So, what exactly happens if the people of Michigan vote to recall our Governor?

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 (, 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.

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  1. Mike Shecket
    Posted July 11, 2011 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    I think this may suggest that the recall process is better suited to the removal of individuals for their personal inappropriate behavior rather than to the rejection of a policy/philosophy/ideology. A quick, superficial reading of the Michigan Constitution and related statutes suggests that you’d have to, in this case, simultaneously recall the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, President Pro Tempore of the Michigan Senate AND the Speaker of the Michigan House–the whole statutory order of succession–to uproot the state Republican Party from the executive branch of state government.

    If there was a successful recall, I think what Melissa Malerman is suggesting above is that it would be a question of constitutional interpretation–and thus a Michigan Supreme Court case–whether “recall” is synonymous from “removal from office”. And the Supreme Court is controlled by Republican-affiliated justices by a 4-3 margin.

    The nice thing about laws is that they can be changed. If you really don’t like the laws that are being passed, work to elect people who will make different laws.

  2. Posted July 11, 2011 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

    This republican has been fascinated with the depth of ignorance of the law and state constitution exhibited by the Recall Rick crowd. Megan has things exactly correct, and I’m sure there are a few conservatives in Michigan who wouldn’t be distraught by a successful recall effort that installed the far more consistently conservative and reliably republican Brian Calley as our next Michigan Governor.

    Keep gathering those signatures! : )

    Mike, the provisions related to the line of succession to the Governor’s office in case of vacancy are in the state constitution – not state law. Also, the wording is completely unambiguous and in need of no “constitutional interpretation.”

  3. Mike Shecket
    Posted July 12, 2011 at 12:03 am | Permalink

    Oops! My bad…I missed the part that said “and such ***other***
    persons designated by law shall ***in that order*** be governor…” I read it too fast and thought it was authorizing a statute that would determine the exact order. There is, in fact, such a statute, MCL 10.2. I think all the statute does is tack on the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House as being next after the Attorney General (as specified in Art. 5 Sec. 26 of the Constitution).

  4. Posted July 12, 2011 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    Truly, the recall effort is nothing more than symbolic. Personally, I think it’s wasted time and energy.

    Voting in the next election will be far more effective.

  5. cmadler
    Posted July 12, 2011 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    Makes me wonder if the Fire Rick Snyder movement is being financed from the right as a Trojan horse, the same way the Michigan Democrats tried to put a fake Tea Party on the ballot.

  6. Bob
    Posted July 12, 2011 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    I don’t doubt that voting in the next election is a more effective means to a better future, but what exactly is a waste of time about the recall effort? Even if it were only symbolic, it would be effective. It seems to me that one of the biggest problems in general is the vast number of voters, and non-voters, who think the whole democratic process is a rigged one, and a real waste of time. If it restores a fraction of faith in our system, it’s worth doing. And really, what would be a better use of time for the recall workers? Throwing guys like Rick and Scott Walker out on their asses would be good for the morale of progressives, if nothing else.

  7. Mr. X
    Posted July 12, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    What ever happened to Jeff Irwin’s plan to launch a progressive income tax ballot initiative?

  8. Rodneyn
    Posted July 12, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    Recalls are not a democratic process when they are used for political purposes. From personal and professional experience, I’ve witnessed the blunt instrument/thuggish nature of politically motivated recall campaigns in action. The recall process was included in election law to provide a means of removing an elected official who has committed gross malfeasance in office (criminal behavior) or complete nonfeasance in office (not doing his or her job at all).

    Using the recall process for political purposes does little but discourage participation and ultimately weaken our political system in the long term.

  9. Glen S.
    Posted July 12, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    @ Rodneyn

    One could argue that firing lawfully- and democratically-chosen elected officials and replacing them with unelected and un-accountable bureaucrats — not to mention voiding legally agree upon contracts between and among individuals and their employers — might constitute “gross malfeasance in office (criminal behavior) …”

  10. Rodneyn
    Posted July 12, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    @Glen S. – then you would need to retroactively recall ol’ Gov. Granholm who signed the EFM bill into law and exercised it to do exactly as you describe. You would also need to do the same for our own ex-Mayor Farmer and your favorite ex-City Councilmembers for putting the financial future of the City of Ypsilanti into the hands of unelected bureaucrats who ran the Water Street project $30 Million deep into a fiscal ditch with virtually no oversight.

    Malfeasance in office is a legal term meaning that the officeholder committed criminal acts related to the performance of his or her duties. No matter how much you may try to obfuscate things, a governor who takes reasonable and prudent actions to implement the laws of the state of Michigan is doing nothing more than his duty under the state constitution. If you don’t like the law, tell your lawmakers. If you don’t like how they voted, then either run for office yourself or support their opponent in the next election.

    Politically motivated recalls add nothing to the political process.

  11. Posted July 15, 2011 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    I have to agree with Glenn S.

    If the Lt. Gov. taking over may in fact be true, we are also recalling local congressman and senators (Rep. Kevin Cotter and Sen. Judy Emmons are my local reps ).

    Now, if these recall efforts are successful, it sends a message to Lansing, “We are paying attention…what are you doing? You can’t do that! You work for us, not big corporate money. You’re fired. Can I call you a cab?”

    The people of Benton Harbor are still paying taxes with out representation…uh, that’s one of the reasons we fought the American Revolution.

  12. Rose
    Posted July 16, 2011 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    Participating in the process is never a waste of time. If people are finally awake and watching what it is our elected officials are doing it is well worth the effort.

  13. Rodneyn
    Posted July 19, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Permalink


    Participating in a politically-motivated recall campaign is not “participating in the (democratic) process. It is as anti-democratic a process as you can get. A small minority can overturn a majority vote in a general election to force a recall referendum in which (under Michigan law) the elected official must do the next to impossible by educating their supporters to vote “no” to keep them in office.

    There is nothing “democratic” about these recalls, other than the state Democrat Party is working very hard behind the scenes to help things along…. It is thug politics at its worst.

    Rose, if you were “participating in the process” you would either be running for office yourself or supporting candidates as a campaign volunteer or through financial donations to help them get their message out. You might also be writing to your representatives in the state legislature and U.S. Congress to let them know your views on specific issues, and might even make a trip or two to Lansing to speak at a hearing on a bill you’re interested in or meet with your state Senator or state representative face-to-face. You could even be regularly attending meetings of your local elected city council or township board, or even be volunteering to serve on a board or commission as an appointed official.

    That is “participation in the process.”

  14. Glen S.
    Posted July 19, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Permalink


    “Democrat Party”

    “thug politics”

    Question: Does anything you post here *not* come directly from the Koch Brothers via Grover Norquist’s daily Twitter feed?

  15. Meta
    Posted August 9, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    The following update on the recall effort being waged against Rick Snyder comes from Chris Bowers at DailyKos:

    Mark, from June 20 to July 31, we pulled in an amazing 297,529 petition signatures in our campaign to recall Governor Rick Snyder. In July alone, more than 255,000 signatures were collected.

    This was done by the over 5,000 amazing Michigan volunteers for Daily Kos and We did it while making every penny count, gathering eight signatures for every dollar spent.

    Looking forward, Michigan election law requires 806,522 petition signatures in order to force a recall election. The signatures must be gathered in 90 days, but when that 90-day period begins is up to us.

    At our current pace, we need another 7,000 volunteers to pull this off. Finding the volunteers shouldn’t be a problem, but we do need a new volunteer management system to keep everyone active and organized.

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