Wisconsin's recall elections are unexplored territory - after all, only two U.S. governors have ever been ousted that way. That means there's plenty to learn ahead of the June 5 elections.
Here are 10 questions and answers - a how-to guide to the details, quirks and oddities of the state's recall process as Democrats upset over Republican Gov. Scott Walker's law stripping public workers of their union rights push to remove the governor and four other Republicans from office.
1. When does absentee voting start and end? Technically, it's already begun. People can request ballots by mail from their municipal clerks anytime until May 30. Military voters, shut-ins and nursing home residents can request them through May 31. It may be a couple weeks before anyone receives ballots, though. Clerks can't start printing them until the state Government Accountability Board certifies county results from this week's primaries, a process the board hopes to complete by Friday, May 18. That means requestors probably will receive their ballots during the week of May 21. People also can walk into their clerk's office and vote absentee in person between May 21 and June 1.
2. Will I need to have photo identification to vote in the June 5 recall? As things stand right now, no. Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess has issued a permanent injunction blocking Wisconsin's voter photo identification requirements in response to a League of Women Voters lawsuit challenging the mandate. State attorneys have appealed that ruling, though, and it's unclear when a state appeals court might issue a decision.
Another Dane County judge, David Flanagan, has put the voter ID law on hold, too, while he considers a separate legal challenge. He's not expected to rule until well after the June 5 recall election. State attorneys have appealed Flanagan's injunction as well, but the 2nd District Court of Appeals has said it won't take the case because the judge hasn't issued a decision.
3. When will we know how much each of the candidates raised and spent to try to win the election? That information will emerge in chunks over the next few months. Candidates must report any contributions of $500 or more within 24 hours of receipt to the GAB. They must turn in an aggregate report on May 29 covering fundraising from April 24 to May 21. Another report will be due on July 5, after the election, covering May 22 through June 27. A report covering the first six months of the year is due on July 20.
4. If recalled officeholders lose, are they immediately fired? If not, how long do they have to clean out their desks? Losers could get as long as two-and-a-half weeks to say goodbye. The GAB has 18 days to issue a certificate declaring the election results official. When that's done, the winners can march into the losers' offices and claim them as their own.
5. What is the balance of power in the Senate and how will the recalls affect it? Senate control is split 16-16 between Democrats and Republicans. Three Democrats are trying to unseat incumbent Republican senators and a fourth Democrat is trying to win an open seat in the recalls. If Democrats win at least one seat, they'll gain control of the chamber.
The power shift would have almost no immediate effect. The Senate isn't scheduled to convene until January, when the next legislative session starts. Democrat Tom Barrett has promised to call a special session this summer to work on a bill restoring public workers' union rights if he defeats Walker, but Republicans still control the state Assembly and would simply block any Democratic initiatives. And the balance of power could shift again in November's elections, making the recalls moot.
6. How long do winners serve before they face re-election? Winners would finish the incumbent officeholder's term. That means whoever wins the governor and lieutenant governor's offices would be up for regular election in 2014. The four senators also would face regular elections that year. In other words, they'd serve a little more than two years before facing voters again.
7. Will the Republican and Democratic candidates for governor and lieutenant governor be chosen together, just as in a regular election? No. The recall elections for the governor and lieutenant governor are separate contests.
8. Has Wisconsin ever had a governor and lieutenant governor from opposing parties? It wouldn't be the first time. The state has seen that scenario eight times. The most recent instance came in the mid-1960s, when Republican Warren Knowles served as governor and Democrat Patrick Lucey served as lieutenant governor. It sounds awkward but means little. The lieutenant governor has few responsibilities beyond replacing the governor if he or she cannot complete the term.
9. If someone doesn't like one of the winners, how long must that person wait to attempt another recall? Anyone who has been in office for a year can be recalled. However, officeholders can be recalled only once per term.
10. The race between Democratic candidate Tom Barrett and Walker looks tight. How would a recount work? Any candidate can request a recount within three business days of the counties finalizing their results. A candidate must give a reason for the recount. In races involving more than 1,000 votes, the recount is free if the difference between the winner and loser is no more than one half of a percent. If the difference is between one half of a percent and 2 percent, the fee is $5 per ward. If the difference is greater than 2 percent, the requesting candidate must pay the full cost of the recount. The candidates can challenge recount results in court.
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