The Democratic Party of Wisconsin is stepping up their efforts to disqualify three recall petitions against Democratic state Senators. They submitted a formal challenge to the petitions today, arguing that while their recall efforts have been volunteer-led and above-board, the Republican campaigns featured fraud perpetrated by out-of-state sources. And they hold evidence from “hundreds” of Wisconsin citizens.

A formal challenge to be filed later today against Republican recall petitions asks the Government Accountability Board to disqualify thousands of invalid signatures, and reject recall elections against three Democratic state senators, because widespread and systemic election fraud has tainted the entire GOP operation.

“The overwhelming evidence clearly shows a pervasive pattern of election fraud committed by the shady out-of-state organization hired by Republicans to collect recall petitions,” said Senate Democratic Leader Mark Miller. “Thousands of Wisconsin citizens fell victim to lies and misinformation spread by the circulators, and the papers submitted by this operation contain a river of omissions and wrong information.”

Miller continued: “We believe that when the facts are reviewed, the GAB will throw out thousands of flawed signatures because they were fraudulent or defective. The vast depth of this misconduct calls into question the legitimacy of every signature collected by these circulators, and shows that the GOP effort failed to gather the valid signatures needed for recall elections.”

Miller and the lead counsel for the DPW plan to reveal more at a news conference later this afternoon. But essentially, here’s their argument. An out-of-state firm named Kennedy Enterprises got $100,000 from the Republican Party of Wisconsin to manage the recall petitions. The DPW has sampled the three Senate districts where Republicans were successful in getting the required signatures, and found that between 6.6% and 9.2% of the signers were “misled into signing the petition or asserted they had never signed.” And there are more charges:

Affidavit of a World War II veteran from Green Bay who was misled into signing a recall petition. Upon learning he had been duped, veteran called the sheriff to get his name removed. When confronted, the circulator claims he will remove the name, but a later review of the petitions reveals the veteran’s name was never crossed off.

Many affidavits attesting that Circulator Sherri Ferrell – who gathered nearly 3,000 signatures in two districts — gathered signatures on Indian reservations claiming petitions were to support “schools,” “Democrats,” and “tribal rights.”

The signature gatherers repeatedly lied about the petition, saying it was for work on a local park, or to recall a Republican Senator instead of a Democrat, or even to recall Governor Scott Walker. There are forged signatures of dead people in the petitions, names with fake addresses, and out-of-state signature gatherers with high incidences of fraud.

I don’t think Democrats would bother with this if they didn’t think they could knock out at least one or two of the recall petitions. Every race a Democratic state Senator doesn’t have to run is helpful to them. And the recall petitions organized by Republicans had a smaller margin for error – meaning they collected less signatures above the threshold that triggers an election – than the Democratic recall petitions.

So this could actually work. And going back to my story on the anti-union bill and all the implications, if no Senate Democrats face a recall election in July, it makes it much easier for them to hold out and leave the state to deny a quorum, if need be.