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Wisconsin Recall Election Results LIVE: Scott Walker vs Tom Barrett

On Tuesday, Wisconsin voters will go to the polls in an election with national implications.

Gov. Scott Walker faces a historic recall election after voters deemed his anti-union policies too harsh.  

His challenger — Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett — looks to ride a wave of anti-Walker and anti-conservative sentiment in the state. Walker has dug his heels in, buttressing his position with support from national Tea Party groups and the far-right Koch organization. The recall election is a rematch of the 2010 governor's race in which Walker defeated Barrett by 5 percentage points.

Walker's lieutenant governor, Rebecca Kleefisch, and three Republican state senators also face recall votes Tuesday. In addition, voters will fill a fourth state Senate seat after the Republican incumbent resigned rather than face the recall.

The latest opinion polls have deemed the race too close call. The election is the most expensive in state history.

Analysts have suggested that Tuesday’s vote could be prologue to a wider 2012 election fight over collective bargaining, a backlash against far-right conservative policies, and could also be the start of a resurgent Tea Party movement.

The effort to recall Walker officially began on November 15, 2011, and has picked up steam ever since.

The recall is just the third to take place in U.S. history, highlighting the uniqueness of this vote.

The political spotlight is on Wisconsin, and it’s bound to be a wild race. Polls end at 8 p.m. EDT

 PolicyMic will be following the election LIVE (click refresh to get up to the minute analysis ... Bookmark this page and visit throughout the night ... All times in EDT)

LIVE UPDATES: 2:50 PM What does Scott Walker's Win Mean For America? Here's PolicyMic Pundit Chrissy Harbin's take: After a long and bitter recall process, Scott Walker on Tuesday kept his seat as governor of Wisconsin, with 53% of the vote. So what does Walker's win mean? It's important for a number of reasons.

It means that people realize that Walker's reforms are working in Wisconsin. It means that voters are tired of the tax-and-spend policies of the left, and they're ready to rein in government. It signals that collective-bargaining and excessive public worker benefits are things of the past.

Walker’s win is important because it clears the path for other states to pass similar reforms. Many other states have Republican majorities in the state house and the supportive governors, and they are poised to pass similar reforms.

This also has meaning on a national level. President Bill Clinton rightly called Wisconsin "America's Battleground" because it's a microcosm for the state of affairs on the national level. Walker's win suggests that the presidential election in November won't be an easy victory for Obama. If Wisconsin turns red, it's very likely that other swing states will too.

Wednesday 12:45 PM Tom Barrett Gets Slapped in Wisconsin Recall (Literally): From PolicyMic Pundit Alex Marin

She couldn’t take it anymore.

In what CNN described as “a real slap on the face for Democrats,” an indignant female supporter slapped Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett right after his concession speech at last night’s Wisconsin Recall Election in which Governor Scott Walker crushed his Democratic challenger. 

Watch below:

It must have been the year long of partisan passions and emotions stirred on both sides of the aisle by politicians and the media, following the “Scott Walker vs. The Unions” saga: a costly and largely unnecessary election which would do little to bridge Wisconsin’s (or the country’s) divisions and in which too much was put at stake by too many people.  

Perhaps, Barrett’s angry supporter was disappointed and confused as the news networks kept saying their exit polls were “too close to call” while their screens showed a sizable gap between the two candidates.

Even MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow seemed to admit that though her network had described the race as very close, big sister network NBC was getting ready to project Scott Walker as the winner. A sentiment echoed by colleague Ed Schultz who said that though NBC News would be projecting the Republicans as winners in Wisconsin, he thought the race was still “awfully closed.”

The point is that, while voters of an evenly divided state celebrated and lamented in turn the results of last night’s recall election, it is important to acknowledge that there are decent and hard working Americans on both sides of an issue, and that we must not get carried away by politicians and the media when they try to fan the flames of partisan politics. 

11:30 PM Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett has conceded to Republican Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin's historic recall election.

Barrett addressed supporters in Milwaukee and thanked them for their dedication to his campaign and to the petitions that triggered the recall.

Barrett says Wisconsin is deeply divided, and it's up to both Republicans and Democrats to listen to one another.

He says he hopes both sides will come together.

Walker says he wants lawmakers to meet next week over burgers and brats to talk about ways to bridge the political divide.

10:45 PM Walker Crushes Barrett (a Recap of Tonight): 

Embattled Republican Governor Scott Walker survived his Wisconsin recall election on Tuesday, defeating Democratic challenger Tom Barrett.

What was shocking was how dominating Walker’s win was.

The race was widely expected to be tight — most media outlets and analysts repeatedly used “too close to call” when referring to the vote, even after polls had closed and results came pouring in.

But Walker beat his challenger by almost 20% of the vote. With only 30% of polls reporting an hour after state-wide polls had closed, Walker was declared the projected winner.

Walker and Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch will retain their posts in Wisconsin.

The basis for the recall was anti-collective bargaining (aka anti-union) legislation that Walker helped pass in early 2011. Anger over Walker and his hyper-conservative, Tea Party agenda began building almost as soon as he took office in January 2011. Just a month into his term, Walker proposed to effectively end collective bargaining (union) rights for most state workers, setting off a fire storm of protests. The recall idea emerged soon thereafter.

