Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Michigan's Right to Work Law and potential recalls

Michigan's passage of the Right to Work Law seems to make the state a fertile for future recall attempts, from the Governor on down. Right to Work is a huge threat to unions, arguably more so than the laws passed in Wisconsin last year. Not only has there been recall threats chanted in protests in Lansing, but the legislature apparently recognizes the danger and is trying to make significant changes to the recall law.

Furthermore, by all rights, Michigan should be the most fertile ground for a gubernatorial recall this year. The state is almost the ground zero of the recent recall boom -- last year it was home to almost 20 percent of the recalls around the country that made a ballot. This year saw a drop off, but it was still home to 24 recalls. Michigan has also been the home of numerous recalls of state legislators. Four state legislators have faced recalls (two in 1983, one in 2008 and one in 2011). Three of those legislators were removed.

And yet, there are some serious hurdles that might make a Michigan Gubernatorial recall (not to mention a Senate and House recall) less likely to occur.

1) The basic fact that unions might shy away from the recall after Wisconsin. There is no question that the unions came away the losers in the Wisconsin recall fight. They spent a whole lot of money, and they failed to oust Walker, only succeeded in capturing the Senate for a brief time, and failed to reverse any of the changes  in the law. Without some deep pockets backing a recall threat, it may be next to impossible to get a recall on the ballot.

2) The signature total would be much greater. Michigan simply has a lot more voters. Wisconsin needed 540,000 valid signatures. In Michigan, the number to get Snyder on the ballot would be 806,522. The time period is a little longer (90 days for Michigan, as opposed to 60 days for Wisconsin), but not enough to make a difference. In fact, there have been attempts to recall Snyder, and they have failed by a large margin -- one got 500,000 signatures.

3) Wisconsin's signature verification laws are much easier, therefore you would need a bigger cushion of signatures to get that recall through. Wisconsin only required that the signers be eligible voters; Michigan requires registered voters. This greatly increases the likelihood of failure, and boosts up the amount of signatures needed. The rule of thumb has been 15% invalids.

But these reasons pale to the last one:
4) Michigan's recall laws are much different than in Wisconsin or California. In both of those states, the replacement vote happens immediately. Therefore ousting Scott Walker or Gray Davis would result in a quick change of control. Not so Michigan.

As it stand now, Michigan has a two-step recall process. First comes the vote on removing the officials. Months later is the replacement is chosen in a second vote. In the mean time, who replacing the Governor? The Lieutenant Governor. If the Lieutenant Governor is recalled as well, what happens? Who knows. One, there would probably be a lawsuit to decide if the LG gets to take the job even though they lost the recall. Two, the next two in line if the LG is removed are the Secretary of State and the Attorney General. Both of those individuals are also Republicans.

The other problem is that even a successful recall doesn't end the battle. The second vote could very well go in favor of the Republicans. This just happened in 2011. The unions backed the recall of Republican House Representative Paul Scott. But the Republicans got the last laugh. A new Republican easily won the February replacement vote. The same thing can happen here.

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