This weekend, I posted something here on the site about the ongoing effort to recall Michigan Governor Rick Snyder. In the ensuing conversation, someone asked what exactly would happen, assuming everything went as planned, 800,000 signatures were collected, and then a majority of Michigan voters agreed to recall the Governor when the question was put before them.
A reader by they name of CMadler offered the following.
[I should note that I did a bit of editing to make the following quotes flow more smoothly. If you have any questions, I’d suggest going to the original thread for their exact words. While I think I did a decent job of conveying the facts, it’s conceivable that I may have gotten something wrong.]
If the petition has enough signatures, then the question of the recall goes on the next scheduled election date (but must be within 95 days of petition filing). If the recall is successful (“yes” votes exceed “no” votes), he must immediately vacate the office. A special election to fill the vacancy is held on the next scheduled election date. (The Fire Rick Snyder website says the election must be within 60 days, and that the Lieutenant Governor serves as acting Governor during that time, but I can’t find support for either statement anywhere else.)
But, then, Megan Turf responded with the following.
That’s not entirely true. That is what I had heard, and it’s what happened in California, and it was what I was telling people while gathering signatures on the petitions that I had, but I started talking to a Republican about this and he started sending me to websites that stated that a special recall for a new person is true for all elected officials except for Governor. For Governor, the line of succession is specific and is spelled out in the Michigan Constitution. Naturally, I didn’t believe him (Republican!) but I did start looking into it myself…
In the end, I found documentation online that stated both paths – a recall vote and then a special election, as well as a recall vote followed by the Lt Gov finishing the term. In an effort to confirm the actual truth, I emailed the Michigan Election Commission (firstname.lastname@example.org), assuming they had some credibility in this area. Before you start calling me a troll like the Fire Rick Snyder people did, email them yourself and ask them if you don’t believe me or think that “Melissa” is some invisible friend of mine.
Following is the email exchange between me and Melissa Malerman, of the Bureau of Elections.
MEGAN TURF: I am getting some conflicting information regarding the post process if enough valid recall signatures are collected. Article V of the Michigan Constitution says that the Lt. Gov will take over the remainder of Governor’s term. However, the State’s recall procedures indicate that there will be a special election.
Can you please tell me what will happen if enough valid signatures are collected for the recall?
MELISSA MALERMAN: As you have recognized, the state election law and State Constitution govern the recall process in Michigan. A recall petition that is deemed to contain a sufficient number of signatures triggers an election at least 95 days after the filing of the petition. MCL 168.963. To answer your question, if a person files a sufficient number of petition signatures (over 800,000) to trigger the recall of the governor, an election would be held to determine whether he should be recalled.
In an ordinary recall election, a special election is scheduled to fill the vacancy if the elected official is recalled. MCL 168.971. However, the State Constitution provides for succession “[i]n case of the conviction of the governor on impeachment, his removal from office, his resignation or his death [.]” MI Const Art V, §26.
Because no recall attempt involving a Michigan governor has ever been successful, I’m afraid I can’t speculate on whether a special election would be called to fill the vacancy or whether the Lieutenant Governor would assume the office of Governor.
MEGAN TURF: Thank you for your response. I’m a little confused though. Am I hearing you say you don’t know whether there would be an election or whether the Lt. Governor would take over?
Regardless of whether a recall has ever been successful or not, surely the Bureau of Elections would know what happens next? If the recall is successful, who would make the decision as to what happens next since it isn’t spelled out very clearly in the constitution?
MELISSA MALERMAN: As I said, if a sufficient number of petition signatures are turned in, there WOULD be an election to determine whether the Governor should be recalled. See thread below (“To answer your question, if a person files a sufficient number of petition signatures (over 800,000) to trigger the recall of the governor, an election would be held to determine whether he should be recalled.”) Turning in a sufficient petition, by itself, does not vacate the office.
In the typical situation, there could be two elections: one to determine whether the elected official should be recalled, and a second to fill the vacancy if the first results in the elected official’s recall. The Governor is different in that his succession plan is spelled out in the constitution – if the office becomes vacant due to “conviction of the governor on impeachment, his removal from office, his resignation or his death [,]” the Lieutenant Governor assumes office as Governor.
Sorry for taking up all of this space, but I think it’s imperative that, before signing a petition to recall the Governor, people should know what comes next, and it seems to me that there’s a world of difference between replacing Snyder with his current Lt. Governor, Brian Calley, and, let’s say, someone like Alma Wheeler Smith.
As I’ve stated in previous posts, I would have preferred to have seen this effort go toward a ballot initiative for a graduated state income tax, as I think it would be a better use of time and resources, and ultimately be more successful, but I appreciate the energy that’s being expended, and wish those behind the effort well.