(TNS) — The language in a petition to recall Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for the signing of nine of her executive orders during the COVID-19 pandemic has been approved by the Michigan Board of State Canvassers.
Albion resident Chad Baase, 39, was successful in his third attempt at coming up with “clear and factual” language to move forward with the recall petition process. He and his group -- the Committee to Recall Governor Gretchen Whitmer -- must come up with more than 1 million signatures from registered voters in 60 days or less to trigger a recall election.
“She didn’t put through effective measures with COVID to ensure businesses didn’t have to close their doors,” Baase said. "Some places couldn’t social distance under the federal guidelines, but many businesses could have stayed open with safety guidelines in place and were forced out of work.
“You can’t take away someone’s income and say you’re eligible for pandemic unemployment but then you can’t speak with anyone. I’m still waiting on my unemployment. They owe me 10 weeks.”
The Board of State Canvassers unanimously approved the recall language Monday, June 8, during a virtual meeting. The four-member bipartisan group unanimously approved the language, but rejected two other attempts to begin recall petitions, including a second petition to recall Gov. Whitmer and one to recall Attorney General Dana Nessel.
Petition language submitted by Baase, and approved by the board, lists out nine executive orders. They include the governor’s March 10 state of emergency declaration to the order and multiple orders that call for the temporary suspension of business and activities not deemed essential to maintain or protect life.
The governor’s legal counsel argued that the language wasn’t clear enough. Attorney Chris Trebilcock called it a “191-word run-on sentence” that failed to provide factual statements and identify the governor’s course of conduct worthy of recall.
While Vice Chair Aaron Van Langevelde agreed the “grammar isn’t perfect,” he said it’s a clear enough factual assertion for petition signers and voters to understand its intent.
The number of signatures needed to trigger a recall election is 25 percent of the votes cast for the office of Governor in the last gubernatorial election. More than 4.2 million people voted in the 2018 gubernatorial election.
Baase also submitted language to recall the state’s attorney general, for writing a May 4 letter stating that the executive orders restricting non-essential businesses from staying open during the public health crisis were “valid and enforceable.”
The board took issue with the lack of clarity in the submitted language, and with the use of a hyperlink attachment to the original letter.
Langevelde said it wasn’t a clearly written factual assertion and voter would have a hard time understanding it. Board member Julie Matuzak said she was concerned that residents without internet access or sufficient technology wouldn’t be able to partake in the process due to the use of URL in the language.
The board rejected the recall language for Nessel, 4-0. After the meeting, Baase told MLive he does not intend to further pursue recalling the attorney general. Instead, he’ll keep “laser focus” on recalling Whitmer.
A second attempt to have recall language approved Monday was submitted by James Makowski, a Dearborn-based attorney. In his language, Makowski said Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-09, which closed non-essential businesses during the pandemic, has contributed to a higher jobless rate than the national rate.
Board members rejected the language, 3-1, citing issues with the factual basis of the language. Langevelde was the lone member who found the language to be factually based.
After the meeting, Baase said he plans to unite groups with the same objective. He’s organizing a July 4 event on the Michigan State Capital lawn as a means to collect signatures and pass out petitions. The event will run 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and has at least 5,300 people “interested," according to the Facebook event.
“We need unity to make this recall possible,” he said. “Other groups will need to come on board.”
Baase, an entrepreneur who paints and maintains water towers, previously tried to recall Albion’s mayor and mayor pro tem in 2017. The petition was withdrawn due to the financial burden a special election could create for Albion taxpayers, Baase wrote in a letter to the county clerk’s office.
In February, Baase was paroled from prison, where he was serving two years and six months to 20 years for a 2014 conviction of making a false report or threat of terrorism. He previously told MLive he was intoxicated when he sent a series of threatening Facebook messages related to a custody case and said he has since learned to use “the proper legal protocols to get things done."
As of Sunday, June 7, Michigan has reported 58,870 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 5,656 deaths linked to the infectious respiratory virus. The state’s first case was reported March 10, which was the day Gov. Whitmer declared a state of emergency.
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