Washtenaw: Snyder Recall Wording Clear
April 30, 2011
At a clarity hearing held on April 29, 2011, the Washtenaw County board of election commissioners found that the proposed ballot language in a petition asking for the recall of Gov. Rick Snyder was sufficiently clear. Snyder, a Republican, was elected Nov. 2, 2010.
Washtenaw County’s election board held the hearing because the petition must be filed in the county where the subject of the recall lives – Snyder is an Ann Arbor area resident.
Around 20 people attended the hearing, many of whom wore yellow buttons with language indicating support for the recall. Four people addressed the board during the public participation part of the agenda, including Snyder’s legal counsel, John Pirich, of the law firm Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn. Snyder – who is giving the commencement speech at the April 30 University of Michigan graduation ceremonies – did not attend Friday’s hearing.
The board of election commissioners consists of (chair) Donald E. Shelton, chief judge of the Washtenaw County Trial Court; (secretary) Larry Kestenbaum, county clerk; and (member) Catherine McClary, county treasurer. Kestenbaum and McClary were elected clerk and treasurer as Democrats. Shelton was elected judge on a non-partisan ballot, but in the past has run for office as a Democrat.
The vote on the clarity of the language was 2-1. McClary’s was the dissenting vote.
The language that the board found to be sufficiently clear was as follows: “Richard D. Snyder has requested from the legislature, approved and signed various laws that take authority and funds from local governments and school districts and vest them with the state. He has obtained for himself, through his appointed Emergency Financial Managers, the power to invalidate legal and binding contracts entered into by properly elected local authorities. He has sought tax increases upon retirees and lower income families, but instead of addressing the deficit, he has sought large new tax cuts for corporations and businesses.” [.pdf of proposed recall ballot language]
Under Michigan’s state election law, the finding at a clarity hearing can be appealed to the Circuit Court within 10 days of the finding by the petitioner or the officer. As of late Friday, April 29, Snyder had not made a decision whether to appeal.
Snyder’s office issued this statement: “The Governor remains fully committed to making the tough fiscal and policy decisions that have been put off for far too long. He knew full well that it wasn’t going to be easy. His budget and tax plan was a comprehensive approach to hit the ‘reset’ button and tackle the state’s structural deficit once and for all, grow Michigan’s economy for more and better jobs, ensure core and safety net services, and build a strong foundation for the future.”
After public participation, the deliberations by the board of election commissioners on the clarity of the language lasted about 10 minutes, with the entire session lasting around 20 minutes.
The petition language was submitted on April 18, 2011 by Gerald D. Rozner from the city of Monroe. Rozner attended the clarity hearing. The recall effort is being organized by a group called Michigan Citizens United. By state election law, the board had a window between 10 and 20 days after the petition during which to complete the clarity hearing. If no hearing had been held, the default finding is that the language is sufficiently clear.
If there is no appeal or if the petition language survives any appeal, the recall effort would need to collect signatures equal to 25% of the number of votes cast for the office of governor in the general election – about 800,000 signatures would be required. By law, the petition itself can’t be submitted until six months after the recall subject takes office – that means the recall petition could be filed no earlier than July 1, 2011.
About 10 minutes after 9 a.m. when the hearing was scheduled to begin, Catherine McClary told the audience that the election board would wait until its chair, Judge Donald Shelton, arrived – he’d indicated he was on his way.
When Shelton arrived a few minutes later, he described the purpose of the hearing – for the board to determine if the reasons for the recall stated in the petition are of sufficient clarity to enable both the officer [Snyder] whose recall is being sought and the voters to identify the course of conduct that is the basis of the recall.
Shelton stressed that the board was not there to “talk about, rule on, or otherwise discuss the truthfulness or falsity” of the statements in the proposed petition. He reiterated that the purpose of the hearing was only to determine if the statements are clear enough for the officer to understand them and for voters to vote on them.
Shelton allowed that several people who wished to speak might well have strong feelings about whether the statements are true or not true, but that’s not the question to be decided, he said.
Shelton first invited the proponents of the petition language to make a statement, if they wished to do so. Three members of Michigan Citizens United identified themselves as present. After a brief consultation among themselves, Tim Kramer approached the microphone.
Public Participation: Petitioner
Shelton asked Kramer if he’d like to speak to the language in the petition. Kramer told Shelton that he felt the language was clear. Marion Townsend asked if they were required to make a statement, or if they could let the words in the proposed petition stand for themselves.
Shelton told them that they could absolutely do that, but he was making sure they were provided with an opportunity to make a statement. Townsend said they were willing to “let it ride” pending further discussion.
Public Participation: Legal Counsel for Snyder
When Shelton invited further commentary from the pubic, the legal counsel for Snyder – John Pirich, of the law firm Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn – then addressed the board. He argued that the language was not clear. He began by citing the relevant section of the Michigan State Election Law, which requires that each reason given for the recall be of sufficient clarity to enable the officer and the electorate to identify the course of conduct that is the basis for the recall. From the Michigan State Election Law (Act 166 of 1954):
Too much to post....just go to the site:http://annarborchronicle.com/2011/04/30/washtenaw-snyder-recall-wording-clear/