Walker Recall Petitions Reach 1,000,000 Signatures Mark

Wisconsin Democrats announced yesterday that their petition drive to force a recall election of Governor Scott Walker had collected twice as many signatures as the law requires:

More than a million people have signed a petition to recall Wisconsin’s governor, the state’s Democratic Party said Tuesday.

That’s nearly twice the 540,208 signatures required to seek a recall of first-term Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who drew the ire of labor unions and public school teachers after he stripped public employees of their collective bargaining rights.

State Democratic Party officials said they would submit the signatures by close of business Tuesday. The officials also said they would turn in more than the required number of signatures needed for recall elections for the state’s Republican lieutenant governor and three state senators.

The Wisconsin elections board will review the recall petitions.

“I think it’s going to be a very impressive number that we hand in, beyond any challenge that this election is going to happen,” Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate told CNN affiliate WTMJ Monday.

With twice as many signatures as required being submitted, it’s certain that the recall effort will be certified and an election scheduled. Most likely, that election will take place sometime this spring, although it strikes me that it would have been more ideal for Wisconsin Democrats to get it to coincide with the November General Election to try to boost Democratic turnout in what everyone expects will be a swing state in the Presidential election.

At some point, the Democrats will have to focus on a candidate to oppose Walker. There’s been some talk that either former Senator Russ Feingold or former Congressman David Obey would make the run, but neither man has confirmed their interest in doing so. If it isn’t them, then the Democrats will have to have  to scheduled a primary to select a candidate. As for the recall itself, it’s hard to say how that will turn out and the signature drive doesn’t necessarily tell us anything. The effort to recall State Senators largely ended being a bust when Democrats failed to capture the Senate, and there have been signs in recent months that the initial public ardor behind the recall has faded. If that remains the case going into the spring, this whole thing could fizzle out very quickly.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. michael reynolds says:

    More than one out of every six Wisconsin residents, almost 1 out of 3 registered voters, and you expect a fizzle?

    There will be an election. That’s the bottom line. And very likely with these kinds of numbers and his poll ratings Walker will lose. Tea Party people are dumb but even they will be able to read the writing on that wall.

  2. @michael reynolds:

    The number of signatures is roughly equal to the number of people who voted against Walker in the 2010 elections. So, not entirely surprising. Again, the Democrats will have to find a candidate and it’s looking increasing likely that it won’t be a big-name candidate like Obey or Feingold. Meanwhile, Walker’s approval ratings look pretty good facing a recall election sometime this spring. Don’t count your electoral chickens just yet.

  3. John Peabody says:

    When a petition is shoved in your face, it’s easy to say, “Sure! Throw the bums out!”, and sign on the dotted line. But the actual voting population, especially as a stand-alone alection, will be different. In the privacy of the voting booth, it is possible that a different result emerges. No doubt it will cause a giant kefuffle, just as last year’s WI recall elections.

  4. Graham says:

    @michael reynolds: While the number of valid signatures was almost certainly enough to force a recall, it’s very unlikely that anywhere close to 1 million unique individuals signed.

  5. Graham says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Indeed. Walker’s supporters were pretty quiet during the recall effort. He’s actually very popular among Wisconsin’s republicans, who, unlike some big GOP news makers and presidential hopefuls, are mostly sane, decent people. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a big turnout in his favor in the actual election.

  6. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Doug Mataconis: In addition to the Walker petition, there are recall petitions being submitted against the Lt. Governor and four more Republican State Senators. I’m not sure how that’s a fizzle.

  7. Dustin says:

    So, you’re using polling data from before the collection of signatures even began, to state a day after they turned in nearly double the required amount of signatures (roughly 50% of the vote), that the whole thing may fizzle out before spring? On an issue that is almost a year old and still gathered over 1 million signatures? Riiight.

    Your own previous statements implied the improbability of gathering even the required signatures, especially if the summer recalls where to fail, as you now say the did.

    Admittedly, even I was skeptical last spring that there would be momentum left at this point to gather the required signatures, but they demolished the goal, to my amazement, and I see no way the whole thing just fizzles out in a couple of months at this point.

