter?". The Capital Times. Host.madison.com. Retrieved 2012-06-08.
  5. ^ Brendan O'Brien (Nov 7, 2012). "Wisconsin state Senate switches party for third time in two years". Reuters.
  6. ^ "Papers Filed Against Senators Jauch, Schultz". Wisn.com. 2012-05-25. Retrieved 2012-06-08.
  7. ^ "Recall of Jauch suspended, Jauch calls group disreputable". News.wpr.org. 2012-05-14. Retrieved 2012-06-08.
  8. ^ a b c d Daily Kos Elections (2012-04-17). "Wisconsin state Senate recall polls paint a tough picture—but with one notable bright spot". Daily Kos. Retrieved 2012-06-08.
  9. ^ "Elections". Retrieved June 9, 2012.
  10. ^ Vielmetti, Bruce (2012-06-14). "Sheriff's office investigating recall vote in Racine". JSOnline. Retrieved 2012-07-07.
  11. ^ Bauter, Alison (2012-06-18). "Protests over Racine vote point to statewide confusion". JSOnline. Retrieved 2012-07-07.
  12. ^ "Racine Senate recount could wind up in court".
  13. ^ "More Election Snafus Reported in Recall Election Recount - Caledonia, WI Patch". June 26, 2012.
  14. ^ "Election Recount Information". Gab.wi.gov. Retrieved 2012-07-11.

External links[edit]