Democrats Voted On Wednesday: Only Two Seats Flip in WI Recall

In the historical recall elections in the Wisconsin state senate, two seats held by Republicans turned blue on Tuesday.  While not enough to place a bipartisan check on ALEC‘s corporate agenda favored by Gov. Walker and the conservatives, the elections were mired in dirty tricks that included election fraud and flooding of out of state money from hidden donors.

Turnout was very high in the Wisconsin recall.  Many polling places reported long lines at the 8pm closing time for polls. In some areas, voting levels neared what they were for a presidential election.  Turnout in the April state Supreme Court election was 35% while the 2008 presidential election that saw Obama sweep the state was 71%.  The low point appeared to be the 2nd district where the Republican Rob Cowles held his seat with a 45% turnout.

By the time most of the votes were counted hours later, it was clear that Democrats had picked up 2 of the 6 Republican seats in the contest.  While this was insufficient to give state senate control back to the Democrats, it was still something that has never been done before in the history of the United States.  The results as of publishing time are:

District 100% reporting 
Robert Cowles R    27543/60%
Nancy Nusbaum D 18039/40%

District 8 84% reporting
Alberta Darling R   34840/54%
Sandra Pasch D    29821/46%

District 10 100% reporting
Sheila Harsdorf R   37099/58%
Shelly Moore D        27250/42%

District 14 100% reporting
Luther Olson R     26554/54%
Fred Clark D          24365/46%

District 18 100% reporting
Randy Hopper R   26937/49%
Jessica King D      28188/51%

District 32 98% reporting
Dan Kapanke R        26160/45%
Jennifer Shilling D   32330/55%

Wisconsin will hold 2 more recall elections where Democrats will be defending their seats soon.  Polls indicate the seats should be safe.  The previous recall election saw another Democrat successfully defend his seat in July.  There was also a special election in New Hampshire that saw Democrat Bob Perry pick up a seat.

“Bob Perry’s victory tonight is a complete and total rejection of Republican House Speaker Bill O’Brien’s reckless job-killing agenda,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Raymond Buckley. “In a historically Republican district, New Hampshire voters turned out in the middle of summer to send a loud and clear message to the out-of-control Republican majority. Its relentless attempts to make cigarettes cheaper but college more expensive, slash women’s health care, and kill jobs by taxing hospitals must stop immediately. “

State Sen. Tim Cullen (D-Janesville) told The Huffington Post that losing two seats would be a “wake-up call to Republicans.”

WI Senate District 2 showing conservative areas in red, swing areas in purple, and progressive areas in blue

While only winning victory of 2 seats was not enough to flip the state senate, it was a huge uphill battle from the start.  Every district in yesterday’s recall except one were conservative areas where Gov. Scott Walker has strong support.  An excellent district by district breakdown with maps and historical voting tables can be found here.


The entire recall process has seen a lot of dirty tricks being played.  This started early when conservatives tried to flood the recall process with fake candidates to force Democrats to devote time and energy to getting real candidates on the recall ballot, give more time to ram through the anti-worker, far-right agenda by the corporate front group the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and allow more time for GOP incumbents to distance themselves from controversy.  The entire corporate agenda of ALEC can be found on ALECexposed.  Their contributions are also tracked by ProPublica.

The state Republican Party orchestrated the placement of the fake Democrats on Tuesday’s ballot, thereby delaying the general election for a month. That gave the Republican incumbents more time to campaign and distance themselves from the turmoil over the union law that they voted to support in March, spurring the recall efforts.


Republicans up for recall have been antsy and rightfully so. Dan Kapanke stated a secretly recorded conversation with La Crosse County Republicans on May 25th, that he is hoping that all the public employees in his district “are sleeping” on election day. –FreakOut Nation

While Dan Kepanke did not get his wish, and was defeated by Jennifer Shilling by 10 points in Senate District 32, shady conservative groups did their best to keep Democrats away from the polls on Tuesday.  A corporate front group called “United Sportsmen of Wisconsin” appeared recently and along with the David Koch-founded Americans for Prosperity began mailing out fliers to Democrats misleading them to think that the election was on the 11th instead of the 9th.

It turns out the USW was literally created by John W. Connors, the national director of Kochs AFP.  The fliers contained fake voter absentee ballot requests and instructed the recipients to return them to county clerks by Aug. 11th.

The P.O. Box for the group in the mailings is described as the “Absentee Ballot Application Processing Center”, at an address belonging to a Rightwing family group tied to the anti-abortion movement according to The Bradblog.

This is blatant election fraud and has already resulted in a lawsuit by a North Hudson man.  It is also not the first time Republicans have used this tactic to discourage turnout by their opponents.  In fact this type of election fraud dates all the way back to 2004.

•2004: Republicans Urge Minorities To Get Out And Vote On Nov. 3.
•2008: Phony Election Flier In Virginia Tells Democrats To Vote On Nov. 5
•2008: Anonymous Call Tells Pennsylvania Dems To Vote Wednesday
•2010: L.A. Latinos Told to Vote on Nov. 3; Watchdogs Cite Trouble Nationally
•2010: GOP-Linked ‘Latinos For Reform’ Airs Nevada Ads Urging Hispanics Not To Vote
•2010: In Woodland Park, Colorado, a town north of Colorado Springs, someone had posted a sign saying that Democrats vote on Wednesday. Election protection notified officials, and the sign has now been taken down.


The Club For Growth poured in at least $400,000 into just one race in this recall contest.  RightWingWatch has more on this shady group.  That is just the tip of the iceberg however. Many more curiously named right wing groups including Wisconsin Family Action, Wisconsin Federation For Children, and Faith Family Freedom have been dumping truckloads of cash into these recalls.  That is on top of the right wing corporate groups including Alec and Americans for Prosperity.

So far more than $35 million has been spent on the recall races, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, which tracks political money. The spending on the nine races dwarfs the $19.3 million spent in last year’s 115 legislative races, and approaches the $37.4 million spent in the race for governor.Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel


The Washington Post is reporting that more foul play might be going on: “The Wisconsin Democratic Party is accusing Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus of tampering with the election results.”  This would not be the first time, she “found” either 7000 or 11,000 votes after the Wisconsin Supreme Court election was completed earlier this year.  It took her 29 hours to report these votes.  Prior to that the results were razor thin, and the number of votes “found” just surpassed the 0.5% mark needed to trigger an automatic recount.

The conservative Republican County Clerk tried to pass it off by saying that errors are common in tabulating election results, a claim which Politifact rated as Mostly False.  Nickolaus has a long history of finding votes and other shady tactics.


Despite dirty tricks like telling Democrats to vote on Wednesday, and against the odds, Tuesday’s elections saw the Republican majority in the Wisconsin state senate fall from 19-14 to 17-16.  While this will not prevent more far-right bills from being rammed down the throats of the state, it will make it more difficult, and should serve as warning shot off the bow of the corporations that are corrupting our democracy.


13 Responses to Democrats Voted On Wednesday: Only Two Seats Flip in WI Recall

  1. Vote -1 Vote +1Vatar
    August 10, 2011 at 7:24 am

    Was it blatant election fraud when the DNC sent out robocalls telling people to vote on August 16 when they were supposed to vote on August 9?

    • +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Ole Ole Olson
      August 10, 2011 at 7:44 am

      That depends on how you look at it. If the DNC’s goals was to get Democrats (who they called) to miss election day, then it could be argued it was election fraud. Since they were just shooting themselves in the foot though, I would call it incompetence.

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