By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON — Here’s your bill, taxpayers.
Wisconsin’s unprecedented recall elections this past spring cost local governments — ultimately the taxpayers who fund them — $13.5 million, according to a report from the Government Accountability Board, the agency that oversees elections.
GAB broke down the bill in a release issued Friday afternoon. Kevin Kennedy, GAB’s director and legal counsel, pointed to the burden the “unplanned” recall elections targeting Republican Gov. Scott Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, and several GOP senators have placed on local elections officials. And state Rep. Robin Vos, a Rochester Republican, reiterated his pledge to “recall the recalls.”
“Instead of conducting two primaries and two elections this year, Wisconsin election officials will be conducting six elections, which added approximately $13.5 million in unbudgeted costs,” Kennedy said in a statement. “These unplanned elections also put significant stress on Wisconsin’s clerks, who have many other duties beyond elections.”
The Democratic Party of Wisconsin, organized labor others who pushed the recall initiative have argued the campaigns targeted a governor and Republican legislative leaders who were not acting in the best interest of the state.
The campaigns were mostly unsuccessful. Walker beat his Democratic opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, by 7 percentage point, Kleefisch easily survived her recall contest, as did three of four state senators. Democrats did take control of the state senate, narrowly with a 17-16 majority, following a recount in the 21st Senate District.
GAB broke out the local election costs for the recall primary and general elections in May and June.
- The May 8, 2012 Recall Primary cost local taxpayers $6.3 million, including $2.3 million in poll worker wages and $1.7 million in staff salaries. Ballots cost $728,000 and programming cost $617,000.
- The June 5, 2012 Recall Election cost local taxpayers nearly $7.2 million, including $2.5 million in poll worker wages and $1.9 million in staff salaries. Ballots cost $984,000 and programming cost $596,000.
- Clerks reported investing $955,000 in for training poll workers.
Elections Division Administrator Nat Robinson cautioned that the cost data has not been audited, and said clerks may have used different methods in arriving at their numbers.
GAB spokesman Reid Magney noted the bill came in less than originally estimated. GAB had projected costs at about $9 million for the first statewide recall election, but slightly less for the second.
Meanwhile, the state’s portion of the bill to administer the elections was $663,000, compared to the original $975,000 estimate prepared in February 2012. Hiring temporary staff to process the recall petitions was the largest single expense, at just more than $212,000, GAB said.
Data entry services necessary to comply with a court order to search for and strike duplicate signatures and fake names cost $94,333, and identified 4,001 duplicate signatures and four fictitious names out of 931,053 signatures submitted to recall Walker, GAB said.
Critics have ridiculed the order as a waste of taxpayer money and voter time.
At the request of the Legislature, GAB began last August to collect election cost data from Wisconsin’s 72 counties and 1,851 municipalities. Most election costs are borne by local taxpayers.
Vos, a vocal critic of the Democratic Party’s recall campaign, said he is “more committed than ever to recall the recalls in the state of Wisconsin.”
“It’s an outrage that $13.5 million was wasted on these unnecessary elections, with most of the financial burden on local governments,” he said in a statement.
Vos said he plans to reintroduce his constitutional amendment that would reform the state’s election law, establishing more stringent grounds to initiate a recall.
Vos first must win re-election in November.
Contact Kittle @firstname.lastname@example.org