Special Elections Announced for January 30, April 16
November 28, 2023
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Wednesday called for a special election outside of the already scheduled 2024 election days to fill two now-vacant state House seats.
The dates, Jan. 30 for the primary and April 16 for the general election, will be held in addition to Michigan’s Feb. 27 early presidential primary, Aug. 6 primary and Nov. 5 general election. The candidate filing deadline will be 4 p.m. next Monday, Nov. 27.
The special primary and election dates announced Wednesday come as a surprise. It was expected that the vacancies, caused by Reps. Lori Stone (D-Warren) and Kevin Coleman (D-Westland) winning their respective mayoral races, would be addressed through a Feb. 27 primary and special general election on May 7.
Predictions that the later dates would be chosen were due to federal requirements that come with hosting an early presidential primary on Feb. 27, combined with new mandates from Proposal 2, which make it more difficult for clerks to make drop boxes available on time and meet retention requirements for voting machines.
In the city where Coleman won his mayoral race, Westland Clerk Richard LeBlanc also urged the governor to hold the special state House elections concurrent with the regularly scheduled presidential primary and August primary dates. He expressed concern about staff burnout from having more than three election dates in 2024.
Reacting to the new dates, which the governor is legally allowed to establish, LeBlanc was livid.
“I’m pissed,” he said. “This is ridiculous. I don’t understand the urgency of this. What do they need to pass in the spring of 2024 that they can’t pass in the summer of 2024? So they can pass more of their liberal bullshit? I’m tired of it . . .
“We’ll do it. With help from the state and the county, we’ll make it happen in Westland. It doesn’t mean this was the right thing to do.”
The answer to the question may be that the House is under split partisan control at the moment, 54-54, until those two seats in heavily Democratic areas are filled. At that point, the Democrats’ trifecta will return.
Clerks in Westland and Warren, where Stone saw victory, can add two new election dates to the calendar.
Warren’s City Clerk, Sonja Djurovic Buffa, said she’s confident Warren will do a good job.
“Would I prefer it was not that date? Yes,” she said, but added: “I always say that we do whatever we’re mandated by the state. Nothing is too difficult.”
Buffa said one concern is the provision that ballots be sent out 40 days before an election. Due to the timing of the January and February primary elections, both ballots will be out at the same time.
At one point, we’ll have two ballot types in our office, she said, but that’s something “we’ll just have to keep track of.”
She said she and Westland’s clerk would have a conference call with the state to discuss implementation and any concerns.
One of her requests would be consolidating the election, which Buffa said will help her by reducing the number of precincts from 25 to 16 and saving Warren money.
State elections can’t legally be consolidated, but local elections can, she said. As this election is a local election for a state seat, she said she wants clarification.
When announcing the elections, Whitmer said: “The Michigan Legislature had one of the most productive sessions in Michigan history, thanks to Michiganders who elected leaders, like state representatives Coleman and Stone, to get things done on the issues that make a real difference in people’s lives.
“As we look ahead to 2024, these special elections will ensure that Michiganders in the 13th and 25th districts have representation in Lansing working for them as soon as possible,” she added. “I look forward to working with the next representatives from these districts when voters elect them in the new year.”
Michigan AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber said filling both the 13th and 25th House Districts is “absolutely critical” since Coleman and Stone had 100% voting records with organized labor.
“Electing pro-worker, pro-labor candidates to fill these vacancies is absolutely critical,” Bieber said. “Without leaders willing to stand up to corporate interests and fight for the union workers in their districts, we would not have been able to pass historic tax relief for working families and retirees.”
The Michigan Freedom Fund responded that the governor was prioritizing politics over election standards.
“This decision by Governor Whitmer is ignorant, confusing, unfair, costly, and without a doubt, politically motivated,” said Mary Drabik, communications director for the Michigan Freedom Fund. “Clerks can expect to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a special election that is less than 90 days out, and gives candidates for these races virtually less than 24 hours to file. There is no legitimate reason to rush this process.”
Article courtesy MIRS News for SBAM’s Lansing Watchdog newsletter