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Michigan's new recall rules

January 10, 2013 - Jim Anderson
We’ve had our share of recall campaigns in the local area in recent years.

Where good or bad, Michigan’s new recall system — signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder at the end of 2012 — will likely make it much harder to bump public officials from office.

One key change is the review of recall petitions. Previously, the review was done by the county election commission. (In Dickinson County, this panel has typically consisted of the county clerk, treasurer and probate judge). The committee reviewed petitions for “sufficient clarity” and made no judgments on a petition’s factual merits.

Under the new law, petitions will be reviewed by a state panel — the bipartisan Board of State Canvassers. This board will determine if the reasons for a recall are stated both “factually and clearly.” The Board of State Canvassers is composed of four members appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the Senate. By design, there are two Democrats and two Republicans.

Obviously, demands upon petition circulators have gotten tougher. Previously, a minimum 2-1 vote of approval was needed from a panel that only looked at clarity. Now, a 3-1 vote is needed from a panel that examines both clarity and “truth.”

Safe to say, if recall petitioners don’t have their act together, their efforts won’t get far.

Some other changes under the new law:

— The time to collect recall signatures drops from the current 90 days to 60 days.

— Recall petitions cannot be filed against officials with two-year terms in the first six months or last six months of the term. Officials with four-year terms cannot face petitions in the first or last year of the term. Also, officials may face no more than one recall per term.

— Recall elections are limited to May and November of each year.

— Officials subjected to recalls (except for governor) will have opponents. (Under the current system, recall elections are an up-or-down vote.) The opponents in recall elections are to be selected in primary elections. The governor will still face a yes-or-no recall and no opponent. If the governor is recalled, he or she will be replaced by the lieutenant governor.



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