Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas
Petitions to recall five Democratic state representatives in Michigan over their votes on recent hate crime and gun reform legislation were filed last week, according to the state Secretary of State’s office, as well as one petition against a Republican representative over his vote for the Democratic House speaker.
State Reps. Jennifer Conlin (D-Ann Arbor), Reggie Miller (D-Belleville) and Jaime Churches (D-Wyandotte) all had recall petitions filed against them by different people citing their yes votes on legislation, HB 4474, to expand the definition of hate crimes to include violence on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, age and disability.
Fox News and other right-wing outlets recently spread misinformation about Michigan’s proposed hate crime law reform package saying it would criminalize using the wrong pronouns for a person. Pronouns are not mentioned once in the legislation.
Linda Ensley of Brighton submitted the petition against Conley and Sebastian Palamara of Wyandotte filed the one against Churches, per the secretary of state’s office.
Miller’s recall petition was filed by Holli Vallade, who lost the Republican primary in the 2022 election in the 31st district, which Miller won.
Vallade’s campaign website says she is “a mother, a conservative, and a Christian,” who has “become increasingly concerned for our country.”
The recall petitions for Reps. Sharon MacDonell (D-Troy) and Betsy Coffia (D-Traverse City) cite their yes votes on the House’s version of “red flag” gun legislation to allow for judges to issue a temporary order for the removal of firearms for defendants that pose a significant threat to themselves or others. The red flag legislation coming from the Senate was signed into law, in addition to other gun law reforms in May.
Michael Ross of Troy filed the recall petition against MacDonell and Barbara Willing of Traverse City submitted the one against Cofia.
Coffia took to Twitter Monday to address the recall effort, saying that while she has respect for the recall process as a means to ensure accountability when elected officials betray public trust, it should not be used as a vehicle for disenfranchisement.
2/accountable when they betray the public trust, recall should not be used to disenfranchise thousands of voters in the 103rd District simply because of a policy disagreement.
In my first six months in office, I am proud to have successfully championed a major budget win with
— Betsy Coffia (@BetsyCoffia) July 17, 2023
Rep. Cam Cavitt of Cheboygan is the sole Republican lawmaker who had a recall petition filed against them last week, in his case citing his yes vote when the House elected Rep. Joe Tate (D-Detroit) to act as House speaker for the legislative session that began in January.
The recall efforts are “partisan tactics aimed at serving the interests of one political faction” Cavitt said Monday in an emailed statement. He added that rather than addressing critical priorities for his district and the state, the recall petitions will divert time and resources from making progress.
“I was elected to Lansing to fight for fiscal responsibility – taxpayers should not be on the hook for a meaningless recall effort,” Cavitt said. “Let us refocus our energy and efforts on the challenges that lie ahead, working towards a brighter future for all Michiganders. I remain highly committed to serving the best interests of my constituents.”
Cavitt’s petition was filed by Fairview Area Schools board member and former Republican Alcona County Commissioner Gary Wnuk.
Tate released a statement Monday saying Michigan’s recall laws are an important tool that can be used to hold elected officials accountable, but it is not meant to overturn the interests of the majority of voters that chose lawmakers to represent them. He noted that campaigns of misinformation, purposefully meant to misguide voters, are nothing new and do not represent the majority of voters.
“House Democrats are driven by our commitment to put the people of Michigan first. We know Michiganders want their children to be safe at school; their places of worship to be free from threats of violence; and to feel safe and secure in everyday life,” Tate said.
All the petitions came in around the same timeframe last week and are expected to be on the agenda for the Aug. 1 Board of State Canvassers meeting for language approval, according to the Michigan Secretary of State’s office.
It isn’t clear that even with the proximity of filing if the recall efforts were coordinated.
The bar is high for recalls under reforms signed into law by GOP former Gov. Rick Snyder.
Petition language will have to be approved by the Board of State Canvassers and then those seeking the recall will have to secure an amount of signatures that is at least 25% the number of votes cast for all candidates in the last governor’s race, within 60 days of the approval of the petition language.
If successful, the petition would lead to a recall election at the next scheduled election.
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