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Send a message to put a stop to endless recalls


Publication: Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date: Dec 1, 2011; Section: Opinion; Page: 6A    

Send a message to put a stop to endless recalls

Re-electing Walker would end permanent campaigns

    The Associated Press reported Tuesday that organizers of the recall efforts to remove Gov. Scott Walker had more than 300,000 petition signatures. The recall effort needs to collect 540,208 signatures by January 17.

    Unfortunately, we do not know the distribution of the locations of the signatures. We only know that the organizers are claiming signatures are in from every county.

    We also don’t know how many of the signatures are duplicates. Citing the idiotic suggestions of some Republicans to fraudulently distribute petitions with the intent of not turning them in, supporters of the recall have stated that it’s OK with them if people want to sign the recall petitions more than once.

    Amazingly, the Government Accountability Board (GAB) agrees with the recall organizers and their supporters that it’s OK to sign the recall petitions more than once. The GAB, the state agency tasked with making sure Wisconsin’s elections are clean, also said that it would not police the recall petitions for duplicate signatures. It would only highlight the duplicates it happened to catch as it scans to make sure the forms are filled out correctly.

    The responsibility for policing the recall petitions actually falls to the individual or organization presenting a challenge. Apparently the GAB is too busy thinking of new ways to make vote fraud more likely to actually do something to monitor the election process.

    Of course, the GAB has a track record in its brief history of trying to figure out different ways of curbing free speech. So if you want to speak against the recall and spend any money doing it, the GAB is ready. But if you want to stuff the recall petitions with duplicate signatures, that’s somebody else’s problem.

    Why do we have the GAB? Because the state Elections Board and the state Ethics Board didn’t do enough to make politicians behave ethically. So the state Elections Board executive director became the GAB executive director and it does even less now of what it should. As usual, the government solution did not fix the supposed problem.

    But let’s note that even allowing for duplicate signatures and some fraudulent signatures, 300,000 signatures is an impressive-sounding number. Again, we don’t know if the bulk of the signatures came from Milwaukee and Madison, but 300,000 signatures sounds like a lot.

    It sounds impressive, but it’s actually not that impressive.

    When the start date for the recall was announced, more than a few people (including myself) joked about the timing. Didn’t organizers understand that it gets cold in December and January? That’s a lot to ask of volunteers during the Christmas season.

    But when so much of the organizing and logistical support is being provided by paid political operatives, from both the Democratic Party and other union-funded organizations, the petition drive becomes a little easier.

    The rules also help recall organizers. There are no limits on political expenditures during the recall gathering stage. The signature gatherers do not have to be from the jurisdiction where the recall is being held, or even from the state of Wisconsin. No identification is needed to sign a recall petition.

    With large amounts of union and Democratic Party money, a minority can force another election onto the majority of voters relatively easy.

    We’re entering a dangerous phase in Wisconsin politics. If the recall of Walker is successful, or even if it narrowly falls short, Wisconsin runs the risk of entering into a period of permanent political campaigning.

    Just as Democrats do not accept the results of the 2010 election, every election going forward can be undermined by the minority of either party using the recall law. Such an untenable situation will undermine the idea of representative government.

    The Democrats will easily get the number of signatures needed. If we’re going to avoid a period of permanent political upheaval, Wisconsinites would be well advised to re-elect Walker with a large majority when the time comes to vote. A message needs to be sent to the Democrats that undermining representative government is a path to political failure.

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)

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