Petitioners Dodge Questions, Trespass in Aberdeen Walmart, Kesslers Parking Lots

Let me try to keep my editorializing to a minimum and simply show you what I saw around town this morning.

On my way out of the Aberdeen Walmart, I saw a man on crutches out in the second (farther) tier of the parking lot asking a woman who was loading her groceries into her car to sign a petition. I heard the woman say she’d need more information before she could sign. (Smart woman—doh! there I go editorializing. Stop it!)

I loaded my own groceries, fired up my camera, and asked the gentleman if I could look at his petition and maybe sign. He said no.

Circulator's bag, with petition on clipboard and purple Marsy's Law flyer.
Circulator’s bag, with petition on clipboard and purple Marsy’s Law flyer.

Naturally, I asked more questions:

I followed his direction to his boss in a blue Subaru Legacy with Pennington County plates.

Car toward which reticent petition circulator directed me when I asked about his boss.
Car toward which reticent petition circulator directed me when I asked about his boss.

We had the following conversation:

The driver pulled out and swung around to where the petition carrier stood. We conversed further:

The two men then left the parking lot.

I went back inside to speak to Phil, a Walmart manager. He repeated what I learned last spring, that the general policy at Walmart is that no petitioning or soliciting may take place on their property, which includes the entire parking lot all the way out to streetside right of way. He said individuals seeking to petition or solicit on Walmart property can’t get that permission from the local store; they must call  corporate at 1-800-WALMART. Manager Phil was not aware of anyone obtaining permission to petition at his store today.

I headed home but stopped by Kesslers. Sitting on the bench was the man on crutches I’d spoken with at Walmart. He had his black bag and his clipboard. By the time I parked and walked toward the store, his driver had already gotten out of his car to take the man away.

Walking away from Kesslers 20150920

The petitioner and his handler drove away in the same blue Subaru that they had at Walmart.

Handler and circulator get in their car at Kesslers.
Handler and circulator get in their car at Kesslers.
Marsy's Law petition car, just before leaving Kesslers, Sunday morning, September 20, 2015.
Marsy’s Law petition car, just before leaving Kesslers, Sunday morning, September 20, 2015.

I checked with management at Kesslers. Sue at the counter said she had no knowledge of petitioners seeking permission to work on Kesslers property today. She said petitioners would likely have to speak to Reed Kessler to request such permission and that Reed Kessler was likely not in the store.

Such were the events of my morning. My advice to fellow petitioners: if we want to maintain good relations with the business community, we need to ask permission to use their property for our political purposes. And to avoid suspicion and maintain public trust, we need to be pleasant and forthright in response to any questions voters may have about our petitions, our proposals, and our organizations. If we’re afraid to even say our names, let alone show an ID, the voters we’re trying to inspire to participate in democracy will drive away from us as quickly as the gentlemen above drove away from me.


17 Responses to Petitioners Dodge Questions, Trespass in Aberdeen Walmart, Kesslers Parking Lots

  1. Disgusted Dakotan

    Marsy’s petition isnt that Jason Glodt’s newest scam, right? Isn’t Glodt that attorney that was the mastermind of Mike Rounds’, & Dennis Daugaard’s campaigns?

  2. DD: Yes and yes….

  3. Disgusted Dakotan

    well, then he can get away with anything.. He’s a major “made man” in SD’s political machine.

  4. How many people does it take to circulate one petition? One to drive the Subaru and one to smoke the cigarettes. Those two may need a third guy to actually get the names on paper because they don’t seem very effective.

    This circulator can’t walk and smoke cigarettes at the same time. Operating two crutches and a cigarette doesn’t leave him much ability to whip out a petition and circulate it. Who even wants to approach that scruffy derelict? “Hey lady, wanna see what I got in the bag?” The guy in the Subaru must have some disability of his own since he’s not even trying.

  5. I can’t help but notice that the circulator’s right hand and arm are covered in “jailhouse” tattoos. It makes me wonder if this guy has spent some time in the big house. Can felons circulate petitions?

  6. Rohr, there’s no blanket restriction on felons circulating petitions. As AG Jackley told Angela Kennecke Thursday, the only restrictions on circulators are 18, SD resident, and not paid per signature.

    Registered sex offenders cannot circulate petitions (SDCL 12-1-32) unless they are “in the employ of, and under the immediate supervision of, another person and where the circumstances preclude any contact with children” (SDCL 12-1-33). There are children in the Walmart parking lot, so sex offenders can’t circulate there.

    I have no evidence that the man carrying the petition is a sex offender. Honestly, he looked like just some poor guy being exploited for sympathy signatures.

  7. The guy in the car looks like the Subway guy, Jared Fogle.

  8. Cory, this just gets more entertaining by the day.

  9. Really, what the SD Dem Party should do is by up some Newspaper space to warn the public about these petitioners. It doesn’t have to be partisan, the League of Women Voters, or any reputable organization concerned about protecting the public about these fake petitioners.

  10. The SD Catholic dioceses should be siding and vocalizing its support of Hildebrand and Hickey’s call for payday lending reform. This is all about social justice and protecting the poorest among us.

  11. I suspect the fellow with the little cigarette is an Aberdeenite and was hired by the fellow in the car to walk around Walmart with his papers. It would be wise to have some of the locals approach their friends and neighbors and ask them instead of having strangers.

  12. Funny, Jenny! And Rohr was worried about the guy outside the car. ;-)

    League of Women Voters—that gets me thinking, Jenny. The petitioners breaking the law, these guys not answering questions, and now the payday lenders adopting their scummy blocking techniques to drive people away from 36%-rate-cap petitioners—all of these tactics lower public trust in petitioners. That means less chance for citizens who have signed to see their signatures count, and less chance for citizens who might be keenly interested in getting to vote on certain measures from even daring to approach a circulator. Essentially, these sketchy petitioners and the blockers are disenfranchising thousands of South Dakota voters. The League of Women Voters should have a keen interest in educating the public about how to make sure their signatures count and what they should expect from legitimate petitioners.

    Similarly, the Attorney General and Secretary of State should take a more active role in protecting voters from illegal petition tactics that could cause their signatures to be thrown out and their voices not to be heard. Voters and citizen groups should have fair access to the ballot; profiteers using illegal tactics should not.

  13. Donald Pay

    In 1984 Chem-Nuclear attempted to threaten and intimidate petition signers after the petitions were submitted. We came with a bill to make that stuff illegal, but, of course, the Republicans thought the bully boy tactics and fraud used to disqualify signatures were just fine and refused to put a stop to it. Are these Republicans doing this sleazy stuff? It would fit right in with their long history of sleazy and illegal activity regarding ballot measures.

  14. Nice crisp and clear pictures of the folks, the vehicle, AND the license plate. Shouldn’t be a tough nut to crack, right Attorney General and Secretary of State? “They” always say they want nice and clean elections. Will they talk the talk and walk the walk?

  15. Deb Geelsdottir

    Very good work on that Cory. You were respectful, clear and unambiguous. Outstanding.

  16. That’s journalism at its best right there Cory! Keep up the great work.

  17. Thanks, Flipper! I’m looking forward to the Aberdeen offices of KSFY and KELO picking up on this developing story.