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HOUSTON — Opponents of Mayor Annise Parker’s proposed Houston equal rights ordinance have vowed to take the issue to voters in a referendum, but now they’re seriously discussing a sort of nuclear option at the polling place: a recall election to remove her and some council members from office.
Although recalling the mayor wouldn’t be easy and the opposition would have to work quickly, the threat alone could cause problems for some city council members.
“This is absurd, it’s unheard of,” said Dave Wilson, a longtime anti-gay activist and critic of Parker who’s fighting the proposed ordinance. “It’s nothing but pure payback for the mayor. She’s paying back her core constituents that supported her.”
Houston’s city charter prescribes the criteria for which an elected official can be recalled – incompetence, misconduct, malfeasance or unfitness for office – but opponents argue the proposed ordinance contradicts state law.
“We consider them to be incompetent,” Wilson said.
The charter decrees that citizens have 30 days to gather enough signatures on petitions to mandate a recall election. The number of signatures required varies for each office, because it amounts to 25% of the number of voters who cast ballots for the elected official involved.
And that’s where it gets interesting. Since fewer people vote in district city council races, it’s much easier to gather enough signatures to trigger a recall election.
Look at the numbers. About 170,000 Houstonians voted for mayor in the last election, so opponents would have to gather about 42,500 signatures to recall Parker. Given only 30 days, that would be difficult.
But substantially fewer people vote in races for district council seats, which are more like neighborhood campaigns. If 10,000 ballots are cast in a council race, only 2,500 signatures are required to trigger a recall election.
“It would be tough to recall the mayor,” Wilson said. “And that’s why we’re looking at the other strategy. All we want to do is defeat this ordinance.”
“It does make council members pause and reconsider,” said Bob Stein, the Rice University political scientist and KHOU analyst. “I think it also shows that the mayor is weak in the eyes of at least somebody. And should this petition drive succeed, it might lessen her ability to push legislation through the council.”
Gathering petition signatures has become a sophisticated undertaking. Sometimes when politicos launch petition drives they hire people to gather signatures in public places, but that causes trouble because many signers turn out to be ineligible. Another method — mailing petitions directly to targeted registered voters with return envelopes – has proven more reliable.
Parker’s proposal has stirred up an unlikely coalition of conservative whites who never cared much for the mayor anyway and African-American ministers offended by the notion that sexual orientation is a civil right. Church leaders have rallied outside City Hall in opposition to the ordinance, focusing largely on the idea that it would allow transgendered people to decide whether to use men’s or women’s restrooms.
A city council vote is scheduled for next Wednesday.
Conservatives already tried and failed to force Hudak to face a recall earlier this year. But the successful efforts to throw out two of her Democratic colleagues, Senate President John Morse and Sen. Angela Giron, emboldened the organizers to take another run at Hudak.
The latest effort is called Recall Evie Hudak Too, and its organizers are trying to gather 25,000 signatures in her district by early December to force a recall election. The group bills itself as a response to her votes to tighten the state’s gun laws. The state earlier this year imposed limits on the size of ammunition magazines and expanded background checks for people who wanted to buy guns. The laws came in the wake of last year’s shooting massacres at an elementary school in Connecticut and a movie theater in Aurora, Colo.
But one thing that’s been conspicuous so far in this recall attempt is that if it’s successful, control of the state Senate will flip to Republicans. Democrats currently hold the majority by just one seat.
Two Colorado State Senate Democrats were recalled Tuesday, driven in large part by gun rights supporters angry over new ammunition limits past in March. With unusually low turnout — and a razor-thin final margin in one of the districts — the irregular rules used for the recall elections may have made the difference in one or both races.
More than 71 percent of registered Colorado voters participated in the November 2012 election — the third highest turnout rate in the nation. Much of that owed to Colorado’s vote-by-mail option, which has been available for the past several elections. Indeed, as much as 70 percent of Colorado’s votes were cast by mail-in-ballots in recent elections. A new state voting rights expansion, enacted in May, further updated state law to create automatic mail-in balloting for all voters.
