Price Tags of Walker Recall Election Would be Varied, Significant
Patch took a look at what a potential statewide recall election would cost local municipalities.
UPDATED: 2:45 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 17.
A statewide recall election for Gov. Scott Walker could cost more than $9 million and as much as $17 million with a primary, according to numbers released by the Government Accountability Board on Jan. 6.
Significant numbers, for sure, but what does that mean to local municipalities and taxpayers?
In an attempt to put a price tag on a possible recall election, cities, villages and towns across the state participated in a survey from the GAB. The survey asked clerks for estimated costs of a hypothetical recall election based on real costs for local elections in November 2010 and April 2011.
Those estimated costs were broken down into three categories:
- Counties: approximately $2.3 million
- Municipalities: approximately $5.8 million
- GAB: approximately $840,000
- Total: approximately $9 million (not including a possible primary)
All municipalities would be financially impacted, but just how would that estimated $5.8 million responsibility be sliced up? Local clerk’s offices will be charged with covering the costs of wages, including overtime and pre-and post-election work in most cases; election training (state law requires a minimum of 1 hour of training per worker the day before an election); postage for mailing absentee ballots; mileage and several other factors.
- In Greenfield, City Clerk Jennifer Goergen submitted an estimated cost of $64,125 to the GAB.
- Oak Creek’s estimate of $27,920 included nearly $20,000 in poll worker wages.
- Muskego’s estimated cost came to $18,565.
- Village Clerk Karie Torkilsen estimated a cost of $22,800 in Caledonia, including $11,000 in poll workers’ wages.
- The Greendale clerk’s office submitted an estimated cost of $16,000, while Mount Pleasant submitted $15,000 and the Sturtevant an estimate of $5,250.
In addition, Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus estimated the costs of one special election to be around $100,000 for the county. That does not, however, include the costs for the individual municipalities in the counties.
The City of Waukesha is estimating that it will cost the city $28,000 to run a special recall election. That figure assumes a preliminary election, according to Deputy Clerk/Treasurer Gina Kozlik. If there is just one special election, Kozlik said, the costs could be around $15,000. The costs include staffing the polls, absentee mailings and processing and all staff time, according to Kozlik.
Most municipal leaders did not plan for special elections in their 2012 budgets and could be scrambling to pull funds from other sources or departments to cover costs. What’s more, in some municipalities, changes in state election laws and the number of regularly scheduled 2012 elections have forced the need to hire additional help. Greenfield recently authorized the filling of an additional part-time position in the clerk’s office to handle data entry.
“This year is going to a financial killer,” Greenfield Mayor Michael Neitzke said. “(The clerk’s office) is overwhelmed with the work associated with recent legislative changes, with guidance that seems to be constantly changing and arriving last minute from the state.”
The above totals also don’t account for a possible primary, should more than one Democratic challenger throw his or her name in the ring to run against Walker.
"There is every indication the Democrats could have more than one candidate, plus you have to consider the potential of state senate recalls," Rep. Robin Vos (R-Rochester) told Patch earlier this month. "So, really, $9 million could just be the beginning, we could be talking as much as $20 million."