While petitioners collected signatures to recall Wisconsin state senators at a furious pace in April and early May, two actions on opposite sides of the aisle are now threatening to bring the process to a grinding bureaucratic halt.
In a motion filed Wednesday, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board asked a Dane County Circuit Court judge to give them more time to evaluate the three recall petitions -- targeting Democratic state senators -- the board has yet to rule on. Separately, on Tuesday, lawyers representing Republican Sens. Randy Hopper (Fond du Lac), Dan Kapanke (La Crosse) and Luther Olsen (Ripon) filed suit in the same court to stop the recalls against them.
After approving six recall elections -- all against GOP state senators -- and tentatively scheduling them for July 12, the board has put the recall process on hold, pending a Friday court hearing where the non-partisan body will ask a Dane County judge for more time to consider the final three petitions.
The accountability board's motion asks Judge John Markson to push Friday's deadline back one week, so the board can "properly consider" the petitions filed against Democratic Sens. Dave Hansen (Green Bay), Jim Holperin (Conover) and Bob Wirch (Pleasant Prairie). The board has struggled to process the "unprecedented workload" in the initial time allotted, because Democratic representatives for Hansen, Holperin and Wirch have more frequently challenged the validity of signatures collected by petitioners.
Republicans responded with general disgust at the news, asserting that the board is doling out preferential treatment to Democrats.
"These criticisms are understandable, but unwarranted," the Government Accountability Board responded in a statement late Wednesday evening. "The board simply cannot dismiss the rebuttal evidence and numerous correcting affidavits, affecting hundreds of signatures, filed by the Republican petitioners seeking to recall the Democratic senators."
The board is referring to more than 200 signed affidavits presented by Democrats. The documents purportedly demonstrate systematic fraud within the Republican apparatus that gathered the signatures to recall the three Democratic state senators.
In a news release, the state Democratic Party accused the petition circulators of perpetrating fraud. More specifically, Wisconsin state Democratic officials have told NBC News that Republican petitioners falsely identified themselves as state officials and lied to residents on the Menominee Indian reservation, claiming the petition was to increase Indian voting rights.
Republicans have categorically denied the charges.