TRAVERSE CITY — Michigan election officials determined a recall committee trying to unseat Republican state Rep. Larry Inman came up short.

The committee had 11,993 valid signatures, 208 short of the 12,201 it needed to trigger a primary election and recall vote, according to a report from the Michigan Bureau of Elections. Officials invalidated 1,878 signatures, with 700 from voters not registered to vote in the city or township listed in the petition heading and 293 disqualified as duplicate signatures, among other reasons.

It’s a disappointing turn for recall petition sponsor Sondra Hardy, she said. At the same time, she’s proud to be part of an effort that established some important legal precedent for other recall efforts, even if theirs fell short.

Inman reacted positively to the decision.

“Christmas just came early,” he said.

The elections bureau’s decision came after the bureau’s initial review showed the recall campaign came up short and recall committee members tried to rehabilitate enough signatures to meet the threshold. Committee members successfully argued that 166 signatures previously disqualified were valid, according to the report.

But dozens of signatures among 785 submitted on Jan. 3 were duplicates, leading the bureau to disqualify both the duplicate and original signatures.

“Consistent with past practice, 293 signatures were invalidated for this reason,” the report reads.

It’s the final blow to a recall effort beleaguered with procedural woes. The state in November originally disqualified all 13,871 signatures submitted because of a typo and missing word on the petitions, arguing the reasons for recall were different from those approved by the state Board of Canvassers. Then, the elections bureau’s provisional canvass on Dec. 16 found enough invalid signatures to leave the campaign 94 short.

The state Court of Appeals on Dec. 20 agreed the petitions were invalid, but the state Supreme Court reversed that ruling 10 days later, as previously reported.

Friday was the deadline for the state to validate the recall campaign’s signatures.

Hardy said a 2012 change to state recall laws made it “impossible” for voters to unseat an elected official. Those included shortening the window petitioners have to gather signatures to 60 days from 90. She believes the 13,871 people who signed the petition deserve the chance to vote out Inman.

“I think we fought as hard as we could and we brought about some changes, and we certainly showed that the people can speak,” she said. “I think that that gave us, maybe coming up in the future, the knowledge that we can make a difference.”

Inman said he’s hoping to move forward with the last year of his final term as representative. He holds no ill will to the people who supported the recall effort, believes he still has the backing of a majority of voters and said he thanks those who offered him support throughout.

“Those encouraging words were really helping me get through this process, that I had residents of Grand Traverse County supporting me through this process,” he said.

Recall committee members cited Inman’s dozens of missed votes following his indictment in May 2019 on three federal charges — he sought treatment for an opioid addiction a month later.

A jury in December acquitted Inman, who represents Grand Traverse County, of making false statements to the FBI, and deadlocked on charges of attempted extortion and soliciting a bribe. He was accused of trying to sell his vote against repealing the state’s prevailing wage law. He has a Jan. 16 hearing to determine whether federal prosecutors intend to retry him on the extortion and bribery charges, court documents show.

Republican House of Representatives leadership stripped Inman of his committee assignments and barred him from his office shortly after he was indicted. A spokesman for Speaker Lee Chatfield previously said the decision reflected what Inman said in the texts at the center of the case and that Chatfield likely wouldn’t reverse course following the trial.

Inman said he’s still hoping Chatfield will change his mind, given that Inman wasn’t convicted of any crime and was under the influence of opioids when Inman sent the texts.

“(Chatfield) is a man of God, he’s a man of the Constitution, and the Constitution says you are innocent until proven guilty, and I expect him to abide by that,” Inman said.

 

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