Barrett – the mayor of Milwaukee — entered into the race. Walker had originally defeated Barrett in the 2010 governor election.

In the lead up to the election, polls had said that Walker was in the lead, but only by a slim margin. As polls in the state closed at 8 p.m., the New York Times reported a dead-even race, hinting that the results process could go deep into the night.

But Walker surged early, and with just 12% of polls reporting had already taken a 60% to 39% lead.

Barrett won the state capital Madison ... but the Milwaukee mayor lost his own city to Walker.

Exit polls show that nearly 9 out of 10 voters already had their minds made up by May 1. The massive surge of cash and campaigning by both Barrett and Walker likely made little difference.

Turnout was massive. A Madison city clerk had told a Wisconsin radio host that turnout for the area is expected at over 100%, up to 119%.

Democrats and organized labor had spent millions to oust Walker, but found themselves hopelessly outspent by Republicans from across the country who donated record-setting sums to Walker. The race was the costliest in state history. More than $66 million was spent on the race as of May 21.

Republicans, of course, hope the victory carries over into the November general election between Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama.

So what was all the fuss about? Walker had tried to neutralize the ability of state unions and their collective bargaining strategies. Collective bargaining is a process of negotiations between employers and a group of employees aimed at reaching agreements that regulate working conditions. In politics, a conservative stance views the collective bargaining tactics of state unions (i.e. police, health care, state employees) as counter to free market principles. These collective bargaining tactics cheat taxpayers, the conservative thought goes, as they artificially inflate salaries and prices, which citizens then unjustly pay for.

Political unions contend that they exist to protect workers' writers. Wealthy "bosses" can no longer manipulate citizens or their salaries.

10:10 PM Barrett won Madison ... but the Milwaukee mayor lost his own city to Walker.

10:07 PM Staffers at Barrett HQ not happy outlets calling race for Walker already -- say there are still people in line voting in very Democratic areas

10:06 PM Well this is a surprise. What was predicted to be a close race has been dominated by Walker. With over 30% of polls reporting, Walker is the projected winner ... and by notching almost 20% of the vote. Analysis to come.

10 PM Breaking: Scott Walker and Rebecca Kleefisch have won the Wisconsin recall.

9:52 PM With 20% of polls reporting, Kleefisch up against Mahlon Mitchell 60% to 40%.

9:42 PM Scott Walker Dominating Early: With nearly 12% of polls reporting, Walker leads by over 20%, 60% to 39%. [Correction: an ealier version incorrectly stated 60% to 49&]

9:40 PM Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch said Tuesday night the election is in "the voter's hands" and said she was optimistic about the outcome.

She and her family are watching the results at the Waukesha County Expo Center. She said she brought coloring books for her two daughters.

9:35 PM An interesting analysis from PolicyMic Pundit David Asche, "Why Scott Walker Should Win." Love him or hate him, you should read this.

It is no secret to people who know me, and to people who read my articles, that on many issues I am a democrat. I am socially liberal, support higher taxes on the top earners in the country, I support comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship, and believe in the social safety net for the people who need it the most. So it may surprise people that in today's recall election in Wisconsin, I will be pulling for Republican Gov. Scott Walker to keep his job.

If there is one thing that really annoys me about democrats, it is their love affair with unions who I believe have run their course in this country. They were needed badly back in the early days of the Industrial Revolution, but with so many worker protection and wage laws in effect today, I believe that unions are no longer needed.

Here is what is at the heart of the Wisconsin recall: when Gov. Walker came into office, Wisconsin was facing a $3.6 billion budget shortfall. Walker believed that one of the solutions to this problem was to force members of the state's public employee unions to put 12.6% of their paycheck towards their health care and 5.8% towards their pensions (far less than what private sectors pay into theirs). Prior to Walker's reforms, public union members were paying next tonothing for their health care and pensions and it was being funded primarily by the taxpayers of Wisconsin. Walker also eliminated collective bargaining rights for all public employee unions with the exception of firefighters and policemen.

These reforms were absolute no brainers. Why should public employee unions be exempt from paying into their own health care and retirement while everybody else in the state (and in the country) has to pay into theirs? Democrats love to talk about a shared sacrifice, but they certainly do not apply it to their union allies. And stripping the unions of collective bargaining rights simply prevents the unions from buying and bribing politicians into giving them sweetheart deals on their wages, pensions, and health care, which puts a major burden on states budgets all across the country.

The reforms implemented by Walker are working. According to the governor's office, the state has saved more than $1 billion and because the reforms also made union dues voluntary, union members are now bringing home more money in their paychecks, which have also resulted in lower union membership.

States like New York, Michigan, California, Washington, and others would be wise to take note of what Gov. Walker has done in Wisconsin. These states face huge budget deficits in part because of their obligations to public employee unions. Leaders in these states must have the courage to enact similar reforms since it is obvious the unions will not change by themselves.

