Recall the Governor?

Apr 20, 2011

There’s one word you can’t use to describe Governor Rick Snyder: Uncontroversial. In less than four months Michigan’s newest governor has created loads of controversy.

The seemingly mild-mannered former business executive has rammed a tough new emergency financial manager law through the legislature. He is pushing a budget that gives businesses a big tax break and makes devastating cuts to education and social programs. Lots of people are hopping mad, and some of them are trying to do something drastic about it. A group called Michigan Citizens United is launching a campaign to remove the governor from office.

They’ve filed paperwork in Washtenaw County seeking official permission to begin a recall drive. In nine days, the county board of commissioners will have a hearing to determine if the language on the petition is clear. If it is, the group can start collecting names. If they get enough signatures, the state’s voters may go the polls November 8th and decide whether to remove the governor. If a majority voted yes, Rick Snyder would be out of a job.

His opponents have a web site. They have a facebook page, and they are gung-ho. But there are two questions we should ask:  Does this recall effort have a chance of succeeding, and -- is it a good idea?  The first question is fairly easy; the answer is a resounding no. It will be all but impossible for this or any grassroots group to get enough signatures to make this happen.

Here’s why. They would need to collect 807,000 valid signatures within ninety days. Practically, as Citizens’ United admit, they really need well over a million, since some are bound to be disqualified.

That would mean they’d have to collect more than ten thousand signatures a day. The only way they could possibly achieve that is by spending a vast amount of money to hire people to collect the signatures, and this group doesn’t have it.

Most petition efforts to get constitutional amendments on the ballot fail, unless they have heavy financial backing, and an amendment only needs about a third as many signatures.

Finally, however, I think that a recall election would be a terrible idea.

Personally, I do not agree with many of this governor’s policies. But he is doing essentially what he said he would do when he ran for office, and a large majority of the voters elected him.

Rick Snyder has not disgraced the office, abused his power or been involved in any financial or personal scandal. Nor has he been a dictator. His policies have to be approved by the legislature.

If we start trying to toss our elected officials out every time we disagree with them, representative government will quickly fall apart. If we don’t like the governor’s policies, we can defeat his supporters in the Michigan House next year, and throw him out when his term expires. We have a natural system for recalls in this state; they are called, regular elections. You don’t need to collect signatures and it doesn’t cost an extra dime. You just have to show up and vote.

Most of us, by the way, didn’t do that last November. 

I wonder if that could be why we are so unhappy now.