State Officials Say Holding Onto Signed Walker Recall Petitions Is Illegal
Local man says he's turning in the 150 signatures he collected saying that his plan to shred the ballots was wrong.
A group trying to sabotage efforts to recall Gov. Scott Walker sparked outrage from the Wisconsin Democratic Party.
Officials with the Government Accountability Board also said collecting petitions and not turning them into the recall committees is illegal.
Patch learned that a local man, who wished to remain anonymous, and at least two others, had collected signatures for the recall petition. In order to derail the recall effort, the unnamed source initially said he planned to shred them and then he said he was going to hold on to them; but now the source said he plans to turn them into the Government Accountability Board because he doesn’t think it’s the right thing to do to keep them.
But state officials said the petitions need to be turned into the appropriate recall committees, not the GAB, and the recall committee needs to collect and turn all of the petitions into the GAB all at the same time.
The man, who collected 150 signatures on Nov. 15, said he plans to turn them into the Government Accountability Board. One other person is also going to turn his in and they are going to convince a third person to do the same.
"It’s not the right thing to do, we should have known better," the unnamed source said. "The whole thing wasn’t our idea. It’s something we just stumbled on and we did it, 24 hours later we realized that it’s not a good thing to do. I’ve been thinking about it and it’s just not right. But when I think about what’s been going on all year with the protests, and what this has been doing to people, families, and friends…is making normal people do really stupid things and feel stupid things. And it’s crazy. It's absolutely crazy."
However, he told Patch that he was told there were over 1,000 people involved with the effort.
Reid Magney, public information officer with the Government Accountability Board, said the man’s actions could constitute fraud, but he does not have any specific evidence that the man had committed fraud.
"I don’t want to pass judgment on this man because I don’t know specifically what he has or hasn’t done," Magney said.
Magney offered the following advice to people who may believe they signed a petition that may not get turned in:
“If someone signed what they think is an illegitimate petition or one that was circulated by a person not on the up and up, that person can sign more than one petition,” Magney said. “There is no prohibition on signing more than once. It’s up to the recall committee to weed out possible duplicates.”
Magney added that he has had discussions with district attorney’s about the issues, but he couldn’t comment on which district attorney’s he has talked to.
“We take this very seriously,” Magney said. “We hope that local law enforcement officials will have the time to prosecute these cases if it becomes an issue.”
Graeme Zielinski, spokesman for the Wisconsin Democratic Party, said people who don’t want to see Gov. Scott Walker recalled trying to sabotage the petition process are committing a felony.
“There is no gray area here,” Zielinski said. “What they are doing is highly illegal.”
Zielinski said the issue isn’t in the destruction of the petitions, but rather it’s the creation of doubt and fear.
“They want legitimate circulators to be turned away,” he said. “But we think this involves a very small number of people…. Our message to the public is: don’t let this intimidate you. You can sign a petition more than once if you think you have signed a petition that someone may have destroyed, and you aren’t violating the law.”
Zielinski called for the Wisconsin Department of Justice to look into the group collecting these signatures with the intent of either destroying them or holding onto them.
“If these folks have ties to the Republican or TEA party, they need to look at themselves at the top,” Zielinski said.
However, Bill Folk, chairman of the Racine County Republican Party and Lora Halberstadt, of the Racine TEA Party, have denounced the man's actions and both said they don't condone interfering in the petition process.
*This version of the story corrects and clarifies Reid Magney's statements about how petitions need to be turned by the recall committees into state officials, that his staff have spoken directly to several district attorney's offices, and that while the man's actions could constitute fraud, he had no evidence of wrongdoing.