To me, this recall is one of the more undemocratic events I have seen in a while. Gov. Walker is not a known felon, nor is the economy in his state in shambles. In fact, the Wisconsinunemployment rate is 6.7%, well below the national average. This recall is all about the democrats and unions wanting to kick a guy out of office because he implemented a policy that ends their stranglehold over the state's budget, taxpayers, and leaders. Do not let anybody tell you any differently.

A Walker victory tonight will be a devastating blow to public employee unions and maybe, just maybe, it will inspire and give courage to governors all across this nation, both Democrat and Republican, to curb the power of the unions in their states as well.

We should all be Tea Partiers tomorrow night.

9:30 PM With nearly 5% of polls reporting, Walker still leads 57% to 42%. Third party candidate Hari Trivedi holds 0.6%.

9:25 PM With 1% of polls reporting, Walker up 54% to 45%.

9:19 PM With less than 1% of polls reporting, Scott Walker has taken and early lead over Tom Barrett, 57% to 42%.

9:13 PM According to exit polls, nearly 4 in 10 voters in preliminary exit polls say they support the Tea Party movement, about as many oppose it, and a quarter are neutral. Tea Party opposition is slightly up from the 2010 election.

9:07 PM Exit polls show that nearly 9 out of 10 voters already had their minds made up by May 1. The massive surge of cash and campaigning by both Barrett and Walker likely made little difference.

9:05 PM The New York Times is reporting that their exit polls are showing a dead-even race, 50-50 for both candidates. There will be a razor-sharp margin of victory for the winner. 

9 PM Polls are now closed in Wisconsin.

8:57 PM Rebecca Kleefisch, the Wisconsin Lt. Governor, is also facing a tough recall battle on Tuesday. We'll be monitoring her status tonight as well.

8:51 PM Heavy Turnout has been reported by a number of media outlets (though officials numbers have yet to be released). 

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports: “Registration forms and ballots are running out at some City of Milwaukee polling sites … Reid Magney, a spokesman for the Government Accountability Board, said his office had heard of polling stations in Milwaukee running out of registration forms for new voters. According to state law, if a person is waiting in line to register and vote and it’s after 8 p.m., that person can still legally fill out the form and vote, Magney said.” 

8:45 PM Just under 15 minutes until polls close in Wisconsin. Expect speedy results, but a long night of reporting.

8:35 PM Will Wisconsin Matter in the General Election? Wisconsin could be competitive in November, but unlikely to be at the electoral tipping point. 6-8 other states matter more.

8:25 PM Voter Turnout at  "119%": A Madison City Clerk has told a Wisconsin radio host that turnout for the area is expected at over 100%, up to 119%. Heavy turnout in Madison, a liberal stronghold, would likely benefit Democrat Tom Barrett.

 8:05 PM Lawyers at the Ready: Politico’s Charlie Mahtesian: “If this race is tight, things could get very ugly, very quickly.” He reports that Democrats, prepping for a potential recount, have over 400 attorneys in the state. “The political war machinery is warming up,” he writes.

8:02 PM Massive Confusion at the Polls: Hundreds of voters have called a hotline to report voter issues at the Scott Walker recall vote in Wisconsin today, according to Election Protection, a D.C.-based voters' rights group.

Some voters said they were asked for photo identification at the voting booth, even though Wisconsin recently struck down a law that would have made it necessary.

Others said they had trouble voting because of a new 28-day residency requirement in the state. Although they had resided in Wisconsin for the mandated time, some clerks told them they could not vote, according to Ann Jacobs, a member of the legal coordinating committee for Election Protection in Wisconsin.

In both cases, Election Protection says it called the clerks directly to fix the problem.

WisPolitics.com also reports that calls have gone out to voters telling them that if they signed the recall, they did not need to vote.

7:50 PM A Look at How Wisconsin Will Impact Obama: According to early exit polls among voters in today's recall election, 51% said they would pick Obama, compared to 45% for Romney. Two percent say they won't vote. However, it should be noted that there is a lot of time before the November elections, and it's too soon to tell what the electorate will be like in five months. 

7:45 PM Early Exit Polls Reveal Interesting Stats: Early exit polling in the recall election suggests that union households comprise roughly a third of all voters, a share of the vote that is higher than either of the last two presidential or gubernatorial elections held in the state.

Voters in the recall also tilt positively toward public sector unions in general, but not by a huge margin. 

Voters split about evenly in their support for changes to state law that limited the collective bargaining ability of government unions, an issue at the heart of recall effort.

Drawing broad conclusions about the shape of the electorate remains difficult due to the fact that these early exit poll reflect only morning and afternoon voters and can (and likely will) shift before polls close at 9 p.m. eastern time.

7:30 PM Turnout high: Extra ballots printed for Dane County ... turnout expected to hit 80% of registered voters.

5:50 PM Things to Watch For in Wisconsin Results: 

Will voters defend collective bargaining? One in four voters was either a union member or lived with someone who was, according to 2008 exit polls.

Marquette Law School poll last month found a 55% majority of Wisconsin registered voters said they favor limiting collective bargaining rights for most public employees, while 41% were opposed. Today’s exit poll results will shed light on how the battle over public sector unions has defined Walker's supporters and detractors.

