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.
Naturally, I asked more questions:
I followed his direction to his boss in a blue Subaru Legacy with Pennington County plates.
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.
The petitioner and his handler drove away in the same blue Subaru that they had at Walmart.
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.