Friday, May 24, 2024

A backer of recalling Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker shows off a sign — and a sense of humor — March 12 in Madison, Wis. (Photo: Jonathan Bloy)

Wisconsin Democrats are disputing signatures gathered to recall Democratic state representatives, citing “deception and fraud” by professional signature gatherers brought in from out of state, according to the political website Talking Points Memo.

Cambridge got experience with paid, out-of-state signature gatherers last fall, when software entrepreneur Terry Ragon paid a business $319,366 (or 72 percent of all money in the coffers of his Save Our Skyline group, to which he contributed all but $525 of its $441,898 in funds) to help defeat a change to the city’s corporate sign law.

Residents and officials in Cambridge complained that the professionals, paid $2 per signature, lied and used strong-arm tactics to get names on petitions — alarming people with claims of “neon signs” going atop buildings, when no such signs were allowed — and wound up with 11,461 valid signatures out of 15,581 turned in, with valid signatures totaling 18.2 percent of the city’s 62,957 voters, according to the Election Commission. Councillors, opting to save the expense of a special election and public relations campaign, took back the sign law.

Democrats in Wisconsin say they’ve gotten complaints signature gatherers are presenting their petitions are in favor of Democratic state senators, when they actually oppose them. Using tricks to gather signatures to oust Democrats makes sense in a state where polls showed that in the issue at stake — Republicans’ efforts to strip unions of their collective-bargaining rights — public opinion is significantly in favor of unions and Democrats and against the governor and other state Republicans.

Even the right-leaning Rasmussen polling firm reported in early March that 57 percent of likely Wisconsin voters disapproved of Gov. Scott Walker after his anti-union efforts; around the same time, a PPP poll showed voters were about even on whether Walker should be recalled, which he can be after his first year in office is complete.

The recalls in the state senate are even more practical than a recall of Walker; the anti-union legislation passed in the senate because there’s a 19-14 Republican majority.

Democrats have filed five recall petitions in Wisconsin; Republicans have filed three, according to Talking Points Memo.