On March 27th, David Alexander Bullock took on a project nobody has yet dared to do: To see if he can collect nearly 790,000 valid petition signatures in just 60 days to put the recall of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder on the ballot. Prior to 2012, signatures had to be gathered in 90 days but Republicans were tired of people trying to get them out of office after their attacks on schools, workers, and democracy itself so they passed legislation signed into law by Gov. Snyder making democracy just that much more difficult.
Bullock has experience at this. He was one of the primary organizers of the successful effort to repeal Public Act 4, the Michigan’s first Emergency Manager law after Republicans swept into office in 2010.
The language approved for this recall references Gov. Snyder’s declaration of a state of emergency in Flint after the poisoning of their drinking water with the powerful neurotoxin lead. Here is the specific language you will see on official petitions (note that the petitions may be handwritten and that’s fine):
Governor Richard D. Snyder declared a state of emergency in the County of Genesee and the City of Flint pursuant to the Constitution of the state of Michigan and provisions of Act No. 390 of the Public Acts of 1976, filed with the Secretary of State on January 5, 2016, and ending on February 1, 2016, unless extended as provided by Act No. 390.
You must be a registered voter to sign a recall petition and the recall petition you sign must be for the municipality (city, village, township, etc.) where you live.
The signature gathering for this effort is now underway so I thought it would be good to check in with Bullock, see how the effort is going, and find out details on how people can get involved.
You’ve been at this for eight days now. How are things going?
Yes, this is Day Eight, at least Day Eight of the countdown. Of course we’ve been organizing now for about 48 days. I think things are going pretty well. We’ve got about 15,000 petitions in circulation as of today. We’re going to put another 15,000-20,000 in circulation by Friday.
We’re giving people a week and a half so we’re starting now to call petitions and see where folks are. The capacity to get them out and get them circulating eight days in is pretty good, I think.
Is there a target as far as the number of signatures you’re trying to gather?
Ideally we’d like to gather somewhere between 900,000 and a million. But we do plan to try to self-verify as we get petitions returned.
So you’ll have more confidence that you’re turning in valid signatures?
What’s the last day of collecting signatures?
60 days from March 27th so May 25th or 26th. That’s the last cutoff date.
One of the things I’ve been surprised to see is handwritten petitions but I learned that that’s an okay thing so people should not be concerned if they see a handwritten petition. Is that correct?
Right. We reached out to the Bureau of Elections and they told us that, as long as its legible, we’re safe. And, of course, we’re circulating a copy of the petition that was approved.
I know that people can’t sign petitions online. Are people able to download petition forms online to circulate or do they have to get those from your organization?
We’re asking people to get them from us. We don’t have a download option in place right now. It’s something we’re thinking about doing. We just don’t want people to download petitions and then print them wrong and then circulate them. We wouldn’t get anything out of that if they aren’t done properly. So, we’re asking people to contact us. If they aren’t close to us, we’ll mail them to a site or a circulator and we’ll get ’em to them.
How many volunteers are you engaging right now?
I’d say there are about 200 people working every day, I’d say. We have these little satellite sites which we’re starting up. There’s one in Lansing, there are two in Flint, there’s one on the east side of Detroit, one in Grand Rapids, one in Pontiac. We’re going to drop some petitions off at the Kalamazoo Dems office on Wednesday so people will be able to pick them up there. We’ve got folks in Muskegon. Those are kind of like hubs, open Monday through Friday, maybe even on the weekends when people are there. Then, obviously, we’ve got people circulating every day. We’re seeing a lot of activity on the Facebook activity and our email list of about 4,000-5,000 names.
I’ve had a lot of people asking how they can get involved. So they should watch the Facebook page?
They should go to the Facebook page “Stop Snyder” if they do social media. That’s going to be the quick and dirty way to get connected and, if you have questions, to get them answered. There’s also an email [email protected] And then, of course, the website StopSnyder.com, has plenty of information on it. There’s also a phone number: 313-451-1304. That goes to a Google Voice mailbox. Sometimes it will get answered immediately, sometimes it will go to voice mail. If people leave a message, they’ll get a call back from a phone banker.
So, if people want to get involved they can call the number, or they can send an email, or they can get on the Facebook page, or they can go to your website itself and sign up for the email list and sign up to volunteer, as well, as I understand it.
There are other recalls going on or at least approved, right? There’s two others?
Right. There are supposedly three others, I think
So, how does that impact what you’re doing? Is it just sort of “head down” and you’re not paying attention to that or are you coordinating with them?
This is like U of M football from the 90s. The “I Formation”. Three point five yards a carry. Touchdown. We’re just really not paying attention to those other folks. I don’t think they are circulating anything, though, so it doesn’t seem to be a problem.
What should people look for when they are looking at a petition to know that it yours? Is there anything that’s going to stand out to them?
That it’s handwritten, is one way. And then our petition language references the emergency declaration in Flint dated January 5th. Just pay attention to language.
What sorts of things are you looking for from volunteers? Obviously you want folks to be circulating petitions. Are there other things that people can do to help?
There are five things that people can do. Number one is they can circulate petitions.
Number two, they can phone bank and recruit other people from their area. For example, we’ve got a phone bank down here in Detroit and the Flint location and the Grand Rapids spot. But people can actually recruit their own local network. So, if they go to church, they can get their church friends involved. Their coworkers, family members, etc., etc., etc.
Number three: Share the Facebook page. Like and share it. Like it and share it. That’s going to be key.
Four: donate. At this point, this is real grassroots in terms of the financial support of it. This is really just regular folks pushing this. We’re talking to labor and some other groups about supporting it but right now we don’t have any organizational support.
That’s for printing costs, that sort of thing?
Yeah, printing costs. Mailing costs. Because what works well is, if someone wants a petition in Traverse City or something, we can just mail a package to them. But that gets costly when you start talking about mailing 4,000-5,000 people.
And, five, hey, spread the word! Be like a “Recall Evangelist”!
But I think those five things will get us there. Obviously we’ve got to get the signatures. We need people circulating petitions every day. We need to be able to supply that need as well.
Why are doing this? What inspired you to take up this huge task? This is the first recall attempt since Republicans changed the law to allow on 60 days to collect signatures, correct?
Right. This is the first recall attempt since they changed the law.
But look, there is a lot of talk out there. All of it has its place in a democracy. Some people are saying, “Oh, the governor should resign”.
Well, I don’t think the governor IS going to resign.
People say, “He should be arrested.”
What I tell folks is, if you REALLY want to get him arrested maybe he should be a private citizen first. If you recall him, then maybe getting him arrested is more of an option. Right now he’s using our money for his lawyers. He’s using our money for his PR firm.
So, at this point, outside of becoming completely apathetic or engaging in rebellious rioting behavior, I really see the recall as the only legally legitimate, civic engagement opportunity for people to express their disapproval.
I just really encourage people to think about the options and to get involved.
I absolutely agree. Thanks for what you’re doing and I wish you all the best.