Does the economy even matter to voters? Walker made big promises to improve the economy during his 2010 campaign, touting a plan to bring 250,000 jobs to Wisconsin by 2015. So far in his term, the state has gained a net of fewer than 10,000 private sector jobs, according to the Wisconsin Journal Sentinel. Still, the state’s unemployment rate of 6.7% in April is below the national average, and down from 7.5% a year ago.

5:30 PM Did Scott Walker Help or Hurt the Wisconsin Economy? Fact checking the Walker economic model, from ABC News

“Wisconsin gained jobs in 2012, we gained jobs in 2011,” Walker said during a debate with his opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, last Thursday.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of employed workers in December 2011  was higher than the number of employed workers in January  2011. In January, Wisconsin had  an employed work force of 2,833,068, while in December it had reached 2843199 — an increase of 10,131 – so it is accurate to claim that the state ended the year with a larger employed work  force than when the year began.

But  there were several months in which the number of employed Wisconsin residents decreased.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a total of 21,000 jobs were lost in Wisconsin in 2011. To compare, the BLS calculates that the U.S. gained roughly 1.8 million jobs in 2011.

In 2012, the state employment numbers have shown a positive trend, with slight increases each month.  Wisconsin’s unemployment rate is  6.7%, lower than the national average of 8.2%, and a percentage point below from when Walker took office in January 2011.

In 2011, the average  income in Wisconsin was $40,073, according to the nonpartisan Wisconsin Budget Project, slightly lower than the national average of $41,663. Wisconsin’s average personal income rose higher in 2011  than the national average – 4.8 percent  compared with 4.3 percent.

One of the hallmarks of Walker’s governorship that he often touts has been a reduction in  the state’s $3.6 billion budget deficit.

According to figures from the Wisconsin Department of Administration, Wisconsin will have a positive budget balance of $154.5 million or, in other terms, a surplus of $89.5 million, by June 30, 2013. (Roughly $65 million of the $154.5 million is a modest reserve for the state, so it can’t be spent by an administration.)

5:15 PM Two Very Important Questions to Ask of the Wisconsin Recall: 

Q: If there's an effort to kick Walker out of office, does that mean his approval rating is low?

A: The recall is more a result of how divided the state is over Walker and his policies. His approval rating among Wisconsin respondents in the most recent Marquette University Law School poll was 51 percent, just 1 percentage point less than President Barack Obama's.

Q: Who's footing the bill for the recall campaigns? Taxpayers? Or someone else?

A: There has been much ado about all the campaign money flowing into Wisconsin from out of state, and for good reason. The recall election has been unlike anything seen before in Wisconsin, with at least $62 million spent by the candidates and outside groups so far. Walker was the top spender at $29 million, with Democrats including Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett spending about $4 million. Outside groups have spent $21 million and issue ad groups that don't have to disclose their spending have put in at least $7.5 million. That, of course, is donated money. Taxpayers are anything but off the hook. The recall and a primary for it are special elections that otherwise would not be held. State elections officials estimate the cost of a statewide election to taxpayers is $9 million, for a total of $18 million.

4:40 PM Scott Walker Keeping Voters Away From the Polls? According to WisPolitics, a lawyer for Governor Scott Walker's former deputy chief of staff, Timothy Russell, "acknowledged today that he released documents that resulted in a news story saying Scott Walker's administration had stonewalled the investigation of money stolen from a fund for veterans."

Governor Walker has been adamant in saying that he has fully cooperated with the secret "John Doe" criminal investigation into his former staff and associates, but a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story published on May 31 cited a court document showing that the John Doe investigation was launched after Walker's Milwaukee County Executive's office was "unable or unwilling" to release requested documents to the Milwaukee District Attorney's office -- a damaging release on the eve of a recall.

To Read More About the John Doe Scandal, Read Here

The judge met with Russell, prosecutors, and defense lawyer Dennis Krueger in chambers for nearly an hour. When they emerged in open court, the judge explained that he was concerned about the release of the document out of the secret John Doe proceedings, but concluded after talking to prosecutors that there was nothing illegal in the release of the information. Because of the judge's probing, it was revealed that Krueger had gotten the document from prosecutors as part of pre-trial discovery and included it in his motion to dismiss charges against Russell. In chambers, Krueger acknowledged he had released the info with his client's approval.

President Obama, Sarah Palin, Packers Tweet for their Teams. For those Democrats who think President Obama and the democratic establishment have not done enough for Tom Barrett, here is a piece of news. On Monday, Obama tweeted to his massive twitter list: “It's Election Day in Wisconsin tomorrow, and I'm standing by Tom Barrett. He'd make an outstanding governor. –bo.” Similarly, Green Bay Packer players, and National Football League union members, weighed in with their thoughts. Wide receiver Tori Gurley and tight end Jermichael Finley tweeted their solidarity with Wisconsin labor saying, “I’m proud to be a #unionmember. Support Wisconsin workers & Get Out the Vote on Tues. #wiunion RT!” For his part, Walker got some support from former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin who tweeted to Wisconsin voters to get out to vote, and Walker garnered another effusive editorial in the Wall Street Journal which told readers, "A single election rarely determines a democracy's fate, but some matter more than others. Tuesday's recall election is one that matters ..."

