Citizen Accountability in Wisconsin Recall

When I was first made aware of a video showing a ‘Recall Walker’ volunteer trading cigarettes to children in exchange for petition signatures, I was convinced that I must have seen the worst of the corruption in this process. “It could not continue like this,” I told myself, “they will crack down on fraud.”

I was wrong.

In the past few days, I have received countless emails and phone calls regarding the heights—or, rather, lows—that the Recall Walker camp has exhibited in their attempt to remove the beloved Wisconsin governor from his position. There have been reports of a young woman signing for her parents, and a gentleman promising to “cheat to get Scott Walker outta [sic] here” by signing the petition, as he reported, eighty times.

For one group of volunteers to completely evaluate the validity of over 500,000 signatures required of the Recall Walker camp is an insurmountable task, one which they are not expected to be able to complete effectively according to statements previously made by the Government Accountability Board (GAB). Even if they are able to complete this task, the GAB has assumed that it will take them sixty days, near twice the amount of time as required under law (thirty-one days), to fully examine each of the over 500,000 signatures. This creates a specific problem that some signature errors may mistakenly be overlooked, or that volunteers will be more concerned with time limits than legality.

Thankfully, the task is not limited to the board alone, nor is it limited to Wisconsin residents. On Monday, the MacIver Institute reported that they had created a website to verify the recall by allowing volunteers to aid in verifying signatures, as well as making use of technological developments that are able to “identify duplicate signatures and other signature irregularities.” This system will not remove the burden on the Government Accountability Board entirely, but rather allow for yet another check and balance in the recount petition signature affirmation step, which determines if the recall elections are to happen or not.

For a group that began the recall to ensure that Governor Walker is held responsible for his political actions during this past session, United Wisconsin is failing to maintain responsibility in their own organization. At no point on their website do they even address the instances of recall fraud, nor do they discourage it from occuring. Therefore, the average citizen must be concerned with the validity of recall petition signatures, for a single example of fraud raises concerns on the fairness of the political system itself. Abuse cannot, and must not, continue.

Caitlyn Stenerson // Carthage College // @stenersonMN

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Comments

  1. The video and others like it are unavailable.

  2. A set of beliefs do not make someone an independent thinker. The ability to reason for oneself does. As for the article, I’m not sure I understand your point, Caitlyn. Corruption is bad? Everyone thinks that, regardless of their political affiliation. If you’re trying to say that the Recall movement is corrupt, you need to provide evidence for that. A few random people trying to cheat Walker out only proves that there are dishonest people signing the petition, not that the whole movement is corrupt. I’d suspect that at least a few such people are part of any movement, but that doesn’t reflect on any such movement as a whole. Finally, claiming that United Wisconsin doesn’t mention “instances of recall fraud, nor do they discourage it from occuring [sic]” does not mean that they encourage it. It’s fallacious for your evidence to be a lack of evidence for the opposing position. So I don’t know what the implication there is supposed to be. Like I said before, if it’s that corruption is bad, that idea is hardly confined to either the left or right.

  3. Also, ignore that first sentence. It was intended for Facebook.

  4. “Abuse cannot, and must not, continue.” I think you’re forgetting who you’re talking about.

  5. @Max “If you’re trying to say that the Recall movement is corrupt, you need to provide evidence for that.”

    She did, Max. You simply chose to ignore them.

    We aren’t falling for the Saul Alinsky tactics anymore, Max: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”

    As an obvious follower of Alinski, you would do anything to get your way, just as he advised; lie, cheat, steal… probably worse if you thought you could get away with it.

    We are watching you, Max. We have targeted you. We have you in our cross-hairs.

  6. I stopped reading after “beloved” governor. Haha. Right.

  7. @Joe ThePimpernel “She did, Max. You simply chose to ignore them.”

    I think Max was clear that despite the fact that some people in the “Recall Walker” movement are less than scrupulous- there isn’t evidence that the movement as a whole is corrupt.

    Suppose for example that I (along with a group of like minded ruffians) decided to steal some of the petitions, certainly that doesn’t mean that the Pro Walker camp is corrupt, just that some subset of its members are. I’d like to see a non-trivial organization that is absolutely skullduggery-free.

    As to Caitlyn’s point that United Wisconsin doesn’t have any official postings discouraging fraud is rather irrelevant. It seems that if we were to accept Caitlyn’s rather silly reasoning, we’d ought to be criticizing just about every website for not discouraging the unethical behavior of a subset of its users. For example, this upstanding website has not officially discouraged a myriad of illegal behavior (drug use, harassing “Recall Walker” volunteers, shoplifting, cheating on homework or exams etc) even though a non-trivial proportion of this website’s readers engage in such behavior. Does this mean that “thecollegeconservative.com” (or just about any website that does not explicitly discourage a whole laundry list of behavior) condoning or encouraging unethical behavior? Of course not.

    If one were to argue that the movement as a whole is corrupt (which Caitlyn was utterly incapable of doing), they ought to show that the official position of the group includes encouragement of shady behavior (a quick perusal of United Wisconsin’s website shows none of this). Even better, would be to do statistical analysis of the movement’s volunteers showing that there is statistically significant evidence that the proportion of volunteers is higher than other groups (though it would be difficult to get a truly random sample of volunteers, prevent reporting bias etc). Basically, anecdotal “evidence” is for tabloids, not serious discussion. Until there is actual evidence for widespread corruption, I suggest that this sort of rabble rousing be ignored.

