Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Burden should be on challengers, not signers, for petition discrepancies

Bills would increase incentive to vandalize petitions, deceive signers

With job numbers continuing their downward decline in the state, it's only natural that state Republican lawmakers do what they do best: ignore the issue entirely and focus on something else completely unrelated.

In this case, it's the recall. Not the recall elections against the governor and several state lawmakers themselves, but of multiple signatures on recall petitions, an issue that's upsetting Republicans because the burden of proof to verify recall signatures rests on them.

So to make their job a little easier, lawmakers like Republican State Sen. Glenn Grothman have determined to make multiple signatures an illegal act, punishable by up to six months of jail time. A similar bill submitted by Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, also a Republican, would make the act a felony.

Of course, it's forgotten by those on the right who abhor these multiple signers that those doing so are simply trying to ensure that their names are counted. With the fear of anti-recall pro-Walker activists vandalizing petitions (openly threatening to pose as volunteers only to destroy real petitions later), it became a necessity for some signers to put their names on two or three different petitions if they couldn't know for sure that the petitioner was legitimate.

The bills proposed by Republican lawmakers would grant such vandals even greater reason to intimidate and deceive those hoping to sign a petition. By lawfully restricting citizens the right to sign multiple petition forms, any petition destroyed would almost guarantee that names would be dropped where they rightly belonged.

The burden of proof on removing multiple signers is right to rest upon those wishing to dispute such signatures. The laws proposed by Grothman and Fitzgerald should be dismissed.

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