4:25 PM President Obama’s involvement in the race has essentially boiled down to this: a single tweet (on Monday, not today). “It’s Election Day in Wisconsin tomorrow, and I’m standing by Tom Barrett. He’d make an outstanding governor,” Obama said in a message via Twitter late Monday afternoon.

4:15 PM The Government Accountability Board, Wisconsin’s official election agency, has predicted a turnout of about 65%, approaching the record 69% recorded in the 2008 presidential election when Wisconsin went heavily for Barack Obama. Two years later, the state tacked more conservative and elected Walker governor.

As of Monday, the election panel said more than 185,000 absentee ballots had been cast statewide. 

4 PM Obama "Aware" of Recall: @ Geoff_Holtzman : Carney: Obama is "aware" of #WIrecall taking place today.

3:53 PM High Turnout Reported: District 1 is the largest in Madison, and is showing a robust turnout, with a full parking lot, overflow lot and lines heading out the door. Carol Stillwell, a pollworker said the lines were out the door and around the building at 7 a.m. Their 520th vote was cast while I was there, representing a 20 percent showing.

3:30 PM Santorum E-Mails For Walker: In a Tuesday e-mail to supporters, former GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum wrote:

Today is an important day for the people of Wisconsin. Voters right now are heading to the polls to decide whether to retain Gov. Scott Walker and other conservative elected officials. Your governor needs your help to send a strong message of support for his efforts to balance the budget and create jobs. Because of his leadership, your state is on the right track again and it's critical that he have the opportunity to continue fighting for you.

Since taking office, Gov. Walker has had the courage to confront tough issues. This is the kind of leadership that is needed not just in your state, but across our nation. So, I'm encouraging you to do whatever you can to help get out the vote today for Gov. Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, and the other state legislators who have stood with them in this fight to enact reform.

Turnout today is expected to be at record levels, so every vote is critical. I hope we can count on you to stand with these courageous leaders and work hard until the polls close.

I know what it's like to be in close, tough elections and I know that Gov. Walker appreciates the sacrifices each of you is making to help. As you watch the returns come in tonight, I'll be watching with you.

Gov. Walker has laid a strong foundation since taking office. Let's make sure he has the opportunity to build on that.

3:22 PM Why Scott Walker Should Win: From PolicyMic Pundit David Asche: It is no secret to people who know me, and to people who read my articles, that on many issues I am a democrat. I am socially liberal, support higher taxes on the top earners in the country, I support comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship, and believe in the social safety net for the people who need it the most. So it may surprise people that in today's recall election in Wisconsin, I will be pulling for Republican Gov. Scott Walker to keep his job.

If there is one thing that really annoys me about democrats, it is their love affair with unions who I believe have run their course in this country. They were needed badly back in the early days of the Industrial Revolution, but with so many worker protection and wage laws in effect today, I believe that unions are no longer needed.

Here is what is at the heart of the Wisconsin recall: when Gov. Walker came into office, Wisconsin was facing a $3.6 billion budget shortfall. Walker believed that one of the solutions to this problem was to force members of the state's public employee unions to put 12.6% of their paycheck towards their health care and 5.8% towards their pensions (far less than what private sectors pay into theirs). Prior to Walker's reforms, public union members were paying next tonothing for their health care and pensions and it was being funded primarily by the taxpayers of Wisconsin. Walker also eliminated collective bargaining rights for all public employee unions with the exception of firefighters and policemen.

These reforms were absolute no brainers. Why should public employee unions be exempt from paying into their own health care and retirement while everybody else in the state (and in the country) has to pay into theirs? Democrats love to talk about a shared sacrifice, but they certainly do not apply it to their union allies. And stripping the unions of collective bargaining rights simply prevents the unions from buying and bribing politicians into giving them sweetheart deals on their wages, pensions, and health care, which puts a major burden on states budgets all across the country.

The reforms implemented by Walker are working. According to the governor's office, the state has saved more than $1 billion and because the reforms also made union dues voluntary, union members are now bringing home more money in their paychecks, which have also resulted in lower union membership.

States like New York, Michigan, California, Washington, and others would be wise to take note of what Gov. Walker has done in Wisconsin. These states face huge budget deficits in part because of their obligations to public employee unions. Leaders in these states must have the courage to enact similar reforms since it is obvious the unions will not change by themselves.

To me, this recall is one of the more undemocratic events I have seen in a while. Gov. Walker is not a known felon, nor is the economy in his state in shambles. In fact, the Wisconsinunemployment rate is 6.7%, well below the national average. This recall is all about the democrats and unions wanting to kick a guy out of office because he implemented a policy that ends their stranglehold over the state's budget, taxpayers, and leaders. Do not let anybody tell you any differently.

A Walker victory tonight will be a devastating blow to public employee unions and maybe, just maybe, it will inspire and give courage to governors all across this nation, both Democrat and Republican, to curb the power of the unions in their states as well.

We should all be Tea Partiers tomorrow night.

