MADISON, Wis. - Madison police said a man suspected of ripping up a petition to recall Gov. Scott Walker could face a felony charge.
Citizens soliciting recall signatures contacted Madison police about 10:30 a.m. Thursday after a man ripped up one of their petitions, according to the Madison Police Department.
Police said the citizens were holding signs and having vehicles pull over into a parking lane in the 800 block of Midvale Boulevard about 10 a.m. on Thursday.
Ray Blum was among those seeking signatures on Midvale Boulevard on Thursday.
"I've taken it upon myself to organize what I call drive-throughs," Blum said. "We choose our sites so that we don't block any businesses. We've collected over a thousand signatures, just our small group."
A driver in a red pickup truck was one of those who stopped. When the driver was given a petition to sign, he instead ripped up the document, police said.
Police said the man drove away, but petitioners were able to get a license plate number. He has not yet been located, police said.
"The person took the white sheet of paper that was the signatures for recalling Gov. Walker (and) ripped it in half," Blum said. "And for anybody else that is intending on doing that, they have to realize that it is a Class I felony, and they are going to be punished for that."
Madison police said the destroyed petition contained three signatures. They said the crime falls under Chapter 12 of the Wisconsin Statutes: Prohibited Election Practices.
Police said statute 12.13(3)(A) reads: "Falsify(ing) any information in respect to or fraudulently deface or destroy a certificate of nomination, nomination paper, declaration of candidacy or petition for an election, including a recall petition or petition for a referendum or file or receive for filing a certificate of nomination, nomination paper, declaration of candidacy or any such petition, knowing any part is falsely made."
Police said a violation of 12.13(3)(A) is a Class I felony with a fine not to exceed $10,000 or imprisonment not to exceed three years and six months, or both.
The Madison Police Department on Wednesday posted a news release regarding guidelines and procedures for collecting signatures along roadways in response to complaints about cones being placed on city streets by petitioners.
The investigating officer who responded to Thursday morning's complaint said the volunteers were not utilizing cones on Midvale Boulevard.
As organizers and volunteers embark on their campaign to gather signatures, it's raising questions about where people are allowed to circulate petitions.
It's OK for those seeking signatures to be on public property, but whether it's allowed at some municipal buildings could be up to the discretion of the local government.
While Blum has been careful to follow the rules and to stay on public property, others haven't been so careful. West Towne Mall said that it has had to ask people circulating petitions there to leave.
All three shopping malls in Madison told WISC-TV that they will not allow recall petitions to be circulated. Some have been hearing about plans to gather signatures from shoppers in Black Friday lines, but it appears that isn't likely to happen unless a store has expressly granted permission.
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