Just , the group behind the move to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker said Monday it has gathered more than 300,000 signatures — more than half the number needed to force a recall election.
Wisconsinites were signing the recall petition at the rate of 1,040 per hour, according to Wisconsin United, the main group behind the effort. In the first 96 hours of the recall effort, which began Nov. 15, more than 105,000 signatures were collected from all 72 counties in Wisconsin.
The group needs 540,208 valid signatures by Jan. 17 to force an election, and organizers say they hope to gather between 600,00 and 700,000 signatures.
County-by-county figures were not available, however, United Wisconsin said 10,033 residents signed petitions in Columbia County and 16,845 people living in Eau Claire and Chippewa counties signed petitions.
The state Republican Party on Monday evening said the Democrats released the numbers to keep the recall effort in the spotlight.
"The recall effort is a baseless, partisan power grab being pushed on Wisconsin families by liberal special interests," Republican Party of Wisconsin Communications Director Ben Sparks said. "Despite the Democrats' attempts to generate false momentum in their never-ending effort to score political points, Wisconsin families are only interested in moving our state forward.
"We remain focused on Governor Walker's common-sense reforms that have laid the ground work for economic growth, and our economy only continues to improve,"he added in a statement.
Recall efforts sparked after protests starting in March against Walker's budget-repair bill, which eliminates most collective bargaining rights for many public unions.
Protests on both sides of the bill kept Madison streets and Wisconsin cities busy for weeks, slowing passage of the bill. The Republicans removed certain fiscal items and passed the bill, which was then signed by the governor and is now being challenged in court.
Throughout the recall effort there will be no limit placed on donations made to Walker's campaign, and United Wisconsin blames extra cash for the recent and numerous TV and radio ads supporting Walker.
"Scott Walker has taken to the airwaves, supported by millions in corporate cash, to defend his record of job loss and full-scale assault on Wisconsin’s institutions and values,” United Wisconsin Executive Director Meagan Mahaffey said in a statement Monday. “But all over Wisconsin, the people are seeing through Walker’s deceptions and are moving to take our state back."