Election Board: Warren Recall Wording Rejected

At a clarity hearing held on July 18, 2011, the Washtenaw County board of election commissioners found that the proposed ballot language in a petition asking for the recall of state Sen. Rebekah Warren was not sufficiently clear.

That means that unless the board’s decision is appealed, the recall attempt will not move forward. Warren, a Democrat, was the subject of the recall effort for voting against legislation proposed by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder – and ultimately passed by the state House and Senate – that eliminated the Michigan Business Tax. [Snyder is also the subject of a recall – see Chronicle coverage on the April 29, 2011 clarity hearing for that recall effort.]

The language that the board determined was not sufficiently clear was as follows: “Michigan House Bill 4361 eliminates the job-killing Michigan Business Tax; however, on May 12, 2011, State Sen. Rebekah Warren voted ‘No’ on final passage of Michigan House Bill 4361.” [.pdf of proposed recall ballot language]

The board of election commissioners consists of Donald E. Shelton (chair), chief judge of the Washtenaw County Trial Court; Larry Kestenbaum (secretary), county clerk; and Catherine McClary (member), county treasurer. Kestenbaum and McClary ran for their offices as Democrats. The judicial races are non-partisan, but Shelton in the past has run for office as a Democrat.

The vote rejecting the petition language was 2-1, with Kestenbaum dissenting. Shelton and McClary noted that HB 4361 does not, in fact, eliminate the Michigan Business Tax – nor does the bill reference that tax. The MBT was addressed in a companion piece of legislation – House Bill 4362.

The petition language for Warren’s recall was submitted on July 7, 2011 by Steven E. Wallis of Ypsilanti Township, who last year was listed as a member of the Willow Run Tea Party Caucus. Wallis did not attend the clarity hearing, and no one appeared at the hearing on his behalf. Warren and nearly a dozen of her staff and supporters attended. Warren addressed the board in defense of her vote, and was formally represented by Jack Dolan, an attorney who argued that the petition language was unclear.

Under Michigan’s state election law, the finding at a clarity hearing can be appealed to the Circuit Court within 10 days of the finding by the petitioner or the officer. New recall ballot language can also be submitted.

The brief was filed from the Washtenaw County board of commissioners boardroom, 220 N. Main St., Ann Arbor, where the clarity hearing was conducted.