Despite this new law, the abbreviated calendar for the recall ultimately prevented clerks from automatically mailing out ballots in time to comply withconstitutional time requirements. Rather than vote in the normal way or at a local precinct, citizens were required to show up at their choice of a few at-large polling locations established by the counties. The judicial wrangling over the mechanics of the recall dragged on through much of August and many voters were reportedly confused about where and when to vote.
The result was a massive drop-off in turnout.
In the 3rd Senate District, Sen. Angela Giron (D) was recalled by a 4,154 vote margin. But just 35.66 percent of registered voters (34,556) voted in the election. In her most recent election in 2010, 45,140 voters had participated — making this a decline of more than 23 percent.
In the nearby 11th Senate District, Sen. President John Morse (D) was recalled by just 343 votes. An even more paltry 17,845 voters — just 21.25 percent — took part in that election. Three years ago, 28,712 voted in the same district’s Senate elections — a turnout decline of more than 37 percent since 2010.
But in all, less than 29 percent of the eligible voters in the two districts had their voices heard. While it is impossible to know how a higher-turnout election would have broken down, it does seem that the atypical election process contributed to a far lower participation rate than Colorado’s ordinarily high standard.
Joe Arpaio: "'I Could Lose' In Recall Election." Are his days of terrorizing Maricopa County numbered?
In a fundraising email to supporters, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said he “could lose” if faced with a recall election.
"The fight to recall me in Arizona is gaining steam and I’m afraid if we don’t fight back hard right now… I could lose," Arpaio wrote in an email Sunday.
The AP reports that recall organizers say they’ve gathered 150,000 of the 335,000 signatures required by May 30 to bring on a recall election, despite facing fundraising difficulties.
h/t: Huffington Post
On Tuesday, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker held onto his job with a typical Republican campaign built on trickery, wildly dishonest messaging and a massive budget courtesy of a handful of ideologically like-minded sugar daddies from out-of-state (according to Mother Jones, about two-thirds of Walker’s donations came from outside the Badger State, compared with just around a quarter of his opponent’s).
In the aftermath of the vote, conservatives, proving typically magnanimous in victory, spun the results like a top. They claimed the outcome spelled doom for Obama this fall, marked the death of the labor movement and was a pure reflection of voters’ love for Scott Walker’s economy-crushing austerity policies.
“This is what democracy looks like,” Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch crowed after hanging on to her job. “Public sector unions are over,” rejoiced libertarian blogger Radley Balko on Twitter. The Breitbart kids, furthering a standard-issue conservative lie about unions, happily reported that, “Walker won 36% of Wisconsin’s union households, which isn’t surprising, considering how workers reacted when emancipated from forced dues.” (By law, nobody can be forced to pay union dues – workers in union shops can only be compelled to pay the direct costs of representing them.)
1. Wisconsinites Just Didn’t Like the Idea of Recalling a Sitting Governor
An honest reading of the published exit poll leads to an important conclusion about Walker’s victory that has little to do with unions, Walker’s policies, the economy or any of the other factors that have pundits’ tongues wagging.
Fully 70 percent of those voters polled believed that recall elections are either never appropriate (10 percent) or are only appropriate in the case of official misconduct (60 percent).
The governor won 72 percent of this group. And it’s worth noting that a third of those voters who said “official misconduct” is a good reason to recall a governor voted to oust Walker, who has seen six of his staffers charged with 15 felonies in the “John Doe” probe.
While Walker himself has not yet been charged, reports suggest that the investigation is circling closer to him.
2. Wealthy Wisconsinites Voted Their Self-Interest
Also belying the spin that this was a referendum on public sector unions is the fact that the wealthiest fifth of the population – the people who have benefitted directly from Scott Walker’s tax cuts (passed during a supposed “fiscal crisis”) and probably worry too much about the social safety net he has ripped apart – made all the difference in the race.
Scott Walker and Tom Barrett were tied among the 80 percent of Wisconsin voters who make less than $100,000 (Walker got 50.2% of the vote, but the poll has a 4-point margin of error). Among the 20 percent who make $100 grand or more, Walker trounced Barrett, 63-37.
