After accusations of groups organizing to destroy recall petitions surfaced, a group mobilizing the recall effort of Gov. Scott Walker has established a reward for information leading to the arrest of anyone responsible for destroying or damaging a recall petition.
Progressive organization One Wisconsin Now, a strong supporter of the recall, is offering a $10,000 reward in response to reports of individuals destroying signed recall petitions. The organization will only offer the reward to individuals who report information between Nov. 22 and Jan. 14, or when petitioners are collecting signatures.
“We cannot allow democracy to be threatened by those who would illegally destroy recall petitions with valid signatures on them,” Scot Ross, executive director of One Wisconsin Now, said in a statement.
On Nov. 17, the Madison Police Department received a report of a man ripping up a petition containing three signatures, MPD Spokesperson Joel DeSpain said in a police report.
If more than one person reports the incident, the reward would go to the first person who reports the incident. If One Wisconsin Now receives multiple reports of petition destruction, they will split the award between the people who give information. However, if the information provided does not lead to an arrest, they will not give out the reward, according to the statement.
In response to possible signature forgery on recall petitions, the Republican Party of Wisconsin has launched the Recall Integrity Center, where citizens can report suspected instances of fraudulent signatures.
According to a statement, the Republican Party has received reports of voter fraud and has issued screenshots of Facebook pages in which people claim to have signed the names of family members to petitions or have announced they plan to sign recall petitions twice.
“The complete and utter disregard for Wisconsin’s election law by individuals associated with the recall of Governor Walker is increasing by the day,” Benjamin Sparks, GOP spokesperson, said in a statement. “These shameful tactics on the part of Wisconsin Democrats only highlight the fact that this baseless recall of Governor Walker is nothing more than an attempted power grab on the part of liberal special interests.”
Despite these efforts, volunteers continue to collect signatures from Wisconsinites who want to recall Walker on a daily basis, Meagan Mahaffey, spokesperson for United Wisconsin, said in an email to The Badger Herald.
“In the first 96 hours, over 105,000 residents signed a petition to recall Scott Walker – a clear indication that Wisconsin is ready to recall,” Mahaffey said.
Providing fraudulent information or destroying a recall petition is a felony, Michael Haas, a spokesperson for the Government Accountability Board, said in an email to The Badger Herald. The maximum sentence is three and a half years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
When recall petitions are filed, the board only verifies the petitions’ signatures and dates. They also check to make sure the person who circulated the petition has signed it, Haas said. While the GAB verifies each address is a Wisconsin address in statewide recalls, they do not verify each address.
“The information on a petition is presumed to be valid and the burden of proof for any challenge to a signature rests with the individual bringing the challenge,” Haas said.
The incumbent officeholder has 10 days to submit a challenge after the petition for recall has been filed, Haas said.