Recall petition for one lawmaker approved, seven rejected

By: - August 1, 2023 3:35 pm

The Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas

The Michigan Board of State Canvassers on Tuesday approved recall petition language to recall one lawmaker and rejected seven other petitions for other lawmakers, noting a lack of clarity in the language.

Over the last few weeks, recall petitions have been filed against six Democratic and two Republican House members.

The board, which is divided 2-2 between Democratic and GOP members, approved a recall petition for Rep. Cam Cavitt (R-Cheboygan), which cited his yes vote on the House’s vote at the beginning of the year for Rep. Joe Tate (D-Detroit) as speaker. Democrats took the majority in both chambers of the Legislature in the 2022 November election. 

The petition against Cavitt was filed by Fairview Area Schools board member and former Republican Alcona County Commissioner Gary Wnuk, who now has 180 days to collect nearly 12,000 signatures in order to have a recall election during the next earliest election. Last decade, GOP former Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation tightening recall requirements.

The other seven recall petitions were rejected — each time with Chair Mary Ellen Gurewitz, a Democrat, and Vice Chair Richard Houskamp, a Republican, agreeing that the language in the petitions was not sufficiently clear as the rest of the petitions reference bill numbers without explaining the bills’ contents. Board member Jeannette Bradshaw, a Democrat, added that most of the petitions were handwritten and largely illegible.

Voting rights advocate calls recall petitions against state lawmakers ‘anti-democratic’

Although each petition was submitted by individuals residing in the districts of the Reps, six of the eight petitions have “identical wording,” Houskamp said.

“Any time you have six people from around the state, who suddenly wake up in the middle of night and they have exactly the same idea to put on a petition, either there’s some force behind that, or otherwise. It could be divine intervention,” Houskamp said.

Members of the board discussed and consulted with members of state agencies as to whether those behind the recall petitions acted as individuals or if organizations are behind the petitions to provide funding and manpower to get signatures and therefore need to be documented as the driving power. 

Mark Brewer, an attorney representing the Democrat lawmakers who’s a former Michigan Democratic Party chair, noted that the handwriting on some of the petitions was the same, which he said suggests an organizer behind the recall efforts that should have been documented in the paperwork.

One petitioner made themselves known at the canvassers meeting, Gerald Clixby who filed a recall petition against Rep. Noah Arbit (D-West Bloomfield) said the petitions are a “grassroots effort” saying he talked to people from the Michigan Conservative Union and the Michigan Conservative Coalition. Clixby added that he was not the only one concerned over Arbit’s yes vote on House Bill 4474, which, if signed into law, would expand the state’s definition of hate crimes.

Arbit did vote yes, and actually sponsored that bill. Clixby’s petition against Arbit, as well as petitions citing the same yes vote on the same bill by Reps. Jennifer Conlin (D-Ann Arbor), Reggie Miller (D-Belleville) and Jaime Churches (D-Wyandotte) were also rejected.

The recall petitions for Reps. Sharon MacDonell (D-Troy) and Betsy Coffia (D-Traverse City) cited their yes votes on the House’s version of “red flag” gun legislation. The Senate’s version, which allows for judges to issue an order for the removal of firearms from defendants deemed to pose a significant threat to themselves or others was signed into law in May

The petition against Rep. Donni Steele (R-Orion Twp.) was also related to gun reform and cited her yes vote on House Bill 4139, the House’s version of legislation of safe storage of firearms.

The seven petitions that were rejected can be refiled with clearer language for approval by the board.


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Anna Liz Nichols
Anna Liz Nichols

Anna Liz Nichols covers government and statewide issues, including criminal justice, environmental issues, education and domestic and sexual violence. Anna is a former state government reporter for The Associated Press and most recently was a reporter for the Detroit News. Anna is a graduate of Michigan State University.