Traverse City Record-Eagle

July 31, 2013

Editorial: Changes bend too far toward incumbents

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — Swapping out one bad law for another is poor public policy. But then poor public policy seems to be the current Michigan Legislature’s specialty.

Lawmakers recently moved to make changes in state law regulating recall elections. For decades, the recall has been widely misused by small groups of voters to unseat people they didn’t like, in part because the requirements to mount a recall were so vague.

All that was required to get approval to circulate petitions was that the claims made against an elected official be “clear,” which meant that just about anything could pass muster. The process was open to abuse, and it got abused.

Now, state and county election boards will have to determine if the reasons for recall are “factual,” a whole new can of worms. Those circulating petitions will have only 60 days to gather enough signatures. Voters will also have a choice between the officeholder and a challenger.

While changes were needed, the new law practically invites lawsuits over what is or isn’t “factual,” which is sure to snuff some recalls — even good ones against elected officials who deserve to be sent home.

Changing the recall law was needed, but protecting incumbents shouldn’t be part of the process.