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Board OKs Whitmer recall petition language; signature gathering to start July 1

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

The Board of State Canvassers unanimously approved Monday the language and form of an Albion man's petition to recall Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. 

Chad Baase's petition calls for Whitmer's recall based on nine of 112 executive orders she has issued in the response to the coronavirus.

The orders listed in the petition include those limiting non-essential dental and medical procedures; prohibiting non-essential travel and activities unless necessary to sustain life, also called the stay-at-home order; stopping veterinary services; and expanding COVID-19 emergency and disaster declarations.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gives a COVID-19 update.

The bipartisan Board of State Canvassers approved the petition — Baase's third attempt at a recall petition targeting Whitmer — because it met state laws requiring recall petitions to be factual and sufficiently clear. 

Baase said Monday he wanted to recall Whitmer because of the toll her executive orders took on businesses even as the unemployment system was plagued with delays in addressing unemployment claims. 

"It's about her failure to make sure that the system is set up to protect people that she’s supposed to be representing," Baase said. "She hasn’t done a very good job with that.”

Whitmer's senior campaign adviser called the attempted recall "another baseless partisan attack." An appeal is likely because the board failed "to apply the correct standard of review to the petition," Christopher Mills said in a statement.

"Michiganders know that the vast majority support the governor’s swift and aggressive action in the fight against COVID-19," Mills said. "The governor plans to fight this recall aggressively while staying focused on protecting Michigan families from the spread of COVID-19."

A separate recall petition against Whitmer and a petition to recall Attorney General Dana Nessel were denied at Monday's meeting. 

Baase now has to collect 1,062,647 valid signatures in a 60-day window over the next 180 days for the petition to qualify for the statewide ballot. 

Baase said he plans to start collecting signatures July 1 — when his 60-day window would begin — and encouraged people starting July 1 to go to, print out a petition, sign it and mail it in. The website was not functioning Monday. 

Baase hopes to collect signatures by more traditional means — outside stores or at public events — but also requested permission to collect signatures electronically, a request the board denied. 

In Michigan law, there is no provision for gather signatures electronically and there are large areas of the state that lack computer access to participate by electronic means, said Julie Matuzak, one of two Democratic appointees on the board of commissioners. 

"If we’re collecting signatures over the internet, that means we are in effect disenfranchising large portions of our community," Matuzak said. "And I think that is wrong.”

Baase said he plans to petition the Michigan Court of Claims in the next couple of weeks to gather signatures electronically, especially in light of the public health concerns surrounding gathering signatures face-to-face during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Democrat members of the Michigan Board of Canvassers Jeannette Bradshaw, left,  and Julie Matuzak

Separately, a campaign seeking to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Michigan is suing the state in hopes of easing requirements for getting its proposal before voters during the COVID-19 pandemic. That case is still pending.