Voters defeat Wisconsin school board recall, keep member on board

A recall election against Gary Mertig, one of the five members of the Butternut School District school board in Wisconsin, was on the ballot on December 14, 2021. Nate Pritzl filed to run against Mertig in the election. Mertig received 53.7% of the votes in the election, defeating Pritzl and retaining his seat.

Recall supporters said Mertig lied when he said community members would have input on the school district’s COVID-19 policies. Supporters said they were promised a meeting with all parties involved but that when the meeting was held, parents were not allowed to offer comments or ask questions.

Mertig said the community was allowed to speak at two out of the three meetings on the policies. The third meeting did not allow public comment because it was not listed on the agenda. “You have to be careful with the law. If it’s not on the agenda, you can’t talk about it,” Mertig said.

The recall petition required 126 signatures to be put on the ballot. It was signed by 130 residents of the district.

Mertig alleged that the way the recall signatures were collected violated state law. He submitted a letter to the Wisconsin Election Commission saying that at least eight residents who signed the recall were not witnessed by the petition circulator and that at least five people who signed were not residents of the school district. Mertig said those signatures should not have been counted, which would have stopped the recall election from being scheduled.

Wisconsin Election Commission Administrator Megan Wolf ruled that the recall election could proceed because Mertig did not file his complaints against the petition with the school district within the 10-day time period set by state law.

At the time the recall began, Mertig had been serving on the board for 31 years.

Ballotpedia has tracked 90 school board recall efforts against 233 board members so far in 2021—the highest number of school board recall efforts we have tracked in one year. The next-highest year was in 2010 with 38 recall efforts against 91 school board members.

In our most recent recall report, which covered recalls from January to June 2021, Ballotpedia tracked 165 recall efforts against 263 officials. This was the most recall efforts for this point in the year since the first half of 2016, when we tracked 189 recall efforts against 265 officials. In comparison, we tracked between 72 and 155 efforts by the midpoints of 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.

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