In their now infamous “lame duck” session, Michigan Republicans have pushed a heavily partisan agenda that has upset a massive portion of constituents. Now, the opportunity to express that displeasure is being revoked via a watered down and handcuffed recall process.
New legislation, once again wedged through in the middle of the night, makes it harder for elected officials to be recalled.
Michigan Democrats, such as Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, suggest Republicans are inoculating themselves from potential recall because of the divisiveness of the new, unpopular right-to-work law.
The new legislation was approved by the Senate at 930 p.m. on Thursday, December 13 by a 22-16 vote. The House then voted 65-40 at 2 a.m. Friday morning.
The law diminishes the allotted time for signature collection from 90 to 60 days. Statehouse officials will not be able to be recalled during the first or last six months of their two year terms. Those serving longer terms can not be recalled in their first or last year.
The bills also would:
- Require county election boards to determine whether the reasons for recalls are stated both “factually and clearly.” County boards now look for “sufficient clarity” only;
- Limit recall elections to May and November of each year;
- Prevent elected officials from facing no more than one recall during their term of office.
The most talked about changes are to do with when a recall can take place. Drastic policy or severe behavioral is now more or less protected at the beginning and end of an elected official’s term. The legislation reads as a well-crafted handbook to avoid “another Wisconsin.”
Morevoer, it’s not as if Michigan’s recall laws were lax before last week. Joshua Spivak of The Week explains that a recall of Governor Snyder would have been unlikely, law change or not:
Compared to Wisconsin, the signature total would be much greater. Michigan simply has a lot more voters. Wisconsin needed 540,000 valid signatures to force a recall election of Walker. In Michigan, the number to get Snyder on the ballot would be 806,522. The time period [was] a little longer (90 days for Michigan, as opposed to 60 days for Wisconsin), but not enough to make a gigantic difference. In fact, there have been attempts to recall Snyder, and they have failed by a large margin — one got 500,000 signatures, well short of the 806,522 needed.
Nonetheless, negative sentiment following the state’s right-to-work battle is being effectively muzzled. This has caused outrage among progressives and other GOP detractors. PoliticsUSA writer Sarah Jones talks about the similarities between Wisconsin and Michigan in her piece, “Michigan Republicans Inoculate Themselves from Recall in Lame Duck Marathon”:
This move echoes the propaganda Republicans sold in Wisconsin, that recalls are not the way to “express” yourself. “Recalls shouldn’t be used for disagreeing with a vote.”
Yes, that’s true. But that is not why people wanted to recall Governors Walker and Snyder.
Both men ran on one thing and turned around and did quite another. They misled the voters. Deliberately.
Both men subverted the democratic process in order to pass Koch brother-funded, ALEC-based legislation that was not the will of the people, nor was it designed to address specific matters in the state.
Both states faced financial problems, and those problems were used to justify legislation that many didn’t agree with. But it’s not a matter of the actual policy, even, but a matter of process.
If you have to violate the democratic process, if you have to violate Open Meeting Laws, if you pass things in the dark of night without debate, if you have to lie to the people about your intentions, if you mislead people deliberately, then you should be subject to recall.