Canvassers approve recall petition against MacDonell, reject remaining five due to lack of clarity

By: - August 21, 2023 5:55 pm

Members of the Board of State Canvassers during a meeting on Aug. 23, 2021. Canvasser Jeannette Bradshaw was not in attendance. | Kyle Davidson

The Michigan Board of State Canvassers on Monday approved another recall petition against a state lawmaker and rejected five other petitions due to a lack of clarity. 

The board voted 3-0 to approve a recall petition against Rep. Sharon MacDonell (D-Troy) that cited her yes vote in support of red flag gun laws signed earlier this year. Those laws allow family members, law enforcement officials and others to request an extreme risk protection order prohibiting an individual from accessing firearms if they present a danger to themselves or others.

“I am proud of my vote and am confident that the vast majority of my constituents support that vote. My job is to serve them and keep them safe,” MacDonell said in a statement released in response to the petition’s approval.

“My vote in favor of Extreme Risk Protection Order laws is a testament to my dedication to public safety, the well-being of my constituents, and my commitment to uphold the principles of representative democracy. I urge people to consider the broader context and the strong support for ERPO laws when evaluating the recall petition,” she said.

Five additional recall petitions filed against State Reps. Betsy Coffia (D-Traverse City), Jennifer Conlin (D-Ann Arbor), Noah Arbit (D-West Bloomfield), Kelly Breen (D-Novi) and Denise Mentzer (D-Mt. Clemens) were rejected on a 2-1 vote, citing a lack of clarity. Another petition filed against Rep. Reggie Miller (D-Belleville) was withdrawn. 

Board Chair Mary Ellen Gurewitz, a Democrat, and Vice Chair Richard Houskamp, a Republican, voted to reject the petitions, while Canvasser Anthony Daunt, a Republican, voted against rejecting the five petitions. Canvasser Jeannette Bradshaw a Democrat, was not present at the meeting. 

“I think that what these people have attempted to do is sufficiently clear for people who are looking at the petition. If you’re unclear, you can always decline to sign these things,” Daunt said.

Attorney Mark Brewer spoke against approving petitions to recall Democratic lawmakers at the Board of State Canvassers meeting on Aug. 21, 2023. | Kyle Davidson

The recall petition against MacDonell is the second petition approved in the past month. On Aug. 1, board members approved a petition to recall Rep. Cam Cavitt (R-Cheboygan). That petition cited Cavitt’s yes vote at the beginning of the year to elect Rep. Joe Tate (D-Detroit) as speaker of the Michigan House when Democrats took control of the chamber following the 2022 election. 

Following a petition’s approval, the petitioner has 60 days to gather a number of signatures equal to 25% of the votes cast within the district during the last general election, beginning when the first signature is collected. The petition must be submitted to the Michigan Secretary of State within 180 days of approval by the board.

Former GOP governor Rick Snyder signed bills in 2012 tightening the requirements for recall efforts. 

While both Coffia and MacDonell’s recall efforts centered around their support for red flag legislation, the board deemed that the language used in the petition to recall Coffia was not sufficiently clear, saying the petition did not accurately and clearly describe what the bill creates.

The remaining efforts rejected by the board focused on Arbit, Breen, Conlin and Mentzer’s support for House Bill 4474, which would expand the definition of hate crimes to include violence on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, age and disability. 

Petitions filed against Arbit and Conlin regarding the same matter were rejected at the board’s Aug.1 meeting and were refiled

Attorney Mark Brewer, who represents the House Democrats facing recall, said the board did the right thing in rejecting the petitions, but said he would appeal the board’s decision to approve the petition to recall MacDonell. Brewer argued the language was not clear or factual. 

This appeal would impose an automatic 40-day stay where the petitioner cannot circulate or collect signatures while the appeal is pending, Brewer said.


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Kyle Davidson
Kyle Davidson

Kyle Davidson covers state government alongside health care, business and the environment. A graduate of Michigan State University, Kyle studied journalism and political science. He previously covered community events, breaking news, state policy and the environment for outlets including the Lansing State Journal, the Detroit Free Press and Capital News Service.