Residents who signed legitimate recall petitions may never have them counted by the Government Accountability Board.
A Caledonia resident, who asked not to have his name used, told Caledonia Patch that he and at least two other people in Racine are collecting signatures to recall Scott Walker, but have no intention of turning them into the GAB. Instead, they want people to think they've signed the petition, but not actually have their signatures count.
They are doing this to sabotage the recall effort, the resident said.
"The man claimed he had already collected 150 signatures at Walmart and Pick'n Save on 27th Street in Franklin yesterday," according to the report. "However, when asked to produce the documents, he said, he would need to think about showing them to Patch. He said he won't be turning them into the GAB, but hasn't destroyed them."
That has since changed. The group, who call themselves Operation Burn Notice, claim they're operating within the law. "The Democrats put this out there and they made some mistakes," the man originally told CP. "If you go to their Facebook page, you can download the petition from right there. I’m sure they are counting how many are being downloaded, but just because they are printed, don’t mean they’ll be used... It’s not illegal to collect them and not turn them in."
Turns out that yeah, that's as illegal as you'd expect. The man now says he'll turn the petitions over to the Government Accountability Board (GAB). The GAB says that "destroying or defacing an official recall petition would violate state law... Such a violation... would be a class I felony in Wisconsin, which carries a maximum fine of $10,000 and up to three-and-a-half years in jail."
Still Operation Burn Notice claims to have collected 100,000 signatures, which they plan to destroy in a "public burn" on January 14. I'm guessing that, given the severity of the proposed crime, that's never going to happen.
Whether they're actually going to destroy them or not, anecdotal evidence suggests they're out there collecting signatures. In the comment section to a post at the local Dane101 blog, Erica R. writes:
My boyfriend almost caught two of the people from that facebook page.
Two men were in his neighborhood collecting petition signatures and we walked up to them and discussed the recall efforts and Scott Walker. They acted strange and laughed awkwardly while looking at each other.
We knew something was up so I quickly ran to my car where I had stupidly left my iPhone. By the time I got it, the two men were running down the block in the opposite direction with my boyfriend behind him.
One made a threat about having a gun, so he stopped running. They shouted "Operation Burn Notice!" from far away. We tried to chase them down in my car, but they were gone and I have no idea how they managed to get away so quickly
If I saw a picture of the men, I could identify them.
"There is no gray area here," said Graeme Zielinski, spokesman for the Wisconsin Democratic Party. "What they are doing is highly illegal." He guesses that the aim isn't actually to destroy the petitions, but to create doubt when people see legit canvassers.
"They want legitimate circulators to be turned away," he explained. "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 on the Department of Justice to investigate.
"If these folks have ties to the Republican or TEA party, they need to look at themselves at the top," he said.
In another instance of petition fraud, a group claiming to be "Occupy-Madison" announced on their website that all the signatures needed had been collected and instructed readers to stop collecting them and destroy any petitions they had. That site has since been shut down.
"There have been several false blog posts and web updates claiming that the recall effort has a certain amount of signatures, or in one case that we have collected all that we need," advises the Wisconsin Democratic Party. "All are false. Please don't believe any numbers unless they are officially released by United WI. Any numbers UW puts out will be corroborated by Wisdems. Please pass along."
As things are now, these efforts to stop the recall seem hopeless. 540,208 signatures must be collected within 60 days of the recall campaign's launch and, at only twelve days in, United Wisconsin reported 300,000 collected. The goal is 600,000-700,000, to create a buffer to allow for mistakes and mischief.
But if the petition fraud campaign is doomed, it also demonstrates a pretty obvious fact -- pro-Walker people are running scared.