Warren, Horiszny Recall Language Rejected

Ballot language for two separate recall attempts – against state Sen. Rebekah Warren and Washtenaw Community College trustee Pamela Horiszny – was not approved by the Washtenaw County board of election commissioners at a clarity hearing held on Monday afternoon, Aug. 15, 2011.

The board’s decision was unanimous regarding the Horiszny recall language. But the decision to reject the language for Warren’s recall was made on a 2-1 vote. Without approval by the board, the recalls can’t move forward unless the decisions are appealed.

Initial steps of a recall require that ballot language be deemed clear by the board of election commissioners in the jurisdiction of the elected official who is the target of the recall. The Washtenaw County 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.

The board found that the proposed ballot language submitted on Aug. 1 by Ypsilanti resident David H. Raaflaub was not sufficiently clear. The proposed language reads: “Michigan House Bill 4362 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 4362.” Kestenbaum’s was the dissenting vote.

Raaflaub, who did not attend Monday’s clarity hearing, most recently was a Republican candidate in 2010 for Washtenaw County commissioner in District 6. Warren is married to Conan Smith, a Democrat who represents District 10 on the county board of commissioners and who is chair of the board.

Warren spoke briefly to the board at the hearing, arguing that among other things, the MBT hasn’t yet been repealed.

This is the second recent attempt to recall Warren, an Ann Arbor Democrat who represents District 18. On July 7, 2011, Steven E. Wallis of Ypsilanti Township submitted ballot language that differed in only one way from this week’s submission – it referred to House Bill 4361 in both instances.

At a clarity hearing held on July 18, 2011, the board of election commissioners found that the proposed ballot language submitted by Wallis was not sufficiently clear. The vote rejecting the petition by Wallis language was 2-1, with Kestenbaum dissenting. Shelton and McClary noted that HB 4361 did not, in fact, eliminate the Michigan Business Tax – nor did the bill reference that tax. The MBT was addressed in a companion piece of legislation – House Bill 4362.

At Monday’s hearing, McClary and Shelton expressed the same concerns that caused them to vote against the previous recall. McClary objected to the phrase “job-killing,” and Shelton said the House bill does not eliminate the MBT. Kestenbaum again dissented, saying his vote was consistent with his previous stance, given that only the number of the bill had changed in the ballot language. In his opinion, the language was clear enough to move forward.

Also at the Aug. 15 clarity hearing, the board found that proposed ballot language in a petition asking for the recall of WCC trustee Pamela Horiszny did not meet the requirement that the petition address actions occurring only during the elected official’s term. The ballot language submitted on July 26 relates to cancellation of a nursing transfer program between WCC and the University of Michigan, and includes reference to an incident occurring on Oct. 21, 2010. Horiszny’s current term began on Jan. 1, 2011. The recall petition was filed by William Campbell of Ann Arbor, who ran unsuccessfully against Horiszny for WCC trustee in 2010. Campbell attended Monday’s meeting but did not address the board.