Must citizens petitioning for the recall of a local official show cause for why the official should be recalled?
No. Wisconsin used to require “cause” for a recall petition. However, that is not the current legal standard.
There are numerous formalities set forth in the statutes regarding
the preparation and form of a recall petition. An important requirement
is that the petition state the reason for the recall. The reason must be
“related to the official responsibilities of the official for whom
removal is sought.” Sec. 9.10(2)(b).
The term “official
responsibilities” is not defined in the statutes and no court has yet
interpreted what constitutes “official responsibilities.” According to
one lawmaker (David Deininger) who was instrumental in having this
language added to the statute in 1990, as reported in the Legal Comment
published in the November 1990 issue of Wisconsin School News,
the use of the term “official responsibilities” was intended to protect
local officials from recall for “personal, family or discriminatory
Notably, prior to 1990, purely political reasons would not be
sufficient for recall. However, under current law, a recall petition may
merely state differences of political opinion as the reason for the