Volunteers Start Circulating Recall Walker Petitions Just after Midnight

Nov 15, 2011

After months of planning, the major groups hoping to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker kicked off their efforts overnight.

The state Democratic party and the group United Wisconsin held events around the state to distribute recall petitions and collect the first signatures.

WUWM’s Ann-Elise Henzl stopped in at one of the gatherings, and joined Bob Bach in the studio for this conversation.

Recall petitions and other papers lined the tables at the recall campaign headquarters on Milwaukee's northwest side.

Ann-Elise Henzl: I stopped at the recall headquarters on the city’s Northwest side, near 76th and Appleton. There, a few dozen people got together around 11:30 p.m. But they waited until just after midnight to start collecting signatures and circulating those recall petitions.

And the reason they waited until after midnight is because the groups behind the recall effort chose today – the 15th – as the first they can circulate papers. That starts a 60-day clock ticking. They’ll have 60 days in which they’ll have to they’ll have to collect and turn in signatures.

I talked to one of the organizers, Stephanie Findley, in the wee hours of this morning. She said the volunteers will get to work immediately.

“This was really good for us tonight, I mean, for ‘midnight madness,’ for people to come out. Most of these people who came out are volunteers, so they can hit the ground running first thing come tomorrow morning. Well it’s already morning! So I guess, 6:00-7:00 a.m., they can jit the ground running to go collect their signatures. So it was good for them to come and get signed up this early,” Findley says.

Bob Bach: Do you know where the volunteers will attempt to collect the signatures?

Henzl: They’re looking for high-visibility locations, places where it will be easy for those interested in signing petitions to spot them and pull over or walk over and sign the petition. Stephanie Findley – who we heard from a moment ago – says she’s staked out a spot.

“Well, I’m going to be on the corner of 30th and Hampton, I’m hitting all of my neighbors, and then there’s a lot of traffic coming down Hampton. I’ll have table and sign up sheet, right there. They can stop and drive up, sign, and keep going,” Findley says.

Henzl: Another volunteer, Chris Christie, says that she’ll start her day today outside Beans & Barley, a restaurant on the east side. She also says she’ll also stop at grocery stores, resale shops and coffee houses in weeks to come.

“You can’t go on private property unless somebody gives you permission. But you can stand on public sidewalks and you can stand near a place as long as you’re on the sidewalk, so that’s where we’ll be,” Christie says.

Bach: The conversations about recalling the governor began in earnest last winter, during the debate over his divisive limits to collective bargaining for public employees. Is that the issue that’s driving most of the recall workers?

Kathy Smith was one of the first to sign a recall petition early Tuesday morning.

Henzl: The people I spoke overnight with said their opposition started over the union rights issue.

Retired teacher Larry Duetsch is working in the Recall Walker office in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood.

“I’m very proud of this state and I’m particularly proud of its progressive traditions, and this governor has attempted to destroy them. I can’t live with that. I will do everything I can to turn him out of office and reclaim the state that I grew up in, and that I’ve lived my entire life in,” Duetsch says.

Duetsch says he’s also upset with the governor for other issues, including for big cuts to public education.

And some other people at the recall kick-off told me they don’t like Walker’s proposed Medicaid cuts.

Jamal Murddin is a Milwaukee resident who plans to circulate petitions. He was there to sign one right away at 12:01 a.m. He says he’s working to recall the governor for his cuts to the UW System and his tax breaks for businesses. In his opinion, Murddin says Walker is “stepping on the middle class.”

“Everybody’s talking about it around in my circle, in my life -- my friends, family. But I think we all need a little more education, on as far as how to make sure that we follow through and get him on out of here,” Murddin says.

Bach: So the organizers are now out collecting signatures and they have 60 days. What happens next?

Henzl: They have to collect a lot: 540,208 to be exact. And assuming they do that, the Government Accountability Board will review the petitions. That process will take at least 30 days, according to the board. And if the signatures are approved by the board – and survive any possible challenges from Walker’s supporters – a recall election could be scheduled, perhaps this spring.