Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Michigan: Judge stops Genesee County recall on factual ground; potentially devastating blow to state recall campaigns

A Circuit Court Judge has issued a potentially devastating ruling for recalls in Michigan -- quashing the recall of county commissioner Pegge Adams (which is over a bizarre animal control shelter complaint) for failures under Michigan's new "factual" requirement.

Here's why this is important -- so far, there have been numerous recall rejections under the "factual" requirement. But all the rejections have taken place on the administrative level (i.e. the local county election commissions). This is the first time that I've seen a judge overturn (or even rule on) an administrative board's position on the recall since the new law passed. If judges take a strict interpretation of the factual requirement (factual seems to be very much in the eye of the beholder on recall petitions), we may seem petitions tossed out much more regularly. In will clearly delay recalls, as officials will now have a good reason to go up the legal ladder looking for a ruling that will result in their recall being tossed out.

However, the bigger change could be in expenses. As we've seen repeatedly in the past, the personal cost of running a recall can kill it. Petitioners, especially if it is just a local group, may not be able to afford the time and expense of appealing legal ruling. The result is the recall is abandoned. Even if they can pay for appeals, the process results in a waste of resources and may help dampen the possibility of a strong recall campaign.

We've been waiting for this type of ruling to come down since the new law was passed, so it is hardly a surprise. But we'll have to see what happens next.

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