3 PM Rampant Voter Fraud in Wisconsin? From PRWatch: In 1938, Kenosha, Wisconsin-born Orson Welles stoked widespread confusion and panic when he broadcast mock news reports of an extraterrestrial invasion, with his famous radio adaptation of H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds convincing some listeners that Martians were attacking the earth. In 2012, another Kenosha native, Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus, is promoting similar confusion by attacking the integrity of Wisconsin's elections and stoking fears of "voter fraud" in advance of Tuesday's recall election. Does Wisconsin really have a history of "voter fraud," or are Priebus and other Republicans following in the footsteps of Welles and pulling a massive hoax?

With polls suggesting that Tuesday's recall election will be extremely close, Republican leaders and right-wing media outlets are claiming "voter fraud" is rampant in Wisconsin elections, apparently to cast doubt on a potential victory by Walker's Democratic challenger Tom Barrett in Tuesday's election.

On May 30, Priebus alleged rampant voter fraud and claimed Republican candidates "need to do a point or two better than where we think we need to be, to overcome it." Governor Walker made a nearly identical claim weeks earlier, telling the Weekly Standard that fraudulent votes account for "one or two points" in Wisconsin elections. For Priebus and Walker to be correct about fraud equaling "one or two points" in recent elections -- where 3 million people cast ballots -- there would need to have been between 30,000 and 60,000 fraudulent ballots.

"I'm always concerned about voter fraud," Priebus said. "I think it's been documented."

Actually, it has not.

In-depth investigations into election fraud in Wisconsin's 2004 and 2008 elections revealed that election fraud occurs at a rate of less than one-thousandths of a percent. Only 7 people were convicted of election fraud in 2004 and only 20 were charged in 2008. 

In 2008, Wisconsin's Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen (the state co-chair of GOP presidential candidate John McCain's campaign) established an election fraud task force with Milwaukee's Democrat District Attorney John Chisholm. The task force soon expanded its focus beyond Milwaukee to investigate allegations of fraud in twelve Wisconsin counties. After an extended investigation, only 20 people were charged. 

The majority of those charges did not involve "voter fraud" -- defined by the Brennan Center for Justice as a person casting a ballot "despite knowing that they are ineligible to vote, in an attempt to defraud the election system" -- but instead involved felons on parole or probation who said they did not know they were still prohibited from voting. Felon voting constitutes "election fraud" under Wisconsin statutes, but does not meet the more precise definition of "voter fraud."

Only two individuals were charged in 2008 with committing the kind of in-person "voter fraud" that stricter identification requirements might prevent. Six people were charged with voter registration misconduct.

A variety of irregularities in the 2004 elections led to media accounts suggesting widespread fraud. In February of 2008, the Milwaukee Police Department released a report on that election "with what appears to be a painstaking investigation of the facts," according to the Brennan Center for Justice, but including "policy recommendations offered with less care and disavowed by the Milwaukee Police Chief."

A Special Investigations Unit of the Milwaukee Police Department apparently authored the report without authorization, and though most observers believe the report's factual findings were thorough, the policy recommendations and statutory analysis went beyond the pay grade of the police officers who drafted it. "We're not the Department of Making Policy Recommendations," said Milwaukee's police chief at the time. "That's where this thing got out of control." The Milwaukee Police Department endorsed Walker for governor in 2010 and again in 2012.

an image from 'The War of the Worlds'Republicans across the country embraced the unauthorized report and its uninformed policy recommendations, with the Wall Street Journal's John Fund claiming that "Milwaukee police uncovered a problem, but politicians chose to ignore it."

But the Brennan Center's review of the report "showed that much of what had originally been identified as potential fraud was in fact due to clerical error."

According to the Brennan Center's analysis, there were allegedly 8,300 more ballots cast in Milwaukee than individuals processed, but the discrepancy was later attributed to administrative error. Of the 37,180 people in Milwaukee who were originally reported to have voted from invalid addresses, 31,500 actually just had problems with an apartment number. In other cases, data entry errors turned perfectly valid addresses into invalid ones. The rest of the allegedly invalid addresses were thrown out for lack of proof -- and in any case, voters would have had to show proof of residency in order to cast ballots.

A computer glitch in Milwaukee caused at least 314 voters to be listed twice on the rolls, and around 59 people were alleged to have voted twice -- but it turns out that most registered twice but voted only once. All the supposedly "dead voters" voted early with absentee ballots but died within two weeks of the election. One ballot was cast in the name of an individual who did not vote, but further investigation showed this was the result of error by a poll worker.

One vote was cast by a 17-year-old. Four individuals allegedly submitted false voter registration applications, and three were convicted. Like the 2008 investigation, most of the "election fraud" in 2004 involved voting by felons and resulted in just 7 convictions.

The most questionable election activities in 2004 involved employees of a 527 Political Action Committee who were campaigning in Wisconsin, but did not live there during the rest of the year, casting votes in Wisconsin because they met the residency requirement in place at the time. There is no evidence the campaign staffers voted twice.The authors of this report called this an "illegal organized attempt" at skewing election outcomes, but prosecutors did not pursue those particular cases because the campaign staffers met the statutory standard for residency.

The Brennan Center analysis identified a fraud rate of only .0002 percent in the 2004 elections, and none of the improper voting allegations would have been prevented by requiring photo ID at the polls.

