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Rep. Cavitt recall petition moves forward, others stall at Board of State Canvassers meeting

Petition gatherer holding a pen and clipboard speaks to another person

The Michigan Board of State Canvassers stopped seven recall petitions targeting a group of mostly Democratic House lawmakers from moving forward Tuesday. An eighth petition against state Representative Cam Cavitt (R-Cheboygan) was deemed sufficient enough to continue.

The recall petitions are each based on certain votes the lawmakers took. For example, one targeting Rep. Churches (D-Wyandotte) cited her vote in favor of House Bill 4474, which would create a hate crime statute.

The denied petitions reference the bill numbers but not the content. Board Chair Mary Ellen Gurewitz said they needed more details.

“The number does not give somebody who’s asked to sign a petition sufficient information to make an informed decision,” Gurewitz said during Tuesday’s meeting.

But the commission split on that question, with Commissioner Tony Daunt arguing it’s voters’ responsibility to know what they’re signing.

He said providing too much context could confuse people further.

“The less that’s on there that’s open for interpretation, to me, makes the most sense,” Daunt said.

The recall petition against Cavitt was deemed sufficient enough to proceed because it explained it targeted him for his vote in favor of House Speaker Joe Tate (D-Detroit) at the beginning of the year. Traditionally, all House members vote for the majority party’s speaker pick.

Despite the disagreement over context, the board noted enough other concerns during the meeting to keep the others from moving forward.

One issue was that the petitions brought before the board were handwritten instead of typed, leading to concerns about legibility.

Another issue discussed at length was similarities between each petition. They each used the same language to describe the reason for the recall, leading members to question whether there was an organized effort funding the drives that should have been disclosed.

Members noted state campaign finance laws generally require disclaimers when any money gets spent on political causes. A representative from the state Attorney General’s Office said it was an issue for the Secretary of State to decide down the line, leading board members to set aside the issue.

Still, attorney Mark Brewer continued to raise flags about the issue after the meeting. Brewer represented the six Democratic lawmakers targeted.

“People need to know who’s behind all of this. You cannot go out there and with ghostwritten petitions, in secret, try to recall people. That’s not the way the law works,” Brewer told reporters.

Only one of the petition sponsors, Gerald Clixby of West Bloomfield, attended the meeting. He told the board the petitions weren’t funded by a particular group, so there wasn’t one to name.

“You guys in Lansing don’t understand what’s happening. This is grassroots. People are not in this for the money. They don’t have a lot of money. Will somebody maybe throw in 20 bucks or 50 bucks? Probably somewhere along the way,” Clixby said.

Clixby and the other rejected petitioners still have the option of appealing the decision to the state Court of Appeals. They could also try again after making suggested changes to their forms.

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