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Who Exactly Says That There Are One Million Recall Signatures?

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Who Exactly Says That There Are One Million Recall Signatures?

CREATED Feb 13, 2012

It might be the greatest con job since PT Barnum put up a tent.

Who exactly says that there were 1 million signatures on petitions seeking the recall of Governor Walker? I mean, who besides the people with a vested interest in claiming as large a number as possible?

The media is now reporting this 1 million number as an article of faith.  Recall organizers are using the number as a basis for dismissing efforts to verify the individual petitions. Many commentators are suggesting that the number of signatures makes the ultimate success of any recall election inevitable. I've even heard some people claim that there are so many signatures that Governor Walker should just resign.  Good luck with that.

So, how do these claims square with a 51% approval rating for the Governor?

Could it be that there aren't as many signatures as are being claimed?

The Government Accountability Board says recall organizers claim to have turned in about 152,000 pieces of paper.  To reach 1 million signatures, that means that each page has to average slightly over 6.5 signatures.  I don't purport to have looked at every page but, anecdotally, folks with Verify The Recall are telling me that the petitions they're looking at don't come close to this number.

For the sake of argument, let's assume that there are, on average, 6 signatures per page.  That reduces the number to slightly over 900,000.  Take the 15% error rate calculated by the local newspaper, subtract duplicates and fraudulent names and you're probably closer to 700,000 valid signatures than 1 million.  Reduce the average per page signature count down to 5.5 and your number of valid signatures (after removing duplicates and accounting for errors) probably drops into the 600,000 + range.

As I've said from the beginning, my guess is that there will ultimately be enough valid signatures to force a recall election.  Still, Scott Walker received over 1.1 million actual votes in the 2010 election.  If the actual number of valid recall signatures is closer to 600,000 than 1 million, it certainly tends to undercut the claimed scope of and support for the recall movement.

Frankly, the coverage of this claim reminds me of the guy who is trying to buy a used car from you with a roll of cash.  Imagine that there are 5 twenties on the top and 5 twenties on the bottom of the wad.  The rest of the bills may very well be twenties - but they also may be singles.

You wouldn't give the guy the keys to the car until you've opened the roll and counted the cash.

Similarly, there may well be 1 million signatures on recall petitions.  However, there may also be a lot of singles in the roll.  Unfortunately, the mainstream media doesn't seem too concerned about determining the actual number.

Maybe there really is a sucker born every minute!