|The United Wisconsin group has gathered over 1 million signatures demanding the recall of Governor Walker [EPA]
Opponents of Scott Walker, Wisconsin's Republican governor who championed a law last year curbing the rights of public sector unions, submitted what they said was enough signatures to force a special election to try to remove him from office.
A group called United Wisconsin said it gathered more than 1 million signatures to recall the governor by Tuesday's deadline, roughly double the 540,208 signatures required.
The group opposes the collective bargaining changes and other measures pushed into law last year by Walker, a first-term governor.
The filing of the petitions does not automatically remove Walker from office. If the petitions are certified, he would be forced to defend his seat in a special election later this year.
The Republican-controlled state legislature passed and Walker signed into law last March legislation that eliminates most collective bargaining rights for public workers and requires them to pay more for pensions and health coverage.
Republicans called the compensation and bargaining rights for public union workers unaffordable in an era of soaring state budget deficits.
Democrats and their union backers accused the Republicans of ramming through union-busting proposals.
Brad Courtney, the chairman of the Republican party of Wisconsin, called the recall effort "shameful" and predicted it would "accomplish nothing but saddle Wisconsin taxpayers with over $9 million in unbudgeted costs" related to the special election.
"We very clearly believe there is no challenge, legal or otherwise, that would prevent these elections from going forward," said Mike Tate, head of the Democratic party of Wisconsin.
Ryan Lawler, a board member of United Wisconsin, said the success of the signature-gathering effort "represents a crystal clear indication of how strong the appetite is to stop the damage and turmoil that Scott Walker has brought to Wisconsin."
So far, a Democrat has not yet emerged to run against Walker. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who ran for governor against Walker in 2010, and Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug La Follette have been mentioned as possible candidates.
As many as 17 Wisconsin state senators, 11 Republicans and six Democrats, also could face special recall elections this year in contests triggered by last year's fight over union rights and other Republican-backed measures.
Recall organizers on Tuesday submitted what they said were enough recall petitions to force four Republican state senators, including Senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald as well as Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, into special elections defending their seats later this year.
The elections could tip the balance of power in the state Senate, where Republicans currently hold a 17-16 majority.
They also may provide an early look at how closely fought the November 6 US presidential race will be in key Midwestern states like Wisconsin, where voters backed Democrat Barack Obama in 2008 but then handed victories to Republicans, including Walker, in 2010 elections.