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Walker Recall Petitioners Find Their Place — On the Sidewalk

With most municipalities prohibiting political activity in public buildings, and businesses trying to stay neutral, volunteers must take to public sidewalks to collect signatures.

In her first 15 minutes stationed outside of store in Shorewood, Karen Morris-Cetin collected five signatures from passers-by for her petition to recall Gov. Scott Walker.

Her folding chair, with the back cushion removed and replaced with a "Recall Walker" sign, stood on the public sidewalk — one of the only places in the North Shore where petition holders are allowed.

Of every public building in Shorewood, Whitefish Bay, Fox Point, Bayside, Port Washington and Saukville, the only place people have been allowed to collect signatures is in the lobby of the , due to a precedence of campaigning there.

“The library in the past has been used for political activity,” Shorewood Village Manager Chris Swartz explained. “We either have to say 'yes' to everything or 'no' to everything, but we can’t be picking and choosing.”

Banned from collecting signatures in public buildings in Port Washington and Saukville, groups of petitioners have gathered in downtown Port Washington on the sidewalk along West Grand Avenue — carrying recall posters and prompting honks of support from passing traffic.

According to a memorandum from Kevin Kennedy, director and general counsel for the state's Government Accountability Board, there is no statute governing the use of government buildings for political activity, and it is up to local communities to decide what to allow.

In Whitefish Bay, for example, officials have established rules prohibiting political meetings defined as "gatherings for candidacy for a person or a party" in village hall. Village Manager Patrick DeGrave said he considers collecting recall signatures to meet that definition.

So the petitioners, , have kept mostly to the sidewalks.

But even there, they occasionally step onto the private property of businesses and have bothered some customers and managers who want to keep politics out of their establishments.

manager Frank McGlockin said the store has asked the Shorewood police to investigate the presence of the recall petitioners, but police said they are allowed to collect signatures outside the Oakland Avenue store as long as they stay on the public sidewalk.

McGlockin said some people have crossed the line onto the store property and managers have asked them to move back to the sidewalk.

"I don't care for it; I wish they would go elsewhere,” McGlockin said. "We're not a political entity. We're neutral, and we don't want to upset one group of our customers over the petition … But they are protected by the constitution to be on a public sidewalk."

McGlockin said about two customers per day complain about the recall volunteers outside the store.

"They say they don't want to be bombarded when they're coming into the store,” McGlockin said.

Many businesses consider collecting signatures to be a form of solicitation and prohibit it by policy on their grounds, though they can't force petitioners off the sidewalk.

Bayshore Town Center, while permeated with busy sidewalks, is privately owned and can decide who to allow on the walkways on its grounds. According to marketing manager M.P. Theriault, Bayshore prohibits solicitation and has told the Democratic Party of Wisconsin not to collect signatures there — a request she said they have respected.

Looking to field more serious complaints about petitioner behavior, the Republican Party of Wisconsin set up the Recall Integrity Center, a hotline for concerns about suspicious behavior in collecting signatures.

"The Republican Party of Wisconsin has been alerted to multiple instances of misconduct by means of the RIC, including the use of government resources to communicate documents pertaining to the recall effort, as well as multiple online communications regarding potential recall petition fraud on the part of Wisconsin Democrats," Ben Sparks, communications director for the Republican Party of Wisconsin, said in a statement.

But Graeme Zielinski, communications director for the state Democratic Party, said most petitioners have cooperated with local business and are abiding by what the business owners ask, which is to not badger and harass customers.

“A lot of businesses support us and the process has been smooth,” Zielinski said. “Republicans are just trying to show there is a problem with petitioners and businesses.”

Morris-Cetin, who has collected signatures in Glendale and Shorewood, said the hasn't had any major issues, and her biggest conflicts are with individuals walking or driving by who disapprove of the recall.

"Scott Walker has totally polarized the state," she said. " My sister and I cannot even discuss this. To me, that's sad."

Greg December 08, 2011 at 07:30 PM
I understand what he is trying to say, not that he is doing a very good job of saying it. Saying that your dead relitive can't vote really is not going to move my position much. I understand most democrats think the dead should be able to vote, as many have, but that just makes a better case for voter ID. At one point you didn't even need a DL to drive, back when Kieth's MIL was young, but times change. Back then women probably could not vote -preiod-, but times change. Now the law requires you to prove who you are, not dead and all, times have changed. Get over it.
Greg December 08, 2011 at 07:47 PM
Just to be clear, I am not equating the Right to Vote with the driving privilege. So don't bother jumping on that one. Just using the DL because Kieth's comment used it. I am pretty clear on the other forms of photo ID, that have nothing to do with driving. A death certificate will not be accepted, they don't have photo's.
Sam Vedder December 08, 2011 at 07:49 PM
@ Keith... So you're the one that watches Olbermann. There is a reason his ratings are horrible. It's cause he's NEVER right. He even lies about the college he attended. You have lost all credibility (like you ever had any) if you defend Keith Freak'n Olbermann - The worst person in the world! Please answer the question: explain how your mother-in-law not having a drivers license has anything do with her ability to vote? By the way Keith; you are a hypocrite of the worst kind. You accuse me of making assumptions about you and then in the same rant you make assumptions about me. By I guess, in typical liberal fashion, those rules only apply to other people and not you. Keep it up Keith, you are well on your way to take over Olbermann's spot as "Worst Person in the World." Although, we may expand it for you.
Greg December 08, 2011 at 08:07 PM
The vote to allow Keith's MIL to vote: The key vote came on June 4, 1919, when the Senate approved the amendment by 56 to 25 after four hours of debate, during which Democratic Senators opposed to the amendment filibustered to prevent a roll call until their absent Senators could be protected by pairs. The Ayes included 36 (82%) Republicans and 20 (54%) Democrats. The Nays comprised 8 (18%) Republicans and 17 (46%) Democrats. It was ratified by sufficient states in 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment, which prohibited state or federal gender-based restrictions on voting. Thank god for the republicans, people like Keith would never have given her the right in the first place.
Mike December 10, 2011 at 01:12 PM
Keith definitely made my day by talking about his LATE mother in law not being able to vote. Another strong liberal arguement about voter suppresion of the dead.

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