    Also, a lot of people assume the recalls during the summer were a bust, but I don’t see it that way. The Democrats gained back two seats, came very close to getting the third they wanted, and did so in very Republican districts. With one Republican senator willing to vote how he feels and not how the party wants him to, they have already had some legislative victories with their new numbers. Meanwhile the recall efforts against the Democrats was a complete failure, the didn’t get enough signatures in most of them, and the votes weren’t even close.

  8. Jay Dubbs says:

    The GOP has a squad of “signature verifiers” ready to pounce once the signatures were submitted. My guess is that squad has been quietly sent home, since the petition count was higher than anyone expected.

    @Dustin: You are right that the last recall elections, while not accomplishing everything, did have the effect of slowing down the Wisc. GOP. The senatorial recall votes this time are in much “swingier” districts. Would not be surprised if at least one doesn’t lose.

    @Doug Mataconis: The Wisc. Dems may not be able to convince Feingold to run (although I wouldn’t rule it out completely) but Barrett will be a very respectable candidate, like he was in the last election. Plus, a spring/summer election will be a great way for the Obama team to test run voter turnout, while Mitt and the RNC are still adjusting to the national election, and having to worry about the last few primaries.

  9. ponce says:

    One more fizzles like this and the Democrats are utterly undone!

  10. Herb says:

    Spring is right around the corner. The opposition has organized and produced results. Not sure I’d expect a fizzle.

    If Russell Pearce could get ousted in Arizona, Scott Walker could get ousted in Wisconsin.

  11. Jay Dubbs says:

    Plus, come on, a million plus signatures is pretty impressive.

  12. Nikki says:

    The number of signatures is roughly equal to the number of people who voted against Walker in the 2010 elections.

    No, Doug, you have this wrong. The number is nearly equal to those who voted FOR Walker in 2010 (he received 1.12 million votes). Kinda changes the dynamic, doesn’t it?

  13. Nikki says:

    Also, a lot of people assume the recalls during the summer were a bust, but I don’t see it that way.

    Yeah, the Dems attempted 6, they only needed 3, they got 2 and, subsequently, convinced a moderate to work with them a little bit; yet, somehow, all of that qualifies as “failure.” Lord, please grant me the ability to suffer such failure all the days of my life.

  14. MarkedMan says:

    As an outside observer, there are a few things that stand out to me:
    1) It’s really hard to get 1 million signatures in CA. In Wisconsin it is unreal
    2) Walker’s people are doing themselves no favors. They keep on attacking their opponents in the most, nasty, belittling, childish way possible. I’m from the Midwest and lived next door to Wisconsin and this is just not the way people interact in the great white north – this tea party “everyone is an idiot but me” stuff will hurt them.
    3) They also are a bunch of amateurs. The dems announced they had at least 700K votes. Walker’s spokesman spent a day blasting the “corrupt union bosses” for being so far off on their prediction of a million votes and how it was obvious that the despicable opposition which was composed entirely of people that hated America, despised free enterprise, and were a bunch of freeloaders that didn’t represent “real” Wisconsin were losing momentum. The dems calmly announced, oh, they had more than a million signatures after all. The Walker administration is now on record as believing that a third of all registered voters are little more than parasites. Way to start a campaign guys.
    4) Despite this, I think it will be a tough battle. Walker can make the argument that he should be given the chance to finish out his term, that he shouldn’t be judged without being given adequate time to show his results. And you have to assume that some campaign consultant is going to tell him to stop with the hating. Were I a resident of WI (and also not a scum sucking parasite ), that would be a pretty powerful argument.

  15. Nikki says:

    1) It’s really hard to get 1 million signatures in CA. In Wisconsin it is unreal

    In the last successful gubernatorial recall in the nation, Gray Davis’ recall petition signatures represented 7% of the number of CA voters in his last election. Scott Walker’s represents 23%. The anger is real, bipartisan and massive.

  16. G.A.Phillips says:

    lol….NUTZ….raise your hand if you live in Wisconsin and get like 10-12 hours of Wisconsin news a day….

    my hand is up…..

    The libs here have no clue what they are talking about just like always and their predictions and are sip cup feed while their election result evaluations hit the bib….