In his May 30 statement allegation that voter fraud accounts for "a point or two" in Wisconsin elections, Priebus also noted that “I’m always concerned about voter fraud, you know, being from Kenosha, and quite frankly having lived through seeing some of it happen.”

Priebus' hometown newspaper, the Kenosha News, pushed back on this claim. The newspaper's editorial board wrote:

"If Priebus has knowledge of voter fraud here, he should point to some evidence. Assistant District Attorney Richard Ginkowski has been following elections here and investigating complaints for 30 years. He doesn’t know what Priebus is talking about. The county clerk, Mary Schuch-Krebs, doesn’t know what Priebus is talking about. Face it. The voter fraud in Kenosha that Priebus is referring to does not exist."

Noting that "[Orson] Welles actually referred to Kenosha as the 'nasty little town' where he was born," the Kenosha News wrote "It looks like Reince Priebus has joined the Welles faction" in disparaging his hometown. Given the role of both Welles and Priebus in perpetuating myths and unfounded fears -- about an alien invasion and the spectre of voter fraud, respectively -- the two share more than just anti-Kenosha sentiments.

Tuesday 2:50 PM A video recap of the Wisconsin election and its national implications.

Tuesday 12:45 PM Here Are 4 Reasons Why the Wisconsin Recall Election is Bad For Democracy. Do you agree? From PolicyMic Pundit Daniel Centina: Only two American governors have ever been successfully recalled, but on Tuesday Wisconsin voters will head to the polls to determine whether Governor Scott Walker joins that small and sorry club of ousted governors. Walker’s controversial policies and views, specifically Act 10, inspired widespread protests and even the flight of Democratic State Senators across state borders into neighboring Illinois – monumental occurrences that culminate tomorrow in Walker’s recall election. A Walker victory, which at this point seems fairly likely, will harm the Democratic Party and send a resounding message about liberal prospects in other 2012 political contests, from the White House down. But both a Walker victoryand a Walker loss will have the same negative impact on the general democratic process in the United States.

I don’t particularly like Walker. I don’t agree with his methods, his divisiveness, or his deep-pocketed conservative allies who are currently pouring exorbitant amounts of outside money into the state – thanks again, Citizens United. But as much as it rankles me personally, Scott Walker won the 2010 Wisconsin gubernatorial election, defeating his current recall challenger, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. Walker is a Republican, a darling of the Tea Party, and as such is entitled and expected to pursue GOP goals. Attempting to remove him earlier than the regular 2014 gubernatorial election is costly, both financially and spiritually; distracts from thoughtful debate on the merits, or lack thereof, of relevant policies; harms the salient office, in this case the governorship; and sets a distinctly negative precedent.

4) Costs: Financially, the Wisconsin recall election is a major blow to taxpayers’ and donors’ pocketbooks. The remarkable flow of outside cash into the state has already been indicated, but the heaviest burden is on Wisconsin taxpayers. According to Wisconsin State Rep. Robin Vos, the Government Accountability Board (GAB) estimates that the recall election will cost taxpayers anywhere from $2.1 to $10 million. The most significant cost, however, may be on Wisconsinite psyches. The bitterly partisan atmosphere is reportedly harming relationships among friends and families, and the state’s polarizing environment is not expected to dissipate even after the election concludes.

3) Issues: The sad news is the critical issue union workers and Democrats initially loathed, Walker’s crusade on collective bargaining, has been virtually absent from recent debates and discourse in Wisconsin. Meanwhile, available evidence indicates that, thus far, some of Walker’s policies appear to be working. Wisconsin is projected to enjoy a $150 million budget surplus by the end of the biennium, although in today’s still-fragile economy anything can change. Right now, events have predictably devolved into partisan bloviating and accusations, ensuring that the election becomes not an opportunity to debate actual policies but a referendum on abstract, often theoretical party philosophies.

2) Governorship: Despite my center-left inclination, I’m displeased with Democrats’ obstinate determination to recall Walker. Interestingly, I find there are many similarities between the current Wisconsin recall and the impeachment proceedings former President Bill Clinton faced in the late '90s. Like the Wisconsin Democrats of today, congressional Republicans of yesteryear, grasping as they were for any opportunity to discredit the highly popular Clinton, unwisely attacked their most berated enemy – the only difference being the Clinton episode was not about contentious policy but rather a personal infraction that had minimal bearing on his professional conduct. But the calculus involved in the Newt Gingrich-led Republicans’ decision to impeach Clinton was extremely nuanced. According to Robert Busby in Defending the American Presidency: Clinton and the Lewinsky Scandal, Gingrich, who of course long harbored his own presidential ambitions, understood that “institutional change, via impeachment, was problematic” (Busby 108) and that he “had to beware of harming the office [Clinton] occupied” (109). In short, anything short of a commanding reason to impeach Clinton would damage the venerable office and reflect badly on those who initiated an unpopular proceeding.

Such is the case with Wisconsin. Walker’s approval rating in the state has risen to 51% – one point less than President Barack Obama’s. According to a Gallup “Presidential Approval Ratings – Historical Statistics and Trends” report, Clinton’s national approval rating similarly rose in the midst of his troubles. In fact, Clinton enjoyed a career-high approval rating of 73% in December 1998, right in the middle of the Lewinsky scandal.

