Judge allows George recall to proceed

matt.nash@marquette.edu

The election will be Nov. 18, after an Oct. 21 primary.

George opposes the legitimacy of the recall.

“This is clearly an illegal criminal enterprise that Jarrel Jones and (state Rep.) Spencer Coggs and their supporters put together,” George said. “They’re trying to railroad me because I’m an independent thinker in the Senate. They want somebody like Spencer Coggs who will do as they’re told.”

George called the recall a “political high-tech lynching” and said he hopes the court of appeals will vote to stop the election when they rule on his appeal.

Tom Balistreri, assistant attorney general, who filed a response to postponement on behalf of the elections board Wednesday, said he is uncertain George will win the appeal.

The appellate court “bends over backward to support the circuit court,” Balistreri said. “They don’t have much of a chance of succeeding on the merits of the case,” he said.

George’s appeal of the recall itself is based on eight points Sumi ruled against Sept. 10, said Scott Schmidlkofer, attorney for the recall committee led by Courier Communications Corporation President Jarrel Jones.

“Briefly, Mr. George hasn’t met the burden of proof,” Schmidlkofer said. He said some of George’s reasons for opposing the recall include invalid signatures on recall papers and felons illegally circulating nomination papers to recall him.

“He made a lot of accusations,” Schmidlkofer said. He said George provided “about 10 percent of the proof” he needed to win the Sept. 10 case. No new evidence can be presented in the appellate case, so the court will review the record of the Sept. 10 case and determine whether or not they think Sumi judged in error, he said. Schmidlkofer said he feels George does not have a good chance of winning.

According to Schmidlkofer, at the Sept. 10 hearing George brought a handwriting expert to analyze signatures on the recall papers. She found one signature to be in error, he said. He said George had the responsibility to research more and find more invalid signatures if he thought there were enough to void the recall.

George said that of approximately 15,000 signatures in support of the recall, he and the state elections board had over 7,000 thrown out. George said last year, when he ran for governor, “the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the assistant attorney general chased after every person” who signed his nomination papers.

“They threw my signatures out with almost no evidence, and here they’re ignoring evidence,” George said. In this case, “we’ve had to go after them by ourselves.”

George said the Elections Board, Sumi and Balistreri want him to spend his money finding and proving there are invalid signatures, but it is their job to do, as they did when he ran for governor. He said these parties are able to go through with this “illegal” recall and spend “well over $150,000” from the sixth district and not face repercussions because they are not elected in Milwaukee.

Schmidlkofer said George did not do the work required of him to prove his case, and he expected the court and the elections board to do his work for him.

He admitted felons circulated nomination papers to get signatures for the recall, but said under Wisconsin statutes and based on decisions made by the elections board, this is legal.

“After serving their sentence, (a felon) can get their rights restored,” he said. Getting their rights restored is called having their “papers restored,” he said. Under the law, felons who have had their papers restored cannot vote but can circulate papers, which happened in George’s recall, Schmidlkofer said.

He said George contests the circulation issue because of the definition of “sentence served” in relation to a felon getting their papers restored. For the past 15 years, the elections board has interpreted the phrase to mean once a person served their time in a correctional facility and finished probation, their papers were restored, Schmidlkofer said.

In some cases involving drunk driving, felons are required to mail one dollar to victims’ families every year; therefore their rights would never be restored, Schmidlkofer said.

George disagrees.

“That is ridiculous,” he said. “The statutes are very clear. Everyone is overlooking the law.”

He said there is no reason to let felons have their rights restored before they have made financial restitution. George said part of a sentence is paying fines, and if they don’t, they could face extra jail time. Therefore, he said, it is not right to restore their rights before they have made financial restitution.

“The law is supposed to protect the electoral process,” he said. “There are nothing but criminals” involved in this recall. According to George, 51 of the 103 people circulating nomination papers for the recall were felons. He said 21 of them were still on probation or had not paid fines attached to their sentences, and three were being sought by police at the time.

“The district Senator George represents is highly low-income with a high crime rate,” Schmidlkofer said. “There are a lot of felons” in that district, he said.

However, he also said some of George’s research was invalid. In one case, George accused a person who circulated papers of being a felon, when it turned out the paper circulator only had the same name as a felon, Schmidlkofer said. The felon in question was in prison at the time the papers were being circulated, so it could not have been the same person, he said.