Jan 21, 2008
Recall effort moves forward with court ruling
Circuit Court Judges in Wayne and Macomb counties gave the recall efforts against state legislators who voted to in October to increase the state income tax and place a sales tax on some services that helped balance the state budget and erased a $1.8 billon budget deficit a shot in the arm last week by overturning the decisions by local county Election Commissions.
The decisions by Wayne County Circuit Judge William Giovan and Macomb County Circuit Judge Mark Switalski overturned rulings of the commission that the recall langue on the petitions was unclear, and it cleared the way for recalls against House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township; Rep. Marc Corriveau, D-Northville; Rep. Ed Gaffney, R-Grosse Pointe Farms, and Rep. Steve Bieda, D-Warren, to go forward. The effort is being led by Republican Macomb County Commissioner Leon Drolet, the head of the Michigan Taxpayer Alliance (MTA).
Recall efforts against two other Democratic state Representatives is already in the signature gathering stage. The Oakland County Election Commission approved recall language against Rep. Marie Donigan, D-Royal Oak, at a clarity hearing in November, and also in November the Kent County Board of Electors approved the recall petition language for the attempted recall of Rep. Robert Dean, D-Grand Rapids.
Those recalls pending against lawmakers who had recall language rejected include Sen. Jerry Van Woerkom, R-Norton Shores; Rep. Joel Sheltrown, D-West Branch and Rep. Mary Valentine, D-Muskegon. The MTA has court challenges pending against them.
Petition gathers were out during the Jan. 15 Michigan presidential primary election collecting signatures. Numerous Dean supporters braved the cold and snow on election day by manning the more than 30 precincts in the 75th House District to make sure anyone signing recall petitions had both sides of the story. There was some action at the polls, and police were called to a disturbance. However, no arrests were made and no one was asked to leave the premises. The people involved in the nuts and bolts of the Dean and Donigan recall effort on both sides have been rather tight-lipped. The only person willing to talk was at one of the polls for the Dean campaign on election day, but he declined to give his name.
"We are simply giving them the other side," he said. "Our education volunteers are simply saying Robert Dean voted to keep Michigan government from shutting down at the 11th hour."
He also said the recall effort has been seeking people to work for $9 an hour and $2 for each signature over 50. A email sent to the MTA received a reply confirming the petition gathers were being paid, but the spokesperson declined to identity themselves or to comment further.
“The amount paid to some of the gatherers is up to the independent consulting firm that hired them, the email said. “As an independent contractor, that is their internal business. I have heard of no harassment by this firm. But yes, they did call the police when the blockers would not stop trying to intimidate our unpaid volunteer petition circulator at that poll.”
Representative from the Royal Oak Area Democratic Club that is fighting the Donigan recall attempt did not return repeated phone calls.
The Democrats are fighting the recall at the signature gathering point because the conventional wisdom is that once the required signatures are collected and the yes or no question on whether the lawmaker should stay or go is on the ballot the fight is lost. The legislature has a low approval rating among people of all political parties, and the only people who turn out for this kind of election with a low voter turnout are the ones who launched the recall. It is doubtful people will vote to save a legislator’s job. Democrats want to contest the process through all the required steps in contrast to the last tine a state Legislator was recalled in 1983 when two Democratic state Senators were recalled for voting for a tax increase that gave Republicans control of the Senate they enjoy to this day. Democrats say the recall is just an attempt by Republicans to regain control of the House they lost in November 2006
The MTA is under a serious time-constraint. Section 168.951 of Michigan Election Law says that a recall petition cannot be filed against an elected official during the last six months of the officer's term of office, and the General Election is just 10 months away. The recall language is good for 180 days, but the actual petition drive for signatures must be within 90 days. In other words, there must be 90 days between the first and last signature.
The petition circulator must collect only those signatures of voters registered in the House District of the lawmaker being recalled, and the person collecting the signatures must also be a registered voter in that district. The petitions must contain the signatures equal to at least 25 percent for all the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election in the district of the lawmaker being recalled.
Once enough signatures are collected, the petitions are sent to the Secretary of State, which has seven days to begin to verify that the petitions are in the proper form and the signatures are from registered voters in the district. The target of the recall then has the right to challenge the signatures. Within 35 days after the petitions are filed with the SOS, the office must make a determination if the petition is sufficient or deficient, and if it's sufficient it then notifies the county clerk that the a recall election is to be held on the next regular election date that is not less than 95 days after the date the petition is filed. If the recall is successful, the seat is immediately vacant, and a special election to fill the vacancy shall be held on the next regular election date. The governor may appoint someone to fill the seat until the election is held and the successor sworn in.