Overall, just as the president is the chief executive of the country, individual governors are the chief executives of their states. Just as baselessly impeaching a president is harmful to the office itself, so too is recalling a governor for his policies harmful to the governorship.

1) Precedent: Regardless of whether or not Walker loses, the precedent being set in Wisconsin is unnerving. It is incontrovertible that today’s political environment is more polarized than ever, meaning liberals will almost universally dislike the policies of conservatives and vice versa. Spearheading a recall effort because certain policies are distasteful to a select group of people is not smart politics; rather, it is an exercise in opportunism, antagonism, and impatience. Hopefully other states, red and blue, will not adopt the methods currently implemented in Wisconsin.

Recalls must be reserved for severe ethical and/or criminal violations perpetrated by the relevant politician, from local school board member to powerful governors. Anything less is an abuse of the process that ultimately damages both the party pushing for the recall and the democratic system within which it occurs.

Tuesday 11:25 AM Feds Monitoring Vote For Discrimination: Wisconsin is one of four states whose elections the U.S. Justice Department is monitoring to ensure against discrimination.

The federal officials will be monitoring the elections to make sure they comply with the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  

The Voting Rights Act prohibits discrimination in the election process on the basis of race, color or membership in a minority language group. In addition, the act requires certain covered jurisdictions to provide language assistance during the election process.  

Tuesday 11:05 AM Obama Absent From Wisconsin Election: A report from PolicyMic Pundit Chrissy Harbin: On Tuesday, all eyes will be on Wisconsin and the results of the Scott Walker recall election. Gubernatorial elections don't normally attract this much attention, but this one is important because it will be a bellwether for November. If Scott Walker keeps his seat as governor of Wisconsin, then that signals that Republicans will have gains in the state houses, Congress, and perhaps even the White House.

Given the importance of the election, it's interesting to note who shows up in Wisconsin to support Gov. Walker or his Democratic opponent Tom Barrett -- and also those who don't show.

Lots of prominent Republicans have come out to support Gov. Walker. RNC chairman Reince Prebus lives in Wisconsin, giving Gov. Walker's campaign a sort of home field advantage. Several governors have voiced their support too, including  New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. If Gov. Waller wins the recall election, then perhaps they will push for similar reforms in their respective states.

Meanwhile, many big-name Democrats have shown up to oppose Gov. Walker. Most notably, former President Bill Clinton flew out Wisconsin to campaigned for Barrett in the week leading up to the vote.

Curiously, the most prominent Democrat, is nowhere in sight, nor is he talking about Wisconsin in his stump speeches. President Obama was in next-door Minnesota talking about the dismal jobs report last week, but he made no mention of the battle going on in the Badger state. Today during a briefing at the White House, press secretary Jeff Carney explained, "The president supports [Barrett], stands by him."

Why won't the commander in chief come out and support the opposing candidate? I can only speculate.

Perhaps the DNC doesn't want to exhaust its political capital so close to the presidential election in  November. Perhaps there is a danger that people could test their attention span  for election campaign season politics. Perhaps they have internal polls that show that Walker will win. Perhaps it's something else that I don't know.

Policy junkies like me will anxiously await the results of the election tomorrow. Given the importance of the event to the direction policy, it's curious that President Obama decides to sit this one out.

Tuesday 8:25 AM The latest numbers have shown a tight race and with same-day voter registration and high turnout expected across the state, the results will be close. Polls close at 9pm EST

Monday 6:30 PM Barrett is inching closer in the polls (latest shows Walker leading by the narrow margin of 50% - 47%).

Weekend Round-Up:  Marquette Law School, which put out a poll on Wednesday, showed Walker with a slight 7-point lead over Barrett, 52% to 45%. The poll's margin of error was 4.1%.

The Marquette poll said only 2% of voters were undecided. And Walker says the outcome will be so close that, “a handful of undecideds at the end will make the difference.”

Also last week, the liberal Greater Wisconsin Committee – which supports Barrett – put out its own poll stating that the race is tied at 49-49, with just one-percent undecided.

Former President Bill Clinton campaigned for Barrett on Friday. Clinton was the third prominent Democrat in three days to appear in Wisconsin on behalf of Barrett. Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who heads the Democratic National Committee, rallied about 100 volunteers in Racine on Wednesday.

Scott Walker is also getting high-profile help. Buses paid for by the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity (AFP), as part of its "Better Wisconsin" tour, and the Tea Party Express, with its "Reclaiming America" bus tour, converged in Madison, Wisconsin, Friday evening.

Both groups, which do not disclose who is bankrolling their operations, are touring Wisconsin on the eve of the election to rally voters to back controversial Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and his allies facing recall. AFP, a non-profit under the tax code and not a registered PAC, has claimed its bus tour has nothing to do with the pending recall election; the Center for Media and Democracy has asked AFP to reveal who is funding its campaign, and the director of its state operations has refused. The Tea Party Express has also previously indicated that as a non-profit group under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code it need not disclose its funders.  

 

National Implications:

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