Safeguards against intimidation of signers must be met before releaseThe Government Accountability Board has delayed publishing recall petitions online over fears of intimidation against people whose names appear within. Several adamant supporters of Gov. Scott Walker have encouraged such reprehensible tactics, openly declaring their intentions to use the list to inform employers that their workers support the removal of a pro-corporate governor.
Such concerns are legitimate to worry over -- participants on both sides have used inappropriate means of intimidation both direct and indirect, that have caused a lot of unnecessary headaches. But recent Facebook posts indicate that several conservative-leaning individuals are seeking to make recall signers' lives a living hell.
Democracy requires transparency, and those names deserve to be released for verification purposes. But if a sizable number of people, or groups of people, make it clear that intimidation is their aim, certain precautionary steps must be taken to ensure a safe, and open, process exists, before any releasing of names takes place.
First and foremost, employers should be barred from terminating an employee (or otherwise making their workplace a hostile environment) on the basis of their signing a recall petition. When violations like these occur, they should be met and received with strict disciplinary action, to discourage future incidents down the line. No one deserves to be in danger of losing their job due to political stances they make in their private lives.
Second, threats made directly to signers of the petition, by individuals and organizations determined to create fear and terror among law-abiding citizens, need to be taken seriously by every law enforcement agency within the state, from the local police force to the office of the Attorney General. Deterring such tactics should be a priority, especially when it involves the safety and well-being (mentally and physically) of citizens who simply want to take part in a democratic exercise.
As I've stated before, democracy requires openness, to ensure a fair process is being carried out for all, not just a singular side. But the flip side to that is that intimidation of others should be discouraged, with violators being properly punished for engaging in such vile acts.
To ensure an equal footing for both sides, the process ought to be open. But it should only be open when precautions to safeguard those with legitimate concerns are met.
UPDATE (Feb 1) -- The GAB has released the recall petitions:
The Government Accountability Board has posted more than 150,000 pages of recall petitions online. In a decision late Tuesday, board staff said that while people's votes are private and cannot be released, the signing of a recall petition is a public process and should be available for the public to access.