As the California recall of Gov. Gray Davis looms on the other
side of the country, the Michigan Legislature may soon get a chance
to limit when the state can have recall elections.

Recalls still would be possible, but only could take place when
there is a general election scheduled.

Current law requires that recall elections occur within 60 days
after the necessary petitions are filed.

The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Ron Jelinek (R-Three Oaks), said
the proposed change would eliminate costly special elections.

“We have a lot of recalls where I come from. They get to be very
expensive and most of them are unsuccessful,” Jelinek said.

Over the past month, California voters have been wrestling with
whether to recall Gov. Gray Davis. The election is estimated to
cost taxpayers $66 million, the San Francisco Chronicle
reported.

But Jelinek said the timing of his bill has nothing to do with
the situation in California.

Berrien County, in southwestern Michigan within Jelinek’s Senate
district, has held 22 special recall elections since 1998 – 10 of
which were successful. The total cost of the recalls to the state
was $77,000, Jelinek said.

Jelinek said waiting to have recall elections has
advantages.

“It allows for a cooling-off period. Some people may re-evaluate
if they want to recall a person once they see them a little
longer,” Jelinek said.

One of Jelinik’s Democratic colleagues, Sen. Liz Brater of Ann
Arbor, said recall elections are “being used in a way that is
problematic.”

She said many recall elections are held because of policy
disagreements as opposed to criminal matters.

“I think the concept is definitely worth exploring because there
is always a danger of very few people turning out to vote and
people getting recalled by fewer votes than they were elected by,”
Brater said.

Jelinek said all types of people, from state officials to school
board members, have been subject to recall in the past – many for
frivolous reasons.

“There’s a group recalling school board members because they
were successful in passing a bond,” Jelinek said.

“There was an unsuccessful recall because a township
supervisor’s proposed budget wasn’t available soon enough.”

“(Recalls) also discourage people from running for election
because if they look at somebody cross-eyed they get threatened
with recall,” Jelinek added.

Michigan is one of 18 states that allow recalls.

State law requires the signatures of at least 25 percent of the
total votes cast for the official before a recall petition can be
submitted, according to the National Conference of State
Legislators.

In California, 12 percent of voters must sign a petition to
recall statewide officers.

 

 

 

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