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Devil's in the details when collecting recall petition signatures

Red Wing city administrators find 25 ways to invalidate signatures, but still plenty have been collected.

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Rachelle Lampman, left, and Roxanne Johnson sign petitions to recall city council members Monday, April 19, 2021, at their home in Red Wing. To the left and right are Cathy and Ron Goggin, with the Recall City Hall Committee, who were canvassing the neighborhood asking residents to sign petitions to recall the city council members. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)
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RED WING — Do some people not know their own address, or even their date of birth?

Well, that would be the takeaway if you looked through the list of reasons some signatures on the Red Wing recall petitions were invalidated by City Hall.

"They couldn’t read the signature on one of them," said George Hintz, leader of the Recall City Hall committee in Red Wing. "How many people in the medical profession, or just regular people, just have a squiggly line for their signature?"

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Hintz said he collected signatures from several people with medical conditions or whose hands moved due to muscle tremors. He did his best to attach sticky notes with those signatures to let the folks at City Hall know why those signatures were hard to read.
Of course, there is more to each signature on a recall petition than just a quick "John Hancock."

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First, each person signing to recall a particular member of the City Council had to live within the political boundary of that City Council member. In other words, anyone wanting to recall City Council President Becky Norton had to live in Ward 3 of the city.

Second, each person had to be a registered voter at the last election — the Nov. 3, 2020, general election — within that ward, so someone who, say, lived in Hastings on Nov. 3 but moved to Red Wing before the recall started would not count.

While Hintz said he counted 25 reasons for signatures being invalidated, among the few hundred invalidated signatures among seven council members across the city, the vast majority were discounted because the person was not on the master list. That is the list of registered voters from which the city was comparing all the signatures to make sure they were valid.

"We thought we had a list from the (Minnesota) secretary of state, and our person was verifying those signatures," Hintz said. "You’d think those lists would match up."

In addition to instances where the city said they could not read the name (printed) or signature, there were rejected signings that included such things as a wrong or incomplete date of birth written.

One woman signed her name on three different petitions (one for the representative of her ward, one for the council member representing her ward and another, and one for at-large city council member Laurel Stinson), and all three were rejected because she wrote down the wrong date of birth.

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"I had no idea," said Cherri Lexvold, who said the date of birth that shows up on the petitions is, in fact, her birthdate. "I have a license and a birth certificate to prove it."

However, the date of birth does not match the voter rolls, and was therefore rejected by City Hall on the petitions.

Concerned, Lexvold asked, "When I vote in all the other elections, are my votes counted?"

Hintz said the scrutiny put to each of the more than 6,000 signatures collected across the city — with many signatures going to multiple members of the City Council — is a far cry from how voters are verified during general elections at polling places.

"If they were this stringent in voting, there wouldn’t be so much fraud and corruption," he said.

In the end, the recall committee did not challenge any of the rejected signatures, because thus far, for five of the seven City Council members, it collected more than enough valid signatures to qualify for a recall. The only council member who did not receive enough petition signatures was Kim Beise.

Hintz said the recall committee collected enough signatures to recall Council Member Dean Hove, but the committee made an error by putting the wrong initial five signatures on Hove's petitions — the signatures from the start of the petition process were different from the ones at the end for the petition initiating group — so they are starting the process over with Hove.

Once a determination is made regarding Hove, Hintz said the committee will then file a lawsuit against the City Council for refusing to set an election date for a recall.

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As for those signatures with their snafus, Hintz said it's been a learning experience.

"We weren’t going to challenge as long as we had enough," he said.

Brian Todd is the news editor at the Post Bulletin. When not at work, he spends time with his family, roots for the Houston Astros and watches his miniature dachshund sleep, which is why that dog is more bratwurst than hotdog. Readers can reach Brian at 507-285-7715 or btodd@postbulletin.com.
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