A judge on Friday denied Gov. Scott Walker's request for a two-week extension to review recall petition signatures, saying the election is likely to proceed.
Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess' ruling was a victory for recall organizers who had said there was no good reason for another extension and that Walker's request was an attempt to delay the inevitable.
Walker's campaign argued it had only reviewed 330,000 of the roughly 1 million signatures and couldn't get through all of them by the Feb. 27 deadline.
But Niess' said in a verbal order — which followed an hour-long hearing — that Walker had not shown good cause for being given another delay. Niess had already tripled the time Walker has to review the signatures to raise challenges from 10 to 30 days.
The ruling means Walker has to submit any challenges by Feb. 27. The Government Accountability Board has until March 19 to rule on whether to set recall elections against Walker, his lieutenant governor and four Republican state senators.
Niess said the elections board is likely to order the election because Walker's campaign said it had only flagged between 10 percent and 20 percent of the 330,000 counted signatures as potentially invalid. Given that it only takes 540,208 signatures to order the election, Niess said there is "little likelihood" enough signatures will be flagged to result in an election being stopped.
That result is unlikely to change no matter how much time the Walker campaign is given, the judge said.
Joe Olson, attorney for the four GOP senators, reacted to the Niess' ruling at the request of the governor's attorney. Olson said the ruling was disappointing but there has been no discussion about whether an appeal will be sought.
Olson said the Walker campaign had not yet looked for duplicate signatures, so the number of challenges they bring may end up being higher than 20 percent of those submitted. But he didn't know if it would be enough to invalidate an election.
"We're not interested in abusing the process or wasting people's time," Olson said.
Jeremy Levinson, attorney for the recall petitioners, said he was gratified that any potential recall election won't be delayed by giving Walker more time to review the signatures. There is no doubt there will be enough signatures to trigger an election, he said.
"It's getting a little silly," Levinson said.
The elections board wouldn't speculate when an election may be scheduled and continues to say it may end up asking Niess for more time to finish its review. However, the board's attorney told Niess on Friday that, as of now, it was on track to finish its review by the March 19 deadline.
Board director Kevin Kennedy said after the hearing that if any recalls are ordered, elections would be grouped together so there is one date for a primary and one for a general election.
The recalls were spurred by anger over Walker's proposal passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature last year that effectively ended collective bargaining for most public workers. Two incumbent Republican state senators lost recall elections last year, leaving the GOP with a one-vote majority in the Senate.
The recalls this year target Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and Sens. Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau, Pam Galloway of Wausau, Terry Moulton of Chippewa Falls, and Van Wanggaard of Racine.