City Hall scrutinizes petitions for Red Wing City Council recall campaign

It’s no easy job attempting to recall every member of the city council in your community. There’s no manual for doing it, seeing as how it’s rarely been done before, if ever. Then there’s the issue of city councilors voting not to allow themselves to be recalled in the first place.

The residents behind the Recall City Hall campaign underway in Red Wing are getting a crash course in the nitty gritty of what it takes to pull off such an audacious challenge to their local government. It all revolves around City Hall examining the thousands of signatures already submitted with a fine tooth comb to verify addresses and handwriting, according to the Post Bulletin.

“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?”

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.

In order to be official residents must live in the same ward as the city councilor who’s targeted on the petition. They also must have been a registered voter in Red Wing in the 2020 general election. But there’ve been discrepancies with the voter rolls provided by Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon.

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.

Canvassing for signatures will have to start all over again in the case of one city councilor, Dean Hove, due to mistakes made by the recall committee. But activists still expect to garner enough signatures to meet the threshold to ultimately put all but one of the seven city council members up for recall.

RELATED: Campaign to recall all Red Wing City Councilors proceeds over City Hall objections

The city’s rigorous attention to detail in confirming residents’ identification in order to vote in the recall election prompted some to wonder why voters don’t face a similar check in all elections.

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 petitions submitted to City Hall will likely kick off the start of a court battle over whether residents’ grievances meet the legal standard for a recall election City Hall refuses to hold.