© 2024 Michigan State University Board of Trustees
Public Media from Michigan State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
TECHNOTE: 90.5 FM and AM870 reception

Board of State Canvassers okays petition forms, sets recall hearing date

Petition gatherer holding a pen and clipboard speaks to another person

The Michigan Board of State Canvassers has set an August 1 hearing date for recall petitions against a handful of Michigan House Democrats.

The lawmakers, Representatives Betsy Coffia, Sharon MacDonell, Jennifer Conlin, Reggie Miller and Jaime Churches, serve competitive areas ranging from northern Michigan to downriver from Detroit.

Petitions filed with the Board of State Canvassers cite votes the lawmakers took in support of hate crime and extreme risk protection order, commonly known as “red flag,” legislation as reasons for the recall.

Democratic House leadership said it will “fully support and defend those targeted.”

“We have seen campaigns based on misinformation and lies used to challenge the integrity of our elections and mount an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. We know that those who purposely misrepresent facts have ulterior motives and do not represent the majority of voters,” a statement from House Speaker Joe Tate (D-Detroit) said.

Any successful recall campaign could be damaging to House Democrats and their slim two-seat majority in the state Legislature.

The party’s last legislative majority ended with the help of recall efforts.

“The period is now open for people to file recall petitions, and so we could anticipate more,” Board of State Canvassers chair Mary Ellen Gurewitz told reporters after Monday’s meeting.

A Republican House lawmaker, Rep. Cam Cavitt is also facing a recall effort for his vote against Tate as speaker.

At its August 1 meeting, Gurewitz said the board will determine whether the petition statements are clear and accurate enough to proceed.

Meanwhile, separate actions from the board are putting a couple ballot initiatives a bit closer to signature gathering.

That includes one initiative to expand the state’s Freedom of Information Act by adding the governor and lieutenant governor’s offices as well as the state Legislature to the agencies subject to public records requests.

John Clore is with the group behind the effort, Michigan Initiatives for Action. He said growing the reach of the state’s open records laws improves transparency.

“This hasn’t been done before, so this is historic when it comes to legislative initiatives with holding the executive and legislative branches accountable to public information requests,” Clore said.

The petition received form approval from the Board of State Canvassers on Monday. That’s an optional procedural step campaigns often take. It can help shield them from lawsuits claiming the petition form itself wasn’t right.

Clore, who is known for being in and out of favor with conservative circles around Lansing, said he’s hoping to see a coalition form around the initiative now that the form-approval step is cleared.

“We’re just now getting started," Clore said. "We do have volunteers that have been signing up through the website. We have been spreading the word prior to submitting the petition last week to the Secretary of the State Bureau of Elections. So, we look forward to deploying that army and getting these signatures together.”

The effort to subject the state Legislature and governor’s office to open records laws is years in the making.

Earlier this year, Republican House lawmakers introduced a bill package aimed at government transparency. Last session, one passed the House but stalled in the state Senate.

Though this year’s legislation hasn’t received a hearing yet, it’s possible lawmakers could act on the issue when they come back from their summer break.

“I believe there’s a high likelihood the legislature will act on this before signatures are gathered,” state Senator Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) said. Irwin previously sponsored open records bills in past sessions.

Now that Democrats are control of the Legislature, he said he’s expecting it to finally get across the finish line.

Separately, a petition to restore good time credits among state prisoners also received form approval at this week’s Board of State Canvassers meeting.

To help strengthen our local reporting as WKAR's fiscal year ends, we need 75 new or upgraded sustainers by June 30th. Become a new monthly donor or increase your donation to support the trustworthy journalism you'll rely on before Election Day. Donate now.