World and Nation

Opponents of Wisconsin governor deliver recall petitions

Critics of Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin submitted to the state on Tuesday more than 1 million signatures, nearly twice as many as required, on recall petitions against Walker to force a new election.

State election officials now begin the arduous, expensive process of studying the petitions for flaws and duplicated names. But leaders of the recall effort said the number of signatures was so large as to put any serious legal challenge out of reach.

The anti-Walker forces needed 540,208 names and had estimated that they would produce at least 720,000, so the still larger number came as a surprise to many.

Barring a legal fight, Walker, a Republican who took office a year ago and set off a firestorm by curtailing collective bargaining rights for public workers, will face a new election in the late spring or early summer. Around the country, only two governors have ever been removed through recall.

“This sends a message,” said Graeme Zielinski, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Democratic Party, who described the 1 million names as evidence that this was the largest signature drive, in terms of the percentage of the state’s electorate signing, for a recall effort in U.S. history.

Walker was attending a fundraiser in New York on Tuesday, but had said earlier that a recall election appeared inevitable. “I look forward to talking to the people of Wisconsin about my continued promises to control government spending, balance the budget and hold the line on taxes,” Walker said in a statement released by his campaign office as the petitions — all 3,000 pounds of them — were being delivered to state officials with great fanfare.

He added later, “Instead of going back to the days of billion-dollar budget deficits, double-digit tax increases and record job loss, I expect Wisconsin voters will stand with me and keep moving Wisconsin forward.”

Buoyed by the number of names, a jubilant, carefully orchestrated celebration unfolded in Madison, where Democrats and union supporters watched a truck pull up carrying box after box of petitions.

Ryan Lawler, a board member for United Wisconsin, the group that led the two-month signature-collection effort, said the numbers were evidence of the emotions involved.

“Scott Walker and his supporters tried to demean and marginalize recall circulators, but in Wisconsin winter, an army of more than 30,000 Wisconsin-born-and-bred recall volunteers took to street corners, malls, places of worship, dinner tables and sidewalks to take their state back,” he said.