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State canvassers board approves recall petition against Rep. MacDonell

Interior of the state Capitol's rotunda.
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
Interior of the state Capitol's rotunda.

An effort to recall one Democratic state representative is moving forward after the Michigan Board of State Canvassers gave its approval Monday.

The petition targets Representative Sharon MacDonell (D-Troy) for voting in favor of a bill to keep firearms from those deemed a threat to themselves or others.

Attorney Mark Brewer represents MacDonell. He said the petition needs to describe that legislation in further detail.

As approved, the petition reads, “On April 13, 2023, State Representative Sharon MacDonell voted “yes” on Michigan House Bill 4145 creating the Extreme Risk Protection Act, i.e. “Red Flag” Law.”

Brewer unsuccessfully argued before the board that “red flag” wasn’t descriptive enough.

“It’s not defined in the reason for the petition, and it is capable of many, many different meanings, leaving the signers to guess as to what that is,” Brewer said.

He said he planned to challenge the board’s approval before the state Court of Appeals. That could delay petition circulation by up to 40 days, depending on how long it takes to get a ruling.

A successful recall campaign could threaten the slim two-seat Democratic majority in the state House.

A Republican House lawmaker, Rep. Cam Cavitt (R-Cheboygan) is also facing a recall effort.

Recall petitions against five other Democratic House lawmakers were also under consideration before the Board of State Canvassers on Monday.

One also dealt with the extreme risk protection order legislation. The other four petitions involved a bill to outlaw hate crimes.

A divided board, however, decided 2-1 the rest of the efforts didn’t include enough details about their respective legislation.

Board member Tony Daunt disagreed with the decision to hold the petitions back.

“If you’re unclear, you can always decline to sign these things. Nobody’s holding a gun to their head and saying you must sign this. If you are a petition circulator, if you’re organizing a campaign like this, it would behoove you to be as clear and as factual up front as you can be,” Daunt said.

The organizers of the rejected petitions have the option of coming back with an updated version. Four of the six considered Monday also had earlier versions blocked at an August 1 meeting.

A few concerns regarding those petitions that had been expressed at that earlier meeting involved them being handwritten and not including any disclaimer explaining who was paying for the effort.

    Each of the petitions included similar wording, leading to speculation of a coordinated effort. Brewer told reporters he planned on filing a campaign finance complaint against the sponsors of each of the petitions, in addition to other groups he claimed had promoted the efforts.

    “All these people that are working together should have formed a committee and it’s illegal for them not to form a committee and then report on their finances,” Brewer said.

    None of the petition sponsors spoke at Monday’s meeting.

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