Local recall volunteers say they hope holiday shopping crowds will help them reach their goal of 540,000 signatures needed to trigger a recall election for the governor’s seat.
During Thanksgiving weekend, volunteers set up sign-and-drive petitions near shopping mall and department store entrances. Some volunteers statewide plan to set up shop outside schools at holiday basketball tournaments and even at deer cleaning stations.
“There’s so many options, but we’re going where the people are,” said Graeme Zielinski, a spokesman for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.
The Democratic Party of Rock County sent emails last week seeking volunteers to staff three-hour shifts at local retail outlets for petition drives Friday, Saturday and today. Locations in Janesville included The Janesville Mall, Home Depot and Walmart.
Roger Anclam, a local recall volunteer from Turtle Township, said a network of more than 100 volunteers is working local petition drives.
All volunteers associated with the recall effort must be state residents. Most pick up petitions from recall campaign headquarters at local labor union offices in Janesville and Beloit and then take them to the streets to gather signatures.
Petitions then are collected at recall headquarters, logged into a computer system and filed with officials with the Government Accountability Board.
Anclam said recall umbrella group United Wisconsin trained volunteers to legally and properly gather signatures. He said organizers tell volunteers to stay on public property unless they receive authorization to be on private property.
“We give them a list of do’s and don’ts, and if they’re asked to leave somewhere, we tell them to leave,” Anclam said. “We don’t want to argue with anyone or be problematic.”
Late last week, a Best Buy store in Madison asked recall volunteers to leave after they’d wandered onto store property, WISC-TV reported. Best Buy doesn’t allow solicitation on any of its properties.
On Friday, as waves of shoppers flowed in and out of The Janesville Mall, recall volunteers lined entrances to the mall. An officer at the mall’s security office reported that recall volunteers were being allowed to work from sidewalks near the mall, but they were told to stay off mall property and out of mall parking areas.
Janesville police have said the city is allowing volunteers to collect signatures in public as long as they stay on public sidewalks or other public areas and don’t block rights of way.
Janesville officials have said public entities such as Hedberg Public Library can legally opt not to allow recall volunteers to work inside the building.
Last week, recall volunteer Bart Munger of Milton was staked out at the west edge of the parking lot at Big Lots on Milton Avenue in Janesville. In a span of 10 minutes, he collected six signatures from people in vehicles who pulled in for drive-through signings.
Munger has been setting up shop near Big Lots since the recall effort kicked off. He says it’s a “good, busy spot” near a major thoroughfare, and it’s adjacent to several stores and the local post office.
Munger said he had not been approached by anyone from Big Lots or other businesses at an adjoining strip mall. He said he’d find another spot if the businesses didn’t want him in the parking area.
Munger’s official petitioner’s credentials—a blue and white paper placard with the words “Recall Volunteer”—were in his car. He produced them for The Gazette and said he shows them to anyone who asks to see them.
Some have expressed concern that people could tamper with the recall effort by collecting signatures and disposing of the petitions—which is illegal.
“Not many people really ask to see it,” Munger said. “It’s just a piece of paper. I tell them if they don’t trust me, they can always sign with somebody else.”