3. About Those Union Households
Did unions fail to turn out the vote? No, a third of the electorate belonged to a “union household” – the biggest share in any gubernatorial or presidential race since 2004.
But much has been made about the fact that Walker won 38 percent among that group. It’s a sad reality, but a little too much is being made of it, when you dig into the numbers. As the Washington Post noted, union members voted overwhelmingly for Barrett – by a 71-29 margin. But members of “union households” who don’t belong to a union only supported Barret by a 51-48 margin – not enough to make a difference.
That means that people who have a family member who belongs to a union didn’t feel their loved ones were under attack. Which brings us to…
4. How Could it Be a Referendum on Union Rights When Nobody Ran on Union Rights?
A slim majority of voters approved of Walker stripping the rights of public sector unions. But a final nail in the coffin for the narrative that Walker won on that issue is the simple fact that Barrett chose not to campaign on it. In fact, Barrett touted the fact that he wasn’t labor’s first choice (unions had backed Former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, whom Barrett defeated in a primary) and bragged on the campaign trail about how he had been a tough negotiator with public employee unions as mayor of Milwaukee. He presented himself as the centrist who can “make tough choices” – basically parroting the case that Walker made in 2010.
That may have been a huge tactical error – hindsight is 50/50 – but it is the case, and suggesting that this election was all about Walker’s union-busting is simply divorced from the reality of the campaign.
5. This Is What Plutocracy Looks Like
It’s not accurate to say that money made all the difference in this race. The two candidates, facing off for the second time in two years, were both well-known by the electorate and the overwhelming majority of voters had made up their minds before the battle commenced.
But it’s also a mistake to dismiss the Walker camp’s ability to outspend their opponents by a 10 to 1 margin. According to the National Journal, the result was that “Walker and his Republican allies have outspent Democrat Tom Barrett and supportive groups more than 3-1 on TV ad buys during the three months leading up to the June 5 recall election.” This is likely the new normal in the age ofCitizens United.
6. Very Little Changed From 2010, Except the Number of Voters
Pundits have to blather about what a big contest means, but the reality is that there wasn’t much difference between this contest and the last one between the two men in 2010.
7. A Wisconsin Race That Tells Us Virtually Nothing About November
Immediately after the vote, CNN’s John King wondered whether Wisconsin, a pretty solidly “blue” state, should be moved from the “lean Obama” category to “up for grabs.” Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell said Walker’s win “helps to put Wisconsin in play.”
8. Don’t Forget 2011
None of this is to suggest that Tuesday wasn’t a painful defeat for the forces of progress in Wisconsin. It was. But much of the coverage has focused on Tuesday’s races in isolation, and that’s a mistake.
The picture looks a lot rosier when one considers the entire 16 months Scott Walker has been in office. Since Walker’s draconian union-busting measure passed, Democrats have collected the scalps of four sitting state senators, flipping the upper chamber to their control.
Three Democrats defended themselves against Republican recall efforts in 2011, while defeating two of their opponents. Then, back in March, another Republican targeted for recall, Pam Galloway, abruptly resigned, leaving the senate evenly split between the two parties. At the time, she said she was stepping down to deal with “family issues,” but it was widely believed that she didn’t have the desire to face a tough recall fight.
Then, on Tuesday, Democrat John Lehman appears to have picked up a senate seat in Racine County, swinging the chamber to Democratic control (there may be a recount, but he has a fairly solid lead of around 800 votes).
Three Republican state senators survived their recall elections Tuesday, but one Democrat has declared victory in the fourth recall race. If the election results are certified, the win would give Democrats a majority in the state Senate.
Unofficial results show former state Sen. John Lehman of Racine defeated state Sen. Van Wanggaard by about 800 votes. Lehman’s victory would put him back in the seat after Wanggaard ousted him in 2010.
h/t: TPM LiveWire
Turnout in the Wisconsin recall reached a major high for a gubernatorial race, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports — but fell just short of the presidential-level turnout predicted by state officials.
