House Calls: Michigan State Representative Jeff Irwin Talks About What Will Happen If Gov. Snyder Is Recalled
Representative Jeff Irwin, a Democrat, served for a decade as a Washtenaw County Commissioner. In January 2011, he began his first term in the Michigan House of Representatives. In his regular column, House Calls, A2Politico will pose a single question to Representative Irwin and he will answer it. The questions will focus on his work in Lansing and, of course, his efforts to bring the “progressive agenda” to state government that he told voters in Ann Arbor he intended to work on during his time in office.
A2Politico Asks: Representative Irwin, according to the Michigan Constitution, as well as Michigan election law, what, exactly, will happen if Governor Synder is recalled?
Representative Irwin Responds: The short answer is that nobody knows for sure what will happen if Snyder is recalled.
If the Recall Snyder campaign is successful in gathering the necessary signatures and a recall election is successful, I have little doubt that this question will be decided by the Michigan Supreme Court. The recall of a Governor would be an untested circumstance and there is arguably a conflict between election law and the state Constitution. The question that the courts will have to answer is: what is the exact procedure for dealing with succession to the Governor’s office given statutory and Constitutional provisions? Unfortunately, our Justices have taken a dim view of direct democracy in recent years, and the court is dominated by very conservative and activist judges.
Here’s the issue:
Under Article V, Section 26 (http://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(0gvmt0rh2ub3jp555repvb55))/mileg.aspx?page=getObject&objectName=mcl-Article-V-26&highlight=article%20AND%205%20AND%20article%20AND%20V), the Lt Gov. automatically ascends to the office of Governor in the event of a vacancy. In this section it uses the language, “for the remainder of the term.” The only time that this provision has been used recently is when Lt. Gov. Milliken assumed the office upon the departure of Gov. Romney. In that case, Milliken served until the next general election, almost two whole years later (He became Gov. in January of 1969 and stood for election next in November of 1970).
Under election law, it states that when a vacancy occurs in an elected office due to recall, the vacancy is to be filled by a special election at the “next regular election date.” (Sec. 168.971 of the Election Code: http://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(0gvmt0rh2ub3jp555repvb55))/mileg.aspx?page=getobject&objectname=mcl-168-971&query=on&highlight=recall%20AND%20governor). That has been interpreted to mean that a special election is to be held at the next available opportunity; but, it seems that the courts have leaned against filling vacancies in February or May elections, opting for November contests where voters are more numerous.
Therefore, an argument can and will be made that the Constitution is at odds with the statute.
Recall proponents have argued that Lt. Governor Calley would be Governor for only 60 days or until the next practical electoral opportunity. On the Recall Snyder Facebook page it states: “According the (sic) Michigan’s Constitution, if the Governor is recalled from office, a special election is held 60 days after the result is certified.” I can’t find the same or similar language in the Michigan Constitution. Perhaps there is case law to that effect. In any event, my assumption is that, in keeping with tradition, the Michigan Supreme Court would vote along partisan lines and rule in favor of the Republican party.
Similarly, if we ever get an opinion from the AG’s office on this matter, I suspect that his pronouncements will be in line with GOP goals.
In summary, the recall of a Governor would be hotly disputed situation and nobody really knows how, exactly, it would play out.
This paper from the Citizens Research Council has some good background on the issue and history: http://www.crcmich.org/PUBLICAT/2000s/2008/note200804.pdf
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