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You likely won’t be able to vote to recall Governor Rick Snyder

Some folks profoundly unhappy with Governor Rick Snyder’s handling of the Flint water crisis will make another attempt at launching a petition drive to recall him.

Petition language

The Board of State Canvassers is meeting this morning to decide whether to approve the recall petitions. There are six different petitions they’ll review, on top of the more than 20 they’ve already looked over in the past few weeks.

The board - made up of two Democrats and two Republicans - looks over the wording for clarity and accuracy. They’ve already rejected a number of recall petitions and not just because of misspellings or small grammatical errors. Some of the petitions they’ve nixed have been confusing and hard to read. State law says recall petitions must state ‘clearly and factually’ each reason for the recall.

Extremely difficult

But, even if one of these groups were to get their recall language approved, it’s a really, really heavy lift to actually recall a sitting governor. And, it was set up to be that way.

Michigan recall laws were made even stricter after 2012’s passage of Right-to-work; a sort of self-defense mechanism for Republicans who were worried about a backlash to the quick passage of the controversial legislation.

In fact, it was Governor Snyder who signed the tougher recall bills into law including a shortened time for petitioners to gather signatures. They used to have 90 days. Now, it’s 60.

And that brings us to one of the biggest hurdles in trying to recall a governor: the sheer number of signatures needed to put the question on the ballot. Signature gathers would need almost 790,000 signatures within that 60 day period. That means gathering more than 13,000 signatures a day.

Political catharsis

But, some organizers say, why not try?

“Either we get the signatures or we don’t, but at least the process creates an opportunity for people to express themselves in a civic and politically respectable way,” Reverend David Alexander Bullock told It’s Just Politics. “When people are dying, and getting sick, and concerned about family members and are getting angry, you have to ask yourself, ‘how do you channel that kind of energy’, into a democratic process that allows people to express themselves but still be citizens. And so democracy, through a recall, gives us an opportunity to express ourselves - take that away from folks I don’t know what they have left.”

So, in a way, for some, the recall petition is much more about political catharsis. Which, given the task ahead for the recall-organizers, might be the best they can hope for.

Zoe Clark is Michigan Public's Political Director. In this role, Clark guides coverage of the state Capitol, elections, and policy debates.
Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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