Fifty-seven percent of voting-age adults voted, about 2.5 million people. That figure is less than the 60 to 65 percent turnout predicted by the state Government Accountability Board, which oversees elections in the state.
h/t: TPM LiveWire
Go Burn in Hell, Walker supporters!
To the Wisconsin voters that voted for Walker, Kleefisch, and/or your GOP State Senator, you deserve to be thrown in Hell! #wirecall— Justin Gibson (@JGibsonDem) June 6, 2012
Multiple news organizations have called the Wisconsin gubernatorial recall for incumbent Republican Scott Walker. But Democratic candidate Tom Barrett’s campaign is not conceding yet — citing crowded polling places where some voters have still been in line.
BREAKING NEWS: WI-Gov TCTC
Polls close in Wisconsin; NBC News declares governor’s race ‘Too Close to Call’ - @NBCNews
TCTC = Too Close to Call
Anyone who has followed this year’s recall battle in Wisconsin knows the feeling of being buried in news stories, blog posts, tweets, rumors, and innuendo on campaign spending, crime rates, job creation, and the John Doe investigation looming over Gov. Scott Walker. “Frenzy” is a good word to describe the past 16 months in Wisconsin politics. The fight began with Walker’s anti-union “budget repair” bill and the protests against it, but since then, Democrats and Republicans have clashed continuously over the governor and his controversial agenda, and political advertisements have blanketed TV and radio.
Let’s face it: It’s hard to make sense of it all in Wisconsin. So Mother Jones has compiled 10 of the most striking statistics from the recall rumble. They give you a sense of the time, money, and manpower invested by all sides—and how much each side has at stake:
Sitting US governors before Scott Walker who faced a recall via ballot box. Those two governors are North Dakota’s Lynn Frazier, whom voters recalled in 1921, and California’s Gray Davis, who got the boot in 2003.
The margin by which Walker is beating Barrett in the political money wars. Since January 2011, Walker’s campaign has raised $30.5 million; Barrett has raked in $4 million since entering the race in March.
The number of voter contacts the Republican Party of Wisconsin made in the past year. Spokesman Benjamin Sparks describes it as “the largest grassroots campaign Republicans have ever had in the state.” (In the most recent count, there were 3,270,637 registered voters in Wisconsin.)
Official projected turnout among voting-age adults in Tuesday’s election. The highest recorded turnout in a Wisconsin midterm gubernatorial election was 52 percent in 1962. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel political guru Craig Gilbert writes that the 60-to-65-percent-turnout forecast is “more or less insane.” But then again, these are not normal times in Wisconsin.
Facts about voting in Wisconsin today.
My message to the Wisconsin voters.
Important for tomorrow if you’re a voter (or potential voter) in Wisconsin.
After 16 months of bitter wrangling over the direction not just of a state but of the national discourse about economic policy, budget priorities, the role of labor unions in the public sector and democracy itself, Wisconsin will decide today on whether to bounce Governor Scott Walker — the primary American proponent of a European-style austerity agenda based on cuts to wages, benefits, public services and public education — from the position to won in the 2010 “Republican Wave” election.
Walker is only the third governor in American history to face a recall election. And he is the first to be challenged by progressives. The previous recalls deposed a left-wing populist (in North Dakota in 1921) and a Democratic mandarin (in California in 2003). This one could remove a favorite of the Tea Party movement whose campaigns have been heavily financed by the billionaire Koch Brothers and their right-wing allies.
At the same time, control for the Wisconsin legislature could shift to the Democrats in parallel recall challenges to Walker’s lieutenants.
1. WISCONSIN IS ALWAYS A CLOSELY DIVIDED STATE
Though the recall election was forced by the mass movement that developed to protest Walker’s anti-labor policies — including a law that stripped most public employees of essential collective-bargaining rights — that does not mean that everyone in Wisconsin is opposed to the governor. More than 900,000 Wisconsinites signed petitions to recall Walker — more than 40 percent of the electorate from the 2010 gubernatorial election — while more than 800,000 signed petitions to recall his lieutenant governor and another 100,000 petitioned to recall four Republican state senators.
