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Republican leader who angered Trump is again targeted for Wisconsin recall

Trump campaigns in Wisconsin and Michigan
Trump campaigns in key swing states of Wisconsin and Michigan 03:30

Supporters of former President Donald Trump, including a former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice, submitted more than 9,000 signatures on Tuesday in an effort to force a recall election of Wisconsin's top elected Republican after their first attempt fell short.

They targeted Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, the longest-serving Assembly speaker in Wisconsin history, after he refused to impeach the official who oversees the battleground state's elections, angering Trump and his followers.

The bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission must determine whether there are enough valid signatures to trigger a recall election. The panel rejected the first attempt for not having enough valid signatures.

Petition circulators said they submitted 9,022 signatures primarily from voters in the district where Vos was elected to serve most recently in 2022, not the one where he lives now under new lines in place for the November election. They need 6,850 valid signatures to force a recall election in the district where Vos was elected to serve.

In March, the group submitted more than 9,000 signatures but of those the elections commission determined that only 5,905 were valid.

Former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, who has been working with the group, said the previous effort had been "sabotaged" but this time more stringent efforts were put in place to ensure only valid signatures were collected.

Vos, who has derided those targeting him as "whack jobs and morons," said the first recall effort "engaged in election fraud on a massive scale."

"We are hearing reports that this effort will have similar problems," he said in a statement. "Once again, we look forward to rooting out any criminality and ensuring that anyone who participates in an effort to defraud Wisconsin voters is held accountable."

Vos has 10 days to challenge the signatures on any number of grounds, including that a person signed more than once, signed someone else's name or doesn't live in the legislative district. He can also challenge if he believes the person circulating the petition misled the signer about its intent or if a signature was not collected during the allowable circulation period.

The elections commission has 31 days to determine if the petition has enough valid signatures, which can be appealed in court. If a petition is determined to be sufficient, a recall election must be called for six weeks later.

The commission has a meeting on June 27, which is the day before the deadline to determine if a recall should be ordered. If it votes at that meeting to call one, under state law the election would be Aug. 6 — just one week before the regular fall primary on Aug. 13.

If more than two candidates run in a recall election, the primary for that would be Aug. 6 with the recall election Sept. 3.

That could potentially create a scenario in which recall elections or the recall primary, are decided a week before Vos appears on the Aug. 13 primary ballot as a candidate for a new two-year term as speaker starting in January.

In Wisconsin, candidates can be removed if they are defeated in a recall election. Gableman said Tuesday he didn't know who would run.

No Republican has yet filed to challenge Vos in the primary for the November election.

If he is recalled, Vos would lose his office for the remainder of the year. The Legislature is not scheduled to be in session again until January.

Vos angered Trump and his supporters in Wisconsin by refusing calls to decertify President Joe Biden's narrow win in the state in 2020. Biden's win of about 21,000 votes has withstood two partial recounts, numerous lawsuits, an independent audit and a review by a conservative law firm. Vos further angered Trump supporters when he did not back a plan to impeach Meagan Wolfe, the state's top elections official.

Wolfe has been a target of those who falsely believe Trump won Wisconsin in 2020.

Vos has repeatedly said he was not in favor of impeaching Wolfe because there was not enough support among fellow Republicans to do so. He has said he wants to see Wolfe replaced, but a judge last year blocked the Legislature from taking steps to remove her.

The recall is complicated because new legislative maps go into effect in the fall election.

The elections commission asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to clarify whether any recall election should take place in the district where Vos was elected to serve, or under new district boundary lines that take effect for the regular November election.

The court declined to further clarify or amend its December ruling that found the current maps to be unconstitutional and barred their future use.

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