    For these reasons (and others I omitted for fear of being more long-winded than I already am), I think it would be appropriate for this website to change its name from “The College Conservative” to “The College Conservative who enjoys making bad arguments”.

  8. For those of you claiming a small group of people who may be corrupt does not make the movement corrupt are incorrect in saying so. If the movement is simply a protest against Walker your argument makes sense. However, based on petitioning and needing to reach a particular threshold of signatures, any bit of corruption does in fact call into question the entire list. Putting your fingers in your ears and covering your eyes does not mean it isn’t happening and ignoring the corruption in the gathering of signatures is just as deceiving.

    By agreeing there is some people falsifying signatures and questioning the means of obtaining them you are agreeing with what this article is trying to say. These people aren’t a tumor you can separate yourself from by saying you don’t agree with what they are doing because once their sheets are submitted with everyone else’s the entire petition is tainted.

    By turning a blind eye you are just as guilty.

  9. Sam, your reply is problematic. First, the threshold of signatures required on a petition is set high precisely because there is bound to be fraud (there are going to be instances of fraud whenever 500,000 signatures are required, the fact that Caitlyn was able to point out a few in this case is trivial). Second, I’m not saying that the petition shouldn’t be reviewed, obviously if groups are able to catch questionable signatures, those signatures should not be counted towards the threshold but that in no way implies that the whole petition should be treated as suspect, only the offending signatures. Third, Sam’s line of reasoning leads to all sorts of problems. Suppose I don’t agree with a particular petition, so I volunteer for the group and engage in illegal behavior while collecting signatures should the entire list be discredited? I’m not saying that this is what happened in the Walker case, rather I’m saying that this is the sort of thing that Sam’s position would allow. Fourth, agreeing that there are isolated cases in no way makes me agree to what the article is saying. The article states that United Wisconsin is somehow at fault for “failing to maintain responsibility”. Yet even if I were to buy into your view that the entire petition is tainted, blame should be put on the individual perpetrators not United Wisconsin. Fifth, it seems inconsistent to pick on this petition in particular, when attempts at fraud are inherent in any petition-gathering enterprise.

    My compatriots and I are hardly “turning a blind eye”. Rather, it seems more effective to audit petitions carefully than throw out all of the honest effort on the grounds of a few wrongdoers.

  10. Alan, right from the start you are contradicting yourself. You state the reason the number of signatures is set so high is to account for fraud followed by there’s bound to be fraud because the number of signatures is set so high.

    Secondly, you contradict yourself by agreeing that this document should be reviewed and questionable signatures should be thrown out, but the petition shouldn’t be treated as suspect. What Caitlyn provides here is evidence of there being fraud. It isn’t the assumption their is fraud…there IS fraud. That no longer allows you to say, ‘well let’s delete that one, all better!’ Where there is smoke there is fire and if there is already reports of multiple fraudulent signatures it does make your petition suspect.

    This isn’t an instance where you can be ‘kind of accurate’, once this petition is submitted it is either accepted or not. There is no middle ground. That is why my statement, ‘once their sheets are submitted with everyone else’s the entire petition is tainted’ is an accurate one.

    These individuals are representing this organization and the organization is accepting the signatures they are providing. Both are liable for the results produced, to separate the two is impossible.

    “Fifth, it seems inconsistent to pick on this petition in particular, when attempts at fraud are inherent in any petition-gathering enterprise.” Are you saying don’t question it because this happens all the time? Here’s where we won’t see eye to eye. If something is wrong I will question it and thankfully Caitlyn has done the same thing by writing this article. This statement puts you right under my statement of ‘turning a blind eye’. Thank you for supporting my argument.

  11. Okay, I see where you think that I’m contradicting myself, but I think it can be easily clarified.
    First, suppose that the “minimum number of legitimate signatures” were 400,000, fraud would be inherent, so the total is set to 500,000. Basically, when I said the total is set high, maybe a better sentence would be, “set higher than it would be had fraud not been an issue.” The “MNoLS” can be high enough to imply fraud, even before upping the number of signatures.
    As to the second alleged contradiction, of course I maintain that the entire petition be audited. When I said “the whole thing shouldn’t be treated as suspect” I meant to say that outside of the auditing process, the petition as a whole shouldn’t be criticized (in say, opinion pieces). So in a sense, sure, the whole thing should be treated as suspect, but in the setting of the auditing process, what I’m against is the hatchet job of the movement.

    Third, you say that once the petition is submitted, the whole thing is accepted or it’s not. This is demonstrably false. Individual names are culled all the time from petitions, but that doesn’t mean that the volunteers have to go out again to collect a 100% untainted petition.

    “These individuals are representing this organization and the organization is accepting the signatures they are providing. Both are liable for the results produced, to separate the two is impossible.”

    Again, I refer you to my thought experiment about a conservative cause which I volunteer for and engage in unethical behavior while collecting signatures, obviously it’s fairly easy to separate me from the organization, even if I’ve already submitted my papers.

    I’m not saying we shouldn’t question it because it happens all the time. Rather I’m saying 1. Question the actual perpetrators not their associates. 2. Be more vocal when this sort of thing happens in conservative organizations (I find it highly convenient that there is no substanitive criticism of anything conservative on this site, obviously this sight has an ideological point of view, things like fraud definitely happen on both sides). 3. It seems sensationalist to be railing against three instances of crime, I don’t see anyone writing articles about individual drug deals they see or individual shopliftings, I’m not saying that they aren’t wrong, rather, they don’t merit whole articles.

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