Wisconsin Constitution. It's not "political activity" as Gannett recently tried to label it as an explanation for their outrage and reason for disciplining their employees for not following Gannett's political views. No one in Wisconsin should be denied the right to sign a recall petition, because not signing a recall petition is the same "political activity" as signing one.
See that's the problem. Gannett can cloak their political motives in "ethics," but it's the same as disciplining someone for voting or not voting for someone. Gannett could use the same reasoning to discipline everyone who didn't sign a recall petition, because signing or not signing a petition are answers to the same electoral question that is answered based on proportions of the electoral population.
As with elections, you're offered a choice. When you are informed that recall petitions are being circulated, you have the choice to either sign a petition or not sign a petition. You express your support for giving Wisconsin a chance to remove an elected officer by signing a petition, and you express your support for keeping an elected official in office by not signing a petition. And yes, people abstain from both for various reasons, that's the third answer to such an electoral question. Well over a million people in Wisconsin made this conscious decision this past winter. It's the same decision you make during an election with an incumbent. Prohibiting someone who wants to sign a recall petition is forcing them to take a stance they don't support.
As with elections, a recall requires the support of a certain proportion of the people. There are a finite number of eligible voters in Wisconsin. The proportions set forth in the Wisconsin Constitution recognize this and do not take into account citizens who are "prohibited" from signing a recall petition. Therefore, by prohibiting people from signing recall petitions, recalls become more difficult than intended, requiring a higher proportion of the electorate than specified in the Wisconsin Constitution. The increased demonization only seeks to increase the number of people who are "prohibited" from signing a recall petition in order to make it more difficult for citizens to recall their elected officials without going through the work of changing our constitution.
Recall petitions have less power than elections. Signing a petition does not mean that you want to remove an elected official, it just means that you want Wisconsin to be given that choice. Recalling an elected official doesn't remove them from office, it only allows for Wisconsin to hold an election to choose whether or not they want to remove the official. Signing a recall petition is not express support for or against any elected official or candidate. You may sign a recall petition but then later vote for the current elected official during the recall election.
However, not signing a recall petition is expressing support for an elected official, because you become part of the proportion that keeps the official in office. No matter how many people sign a recall petition and want an official removed, the official stays in office. The people in support of the elected official get what they want simply by getting enough people to not sign a petition. So, not signing a recall petition has more power than signing one. One answer is in clear support of an elected official, while the other answer is only support of a recall election.
Demonizing people for signing recall petitions, or prohibiting people from signing them, will make people think about whether or not they want to go through that next time a recall petition is circulated. No matter which party the elected official may belong to. The decision about whether or not to sign a recall petition will no longer be just about the elected official. It'll be about a job, a career, and even one's safety and the safety of their family. A right defined in the Wisconsin Constitution to receive proper representation shouldn't come with such heavy personal considerations. The demonization will force people to take stances that they don't support.
For these reasons, no one, not judges, not political appointees, not journalists, not anyone should be prohibited from or demonized or disciplined for signing a recall petition. In addition, judges shouldn't need to admit to signing a recall petition before or during any case, because recall decisions should be irrelevant to a judge's ability to be fair, just as their votes are. And if anyone wanted to know, it's public information. So, really, what's the point other than to demonize them?
A recall is not political activism, it's democracy, and Gannett may be violating the Wisconsin Constitution by disciplining their employees for signing recall petitions.
The next time someone attacks a recall petition signer, the attack should be redirected with a strong defense of democracy and the rights defined in the Wisconsin Constitution.