Attempts are based on ideology, not bona fide misconduct
@Opinion:In this frenetic, dizzying and yes, even frustrating time in Michigan, we’re not surprised to learn of someone attempting to recall an elected official, much like what a Waterford resident is attempting to do to state Rep. Gail Haines (R-Waterford, West Bloomfield). But she’s not the only one targeted: Gov. Rick Snyder and a host of state lawmakers around Michigan are also the object of citizens’ displeasure. The frustration some are feeling is palpable, and county clerks’ offices across the state are noticing it as legislators face the wrath of constituents upset with how bitter the pill is that they are being forced to swallow as the state attempts to right its fiscal ship. We get it. Even so, most of these recall efforts seem to be more about the officeholder’s policies and their votes rather than nonfeasance or some misdeed committed while serving — which should be the only reasons for attempting to recall an officeholder.
A Waterford resident who challenged Haines in the August 2010 GOP primary election has filed proposed petition language to recall the second-term lawmaker under the grounds that Haines “is not casting her vote to reflect the needs and desires of her constituents.”
“This petition to recall State Representative Gail Haines is based on her repeated failure to represent District 43 constituents,” the proposed petition language reads. “After signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge and vowing not to raise taxes, she has consistently supported legislation which raises taxes. She has publicly stated that even though she was absent during the voting for House Bill 4361 (the proposed budget for 2011/12), she would have supported this legislation, which reduces the Michigan Business Tax and shifts that tax burden to lower- and middle-class citizens, including the removal of exemptions for senior citizens’ retirement pensions. She voted in favor of House Bill 4408 (Public Act 14 of 2011), which reduced unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 20 weeks. She voted in favor of legislation which is now included in the Emergency Financial Manager Law (Public Act 4 of 2011), which gives excessive and unconstitutional power to Emergency Financial Managers. Rep. Haines has missed 8 key votes on issues that negatively affect her constituents. When present to vote, a review of her voting record shows that Rep. Haines is not casting her vote to reflect the needs and desires of her constituents. Representative Haines is not representing the people.”
That language goes before Oakland County Circuit Court Family Division Judge Linda S. Hallmark next week. If approved, the petitioner would have 180 days to round up 8,613 registered voters’ signatures — an amount equal to 25 percent of the total ballots cast for governor in the 43rd House District during the last election — to get a recall question on a ballot.
State law requires that recall petition language be “based upon the officer’s conduct during his or her current term of election.” That’s important because the Waterford resident had previously filed proposed language that was solely based on Haines’ support for the smoking ban — a state law approved in her previous term in office, not the one she is currently serving. That language was rightly rejected.
The basis for this fresh recall effort — and the basis for a slew of others — apparently is ideology and the officeholder’s stance on public policy, not their “conduct in office,” as prescribed by state law. We aren’t aware of anything Haines, the other targeted lawmakers, or even Snyder has done that can be categorized as anything other than supporting what they believe is right for the state and its residents to pull us out of a fiscal and economic abyss — which, by and large, is what the electorate tasked them to do.
What submitting recall petition language willy-nilly does is hamstring officeholders’ ability to do just that, for fear of being tossed from office based on some beef over the officials’ voting records. The recall process should be reserved only for malfeasance, misfeasance or nonfeasance in office: A recall is to be used only to remove those who breach the public trust by violating the law or failure to carry out their official duties or legal requirements.
So, while we may disagree with these politicians about many things — and we certainly do — they should not be targeted for recall simply because someone doesn’t like their voting record or policy priorities. Recalls are serious business. They are powerful tools meant to protect the public from corruption or a failure to fulfill legal requirements of the job, not to air political grievances in a very public and extremely consequential manner. Trying to recall elected officials over political disagreements promotes chaos. If you don’t like a person’s politics or policy priorities, work to get them ousted in a regular election, not through misuse of the recall process.