That’s incredible, and if everyone who signed a recall petition votes, Democrats will be well on their way to deposing Walker, Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, Senator Republican Leader Scott Fitzgerald and three of his colleagues.
The truth is that Wisconsin has since the 1950s been a closely divided state politically. This is a state of extremes, home to passionate progressives like former Governor and Senator Gaylord Nelson and former Senator Russ Feingold, and conservative firebrand such as former Senator Joe McCarthy and House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan.
Elections are closely fought. In 2000, Al Gore won the state by just a little more than 5,000 votes out of 2.6 million cast. In 2004, John Kerry won by barely 11,000 votes out of almost 3 million cast.
When both sides are mobilized — as they are this year — Wisconsin elections are decided by the narrowest of margins.
WILL WALKER WIN?
That’s what Walker and his amen corner in the media say will happen. They got some good poll numbers in mid-May and parlayed them into a sense of inevitability.
On the ground in Wisconsin, Democrats and Republicans agree that the race is very close. The pollsters agree: Even those who say Walker is ahead agree that his “lead” is well within the margin of error. The latest public poll has the governor up by three, who internal party polls have shown a dead heat.
WHAT WILL WIN IT?
Walker’s money has certainly helped him.
He acknowledges raising more than $30 million and final figures will probably put him closer to $40 million. His allies — the billionaire Koch Brothers, advocates for privatization of education — will end up spending $20 million more on so-called “independent” expenditures and other schemes to advance this candidacy.
Even with significant union support, Barrett’s campaign will end up being outspent by at least 6-1. His allies will spend millions more. But the Republican advantage is unprecedented in the modern history of statewide elections.
But Barrett has the advantage of a remarkable grassroots mobilization on his behalf. It is estimated that, by the time the polls close, Barrett backers and their allies will have knocked on 1.2 million doors. Over the weekend, in stops in Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Racine, Burlington and Baraboo, Wisconsin — communities of every size, characters and partisan make-up — I say thousands of activists working phone banks, knocking on doors and distributing literature.
Unions often talk about their “superior ground game.” This time, as AFSCME Council 24 director Marty Beil says, “It’s for real.” And it is the key to Barrett’s viability.
WHERE DOES BARRETT HAVE TO MOBILIZE VOTERS?
While the Democrat has to renew his party’s appeal statewide — after the disastrous 2010 election — his primary focus is on the Democratic heartlands of Dane County (Madison) and Milwaukee County, as well as industrial cities such as Sheboygan and Racine.
Statewide, turnout fell from 69 percent in the very strong Democratic year of 2008 to 49 percent in the very Republican year of 2010.
Much of the falloff came within the city of Milwaukee, where 90,000 people who did vote in 2008 did not vote in 2010. Countywide, 134,000 people who voted in 2008 did not vote in 2010.
Scott Walker’s winning margin in 2010 was 124,000 votes. A presidential-level turnout in Milwaukee County could reverse it with 10,000 votes to spare.
SURELY THEY ARE RELYING ON VOTER FRAUD?
Governor Walker and Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus have been claiming that Wisconsin has a major problem with voter fraud. Both have suggested that Republicans have been cheated out of as much as two- to three-percent of the vote in past elections.
Just to be clear: This is pure fantasy. Wisconsin has no history of serious (or even not-so-serious) voter fraud. Ask Republican Attorney General JB Van Hollen; after the 2008 presidential election, Van Hollen investigated charges of illegal voting. He found 20 cases, almost all of which involved mistakes rather than actual fraud.
SO WHY ARE WALKER AND PRIEBUS PUSHING THIS BOGUS LINE?
They are afraid they could lose. The talk of voter fraud sets up an argument that, if they do lose, the election was surely stolen.
If the result is close, as could well be the case, the promotion of the voter fraud fantasy helps to set up a claim that Republicans were cheated — as opposed to legitimately defeated
Wisconsin law allows for a full recount — at no cost — if the margin in a contested election is less than 0.5 percent. The governor’s race could be that close, as could several of the state Senate contests.
h/t: The Nation