Anti-Union Law Fuels Massive Voter Turnout for Historic Wisconsin Recall
Republicans have retained control of the Wisconsin State Senate following a series of historic recall elections organized in response to their support of Gov. Scott Walker’s union-busting bill this spring. Democrats needed to win three of the six Republican seats up for grabs in order to gain a majority, but four incumbents prevailed. Independent video producer Sam Mayfield spoke with voters at polling stations in the contested districts of Republican State Senators Alberta Darling and Luther Olsen in southern Wisconsin. She filed this report for Democracy Now!
AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to the historic recall election that took place on Tuesday in Wisconsin. Six Republican state senators fought to hang onto their seats after they supported Governor Scott Walker’s union-busting bill. Democrats needed to win three of the seats. Well, the votes are in this morning: four Republicans won. The results mean Republicans will hold the State Senate majority by a slim margin of 17 to 16.
We’re going to begin our coverage with a report from southern Wisconsin, from Portage, where independent video producer Sam Mayfield visited the polling stations in the contested districts of Republican Senators Alberta Darling and Luther Olsen. Both ultimately defeated their Democratic challengers. Mayfield asked voters what this recall means to them.
LEON: They’re taking everything away we worked for for 50 years. And I don’t like it.
SAM MAYFIELD: Why do you care about coming out in August to vote?
FORMER ALDERPERSON: Well, A, it’s my civic responsibility, and I want my voice to be heard. I actually kind of think this recall election is inappropriate, considering it was just based on a vote that people didn’t agree with. And I think the recall should be saved when there is actually a derelict of duty, similar to like embezzling or felony charges, not simply because there’s a group of people that didn’t like how a senator voted.
DEBRA: I wouldn’t ordinarily get behind a recall election just for a minor issue that I disagree with, but I think that the ramifications of what has happened in this state are enormous. And for that reason, I think, absolutely, it’s the only—only outcome.
UNIDENTIFIED VOTER 1: I come and do my duty because I have to. But it’s just ridiculous. We shouldn’t be in ever in this situation. We voted for people, and now, "Oh, boy, we made a mistake. Let’s do it over again"? No, that’s not right.
SAM MAYFIELD: What do you think should happen?
UNIDENTIFIED VOTER 1: We voted them in. We think we made a mistake, OK, we made a mistake. They should be able to finish their term. Have you ever made a mistake at home that you’ve had to live with the consequences? We can’t do a, "Oh, redo, redo." You can’t do that. That’s not right.
RACHEL FRANK: The recall race is—basically, for me, is like giving back to Wisconsin. I haven’t lived in Wisconsin for a while, but just watching basically the deterioration of Wisconsin has kind of just given me a second will to vote again.
UNIDENTIFIED VOTER 2: You need a politician who actually believes in education, if they’re—if you’re going to have anything worthwhile.
MAX WELLENSTEIN: I prefer that Alberta Darling be recalled, because of her stance on education, or lack thereof, if you would like to say it that way.
TAYLOR: It’s very scary that these people don’t take the time to listen to us, the people that they’re supposed to be listening to. I mean, they clearly haven’t listened. Look at—look at the state and what’s happening and people’s reactions. And if they’d just take the time and listen, I think they’d see that they’re making some mistakes lately and have some very sad people in our state, scared people in our state.
AMY GOODMAN: That report by independent video producer Sam Mayfield in southern Wisconsin. Republican Senators Alberta Darling and Luther Olsen, in the districts she visited, both defeated their Democratic challengers. They were among four Republicans who won, who beat the Democrat—who won. Democrats needed to win three of the seats to gain a majority. Next week, two Democratic senators face another recall election. State Senators Bob Wirch and Jim Holperin will face Republican challengers who are attacking them for leaving the state as part of a group of 14 Democrats who fled to Illinois in February to delay passage of Governor Walker’s bill.
In Wisconsin history, only two lawmakers have been recalled. Both were state senators. Nationwide, there have been about 20 attempts since 1913 to recall lawmakers. Just 13 of those efforts were successful.
Wisconsin’s recall campaigns drew a massive get-out-the-vote effort by local and national groups that cost some $30 million, placing these among some of the costliest state legislative races ever to take place. The Indianapolis-based health insurer WellPoint, Inc., has been critical of the new federal healthcare law and is among the top donors to Republicans. The billionaire Koch brothers have also weighed in heavily on the elections, both financially and otherwise. Absentee ballots sent out by Koch-funded group Americans for Prosperity to voters in heavily Democratic districts mysteriously claim that the ballots must be returned only by August 11th, although the recall elections were held on August 9th.