Thursday, March 29, 2012

Recall is a Constitutional Right - Defend It!

The recent and increasing recall signature demonization and prohibition is an attack on our rights and democracy, and it must be called out and stopped. Recalling elected officials is a right defined in the 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.


  1. Yeah, that's all nice but, if your employer wants to target you you're screwed.
    Employers who have decided they really want to fire someone can and do. People act all high and mighty about your "rights" but they're really a myth. The EEOC is dead, suing your employer for that or other forms of discrimination is a joke and most often a joke no one can afford, and employers are really good at fixing your employe file and making it look legit anyways.
    I don't intend to be mean here, but when you say "the attack should be redirected with a strong defense of democracy and the rights defined in the Wisconsin Constitution.", what is that really? Those are high sounding but very empty words.
    You're fired, you can't prove it, everyone else there is desperate for a job and !TRUST ME! in whistle-blower situations your co-workers and others DO NOT STAND UP with you, they just don't. They have kids, they have bills, they have a dog and plans for the weekend. Most times people give off a vibe that the "target employee" should have "known better" should have kept whatever it was that got them in "trouble" on the down low. You'll find out who your friends are and "zero" is a common number. They'll say sympathetic stuff to you one-on-one but they won't call attention to themselves. The rhetoric is nice and very poetic but the imbalance of power most of us face in Life is not just talking points. Private sector people jump when they are told to jump, they keep stuff that will enrage the boss hid or they find a boot on their ass.
    McCarthyism "should" not happen. All the "shoulds" dry up like old leaves when faced with reality. Amy Goodman does not turn her cameras on every single mistreated person and there are a lot of exploited persons in America today, people who live in fear of retaliation and the Constitution does not get up and turn into Superman and save their ass.
    Been there, done that. Employers who want to fire/retaliate on an employee for their politics or orientation or whatever will be able to get away with it. They will.
    Check it - women "should" not be raped and abused. There are laws all over the place about that, Still, more are than we will ever know. More women who try to stand up and fight that are knocked back down than we will ever know. What good does the Constitution do for them?
    People get away with horrible stuff every single day. Should does no good. Read accounts of what it's really like to be a whistle blower. It ain't fun I can tell you that. All this air of retaliation will have a profound effect on all future protest/activist initiatives where people's names can be revealed. It will for sure. There's a reason V for Vendetta has everyone in Guy Fawkes masks - you need 'em or you get burned.
    Sadly it will not be the Democrats who take the brunt of the retaliation for the recall, it will be unseen average folks without a voice who thought they had a moment of participation and "populist power" when they signed that petition. Now they're finding out how much power they (don't) have. People will never know about all the people for whom that signature had "consequences".

    1. Thanks for your comments, O! I don't disagree with you at all.

      However, I wasn't talking about a defense one can use when fired.

      I was talking more broadly. That we should publicly attack people who make such statements and those companies who would do such things. They should be shamed in public. We shouldn't sit by and let companies and organizations make statements like Gannett did.

      Perception is a lot. If these companies are perceived as doing the right thing, things will only get worse.

      The only way we can stop this type of political bullying is for the people of Wisconsin to stand up for our rights. We need to make it known that disciplining or firing people for taking part in their democracy is ethically wrong if not illegal. These companies aren't right, and we must take them on as a community.

      We can sit back and say "shoulds" are nice, or we can keep hammering away.

  2. I think maybe we should talk about making recall signatures anonymous - just like votes.