Gov. Whitmer asks Republicans for new nominee for key elections board

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's office is asking the Michigan Republican Party for a new nominee to serve on a key state board that's in charge of certifying election results after the GOP proposed a state lawmaker who is likely ineligible.

After Norm Shinkle, a longtime member of the Board of State Canvassers, resigned last week, the Michigan GOP nominated on Wednesday three Republicans for his position, including state Rep. Julie Calley of Portland. However, the Michigan Constitution says no individual elected to the state Legislature "shall receive any civil appointment within this state from the governor."

Rep. Julie Calley, R-Portland

On Thursday, Whitmer's chief legal counsel, Nicholas Bagley, sent GOP Chairman Ron Weiser a letter, saying Calley was ineligible, according to a document obtained by The Detroit News.

"We are looking forward to receiving a third eligible nominee for the Board of State Canvassers," Bagley wrote.

Under state law, Whitmer, a Democrat, is ultimately in charge of picking one of three Republican nominees to serve on the canvassing board.

The Constitution says that those elected to the Legislature are ineligible for appointments for the entirety of their terms, so even if Calley resigned, she might still be unable to serve on the board until 2023.

Likewise, a 2009-2010 official state manual created for the Legislature says once a member is elected to the Legislature, they are not eligible "to receive any appointment, except as a notary public, within this state from the governor, the Legislature or from any other state authority during the term for which the member was elected."

Steven Liedel, a longtime Michigan lawyer with the firm Dykema, tweeted Wednesday night that there were "multiple constitutional reasons" why Calley is not eligible to serve on the canvassing board.

Asked about the legality of Calley's nomination, Gus Portela, spokesman for the Michigan Republican Party, said the party had submitted its list to Whitmer and it was up to the governor "pick from that list."

Scrutiny of the election certification process is expected to intensify in the coming years as some within the GOP have advanced unproven claims that widespread fraud cost Republican Donald Trump the 2020 presidential race against Democrat Joe Biden.

The party's new nominees for the canvassing board appeared to be more moderate on the topic than other leadership figures within the GOP.

The party nominated Michael Hewitt of Grand Rapids and Steve Yoder of Cedar, two GOP insiders, along with Calley.

All three individuals endorsed former state House Speaker Tom Leonard for attorney general this spring against Kalamazoo lawyer Matt DePerno, who rose to prominence questioning the 2020 election and was endorsed by Trump.

Party delegates, however, endorsed DePerno for attorney general.

Last year, Yoder, chairman of the 1st Congressional District GOP committee, voiced support for state Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, who authored a report finding no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

"I trust Ed and the homework he did," Yoder told The Detroit News. "I know that he’s not going to make things up.”

Calley, a former Ionia County commissioner, is in her final term in the Michigan House. She is the wife of former Lt. Gov. Brian Calley.

The Board of State Canvassers has four members, two Republicans and two Democrats.

In January 2021, the state GOP sought to replace Aaron Van Langevelde, the GOP member of the Board of State Canvassers who cast the pivotal vote to certify Biden's victory in 2020.

Whitmer eventually chose Tony Daunt of DeWitt to fill the position from a list of three potential candidates.

Daunt has been openly critical of Trump, describing him as a "deranged narcissist."

cmauger@detroitnews.com