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Original Intent of the Recall Power - MU Law School

Resources for Wisconsin Recalls:

Checklist - prepare before gathering signatures

Legal aspects to recall (word document similar to this page)

Who can sign, who can circulate? (for back of clipboards)

History of Wis. recalls

GAB page on Recall - including detailed manual

GAB on Petitioning in Gov't Buildings

GAB on election day petitioning

Ballotpedia on Wisconsin recalls

Find Committees that have registered to recall Senators (CFIS)

El. Bd. Op. 2007-01

General Wis Legislature:

Wisconsin Legislature

All bills by number

Statutes TOC

Legislature Committee Schedule


Last updated Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Recalling Elected Officials

Summary of Legal Aspects of Recall of Wisconsin State officials

The Wisconsin Constitution, Article XIII, Section 12, has these provisions on recall:

  • Recall petitions will not be accepted until after the first year of the term
  • The petition shall be signed by electors equaling at least 25% of the vote cast for Governor at the last preceding election in the district the incumbent represents.
  • The incumbent shall continue to perform the duties of office until the recall election results are officially declared.
  • The incumbent is on the ballot automatically, unless they decline.  Other candidates file in the manner provided by law for special elections.
  • The filing officer with whom the recall petition is filed shall call a recall election for the Tuesday of the 6th week after the date of filing the petition or, if that Tuesday is a legal holiday, on the first day after that Tuesday which is not a legal holiday.
  • For any partisan office, if a party has more than one candidate, a recall primary shall be held 6 weeks after the petition is certified.  If a primary is held, the final election is 4 weeks after the primary.

Wisconsin Statute 9.10 has these additional provisions on recall:

The first step is for the petitioner to file a registration statement with the filing officer.  For state offices, the filing officer is the Government Accountability Board (GAB).  The petitioner then has 60 days to collect signatures and deliver the petitions.

The GAB shall certify to the petitioner the number of signatures required.

Every petition shall have in bold at the top “Recall Petition”, and shall include the name of the officeholder.

No signature shall be counted if :

  • The address of the signer is missing or incomplete, or is outside the district.
  • The date of the signature is missing.
  • The date falls outside the circulation period
  • The circulator fails to complete and sign the certificate of circulator on each sheet.
  • The signature is dated after the date of certification contained in the certificate of circulator.
  • The signer is not a qualified voter

In order to be a qualified voter, the signer must be 18, a U.S. citizen, and not incarcerated or on probation for a felony.  (The signer does not have to be a registered voter.)

The circulator must sign and date the petition after the signatures are dated.

After the petitions are delivered to the GAB, no signature may be added or removed.

After the petitions are delivered to the GAB, within 10 days the elected official being challenged may challenge their validity.  The GAB will rule on sufficiency of the petition.  The GAB ruling may be challenged in circuit court.

The elected official against whom the recall is filed shall be a candidate on the recall ballot, unless they resign.  Other candidates must have their nomination papers in by four weeks before the election.  The winner of the recall election serves the remainder of the term.  After one recall election, no further recall petition may be filed against the same official during the term.

Who can circulate recall petitions?  This answer is from an email from the Government Accountability Board

"As we discussed, the circulator need not be a qualified elector of the district or even this state, so long as the circulator is a U.S. citizen age 18 or older who, if he or she were a resident of this state, would not be disqualified from voting under Sec. 6.03, Wis. Stats. (essentially incompetent or felon not having completed sentence). Sec. 8.40(2), Wis. Stats. See also Frami v. Ponto, 255 F.Supp.2d 962 (U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin 2003).

Please remember that all signators on the petition must be residents of the district subject to recall and qualified voters (not necessarily already registered though.)
Thank you.
Staff Counsel
Wisconsin Government Accountability Board
212 E. Washington Avenue, Third Floor
PO Box 7984
Madison , WI 53707-7984
Office: 266-8005"

Webmaster's note:  Wisconsin 2005 Act 451 (page 39) changed 8.40 (2) to the current wording which is the basis for the GAB opinion above.  The wording was changed as a result of Frami v Ponto.

Above summary by Paul Malischke