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While Wisconsin's gubernatorial recall election may be grabbing headlines this week, the reality is that recall is much more common in Michigan than in Wisconsin. A new report by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, Michigan's Recall Election Law provides an in-depth examination of this topic and looks at trends in Michigan's use of recall, state law, and how Michigan's recall provisions vary from other states.
At least 457 state and local elected officials faced a recall election in Michigan between 2000 and 2011, an average of 38 per year. Although recall attempts aimed at state office holders garner the most attention, recall is primarily a local phenomenon. Just two of the 457 recall elections involved state officials (Speaker of the House Andy Dillon in 2008 and State Representative Paul Scott in 2011).
Recall elections in Michigan have been overwhelming targeted at non-county general purpose local governments (cities, villages, and townships). City, village, and township officials comprise 67 percent of the elected officials eligible to be recalled and 89 percent of those subjected to recalls during this time period. Township officials alone represent 41 percent of the elected officials eligible to be recalled and 65 percent of those subjected to recalls during this time period.
Compared to other states, Michigan appears to have a high number of recall elections. Reasons for Michigan's large number of recall elections include its high number of elected officials relative to other states as well as certain provisions in Michigan's recall law such as allowing recalls for political reasons rather than limiting recall to specific reasons such as misfeasance or malfeasance.
CRC finds that the financial cost associated with recall elections is relatively low. Based on one set of assumptions, the cost of recall elections to Michigan's local governments in 2011 was $133,713.
"Critics of recall argue that the device can deter elected officials from making difficult but necessary decisions by striking fear into the deliberative process." said CRC Earhart Fellow Mike King. "However, recall proponents counter that elected officials should pay close attention to their constituents, and that what critics fear is a distraction is actually the path to good governance."
CRC's analysis of Michigan's recall law is available at no cost on the Citizens Research Council's website, www.crcmich.org.
Founded in 1916, CRC provides factual, unbiased, independent information concerning significant issues of state and local government organization, policy, and finance. Visit www.crcmich.org.