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Right-wing activists try for second time to recall Assembly Speaker Vos

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Right-wing activists try for second time to recall Assembly Speaker Vos

May 29, 2024 | 6:45 am ET
By Henry Redman
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Right-wing activists try for second time to recall Assembly Speaker Vos
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Assembly Speaker Robin Vos | Screenshot via Wisconsin Eye

A group of right-wing activists enraged by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos’ failure to appease their calls for a more aggressive response to claims of election fraud and their demand that he fire the chief state election official, has for the second time filed signatures to force a recall election against Vos. 

The group tried to recall Vos earlier this year, submitting more than 10,000 signatures in support of the effort in March. However the effort failed because those 10,000 signatures did not all come from the proper district.

Which district the signatures should come from has caused some confusion among the recall petitioners and officials at the Wisconsin Elections Commission because the map under which Vos was elected have been declared unconstitutional, while the new map won’t go into effect until this fall’s elections. The recall group gathered signatures from the district Vos currently represents and the new district created under the new maps. 

The group also gathered signatures from various other parts of the state, which were immediately declared invalid. 

On Tuesday, the group announced it had gathered about 9,000 signatures. There must be 6,850 valid signatures submitted to force a recall election in the district. 

“We are highly confident we have the sufficient number,” former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman said outside the WEC offices Tuesday afternoon. 

Vos is the longest serving Assembly Speaker in state history. He’s served in the Legislature, representing a district outside of Racine, since 2005 and as the Speaker since 2013, presiding over the state Republican party’s decade-long stranglehold on legislative power. 

However right-wing activists have turned against Vos in recent years, claiming that he has not sufficiently responded to their allegations that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. 

Gableman, for example, was hired by Vos following the election to search for evidence of fraud or misconduct. After he spent more than a year and more than $1 million in legal fees without finding any credible evidence of fraud, Vos fired him. Since the firing, Gableman has joined activist efforts to oust Vos. 

Vos has also resisted efforts by some of the Assembly’s furthest right members to hold a vote to decertify the results of the 2020 election, a legal maneuver that experts have said is unconstitutional and impossible, yet members continued to push for a vote. 

In 2022, a primary challenge against Vos was nearly successful. Vos beat his opponent, Adam Steen, by just 260 votes. In that primary race, Steen was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, who recorded robocalls on behalf of Steen. 

Aside from Trump, the effort against Vos has also gained the attention of Mike Lindell, the MyPillow CEO who has regularly spread conspiracy theories about the 2020 election. 

The efforts to oust Vos have frequently been marred by mismanagement. The previous attempt to recall him failed because of thousands of invalid signatures. The state ethics commission has also accused a number of figures associated with Steen’s campaign, including state Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls), of felony violations of state campaign finance laws. 

If the group has collected enough signatures this time, the recall will kick off a bizarre series of elections in Vos’ Racine-era district this summer. Tuesday was the last day the petitioners could file a challenge. Now that the signatures have been filed, Vos has until June 7 to file a reply in which he can object to the validity of signatures. 

The petitioners then have until June 14 to respond to Vos’ reply and the WEC has 31 days after the petitions are filed to determine if they’re valid. The commission already has a regularly scheduled meeting on June 27, and the deadline for action is June 28. 

If the petition is successful, state law requires that the recall election be held the sixth Tuesday after the WEC rules, which would put the election on Aug. 6. However, if a primary is required — which is likely because Vos is being challenged by members of his own party — the primary will be Aug. 6 and the recall election would take place four weeks after that on Sept. 3. 

Vos is also up for re-election in the fall and even if he’s recalled, his term is almost over and he would remain eligible to be re-elected. 

Under this timeline, Vos could be on the recall primary ballot on Aug. 6, on the regular primary ballot Aug. 13, on the recall general ballot Sept. 3 and on the general election ballot Nov. 5.