Natural disasters, or 'states of emergency' CAN happen in our Great Lakes State.
Michigan is not immune to the effects of nature, and the SoS may have once again missed an opportunity to protect the electorate.
“Once again,” I say because when it mattered, Ruth Johnson sided with the governor in his lawbreaking. In the Proposal 1 (loser by 80%-20% statewide) leadup, the governor broke the law in front of Johnson, Schuette, and nearly every single lawmaker and judge in the state.
Nothing was done, and in-fact there was an effort to circumvent the process that had been defended only years before. Even the Michigan GOP’s pet poodle Greg McNeilly noted the infraction saying “.. it was “inappropriate” for Snyder to use the televised speech to advocate for a “yes” vote on Proposal 1.” yet stopped short of calling a misdemeanor what it is. Flame Hard indeed.
But this recent failure by the SoS is a little more local, yet profound. When a natural disaster prevents voters from reaching the polls, ought not the top elections official be a little more proactive? In the case of an Elmwood township millage question, Johnson’s office went from a failure to uphold the law to negligence and simple abject failure.
Here’s the deal as [penned by Barb Willing]
On August 2, 2015 a “freshwater hurricane” or “bow echo” (a bow-shaped storm usually found in states like Kansas or Missouri) involving straightline winds exceeding at times more than 100 mph caused millions of dollars of destruction in western, northern Michigan. By 6:30 p.m., local officials declared a “State of Emergency” in the greater Grand Traverse area including Leelanau County. By night-fall a State of Disaster was declared, and published.
When a State of Emergency or a State of Disaster is declared it suspends regulatory statutes, which includes election laws, especially when “strict compliance with the statute, order or rule would prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action in coping with the disaster or emergency, . . .” MCLA 30.405(1)(a); 30.402(e),(h).
In Leelanau County, Elmwood and Kasson Townships, had ballot proposals scheduled for August 4, 2015. Michelle Crocker, Leelanau County Clerk, contacted the State Board of Elections on August 3, 2015, regarding the States of Emergency/Disaster and what was returned was a flyer dated August 3, 2015, titled “Election Day – Power Outage”. This flyer contained the advice “Remember, election dates and polling place hours cannot be moved or extended without a court order.”
This situation wasn’t a mere “power outage” it was a full-blown declared state of disaster meeting all the criteria under the legal definition of the law. Therefore, it would have been reasonable that “strict compliance” with the election statute be delayed as allowed by law or court order.
I believe it reasonable then, that Clerk Crocker, having full personal knowledge of the State of Emergency/Disaster declared within her county, owed a duty to the electors in Elmwood and Kasson Townships, to seek that court order to delay the election. She could have also contacted the Governor even though at the time of this disaster, he was in China.
Mr. Snyder was contacted during his visit regarding another election issue; that is setting dates for special elections to replace two legislators, one of which was expelled from the house. Thus, apparently, contacting the governor would have been another reasonable solution in meeting the effects of the disaster head-on.
On August 4, 2015, the election proceeded resulting in hundreds of disenfranchised voters.
It is known that special, single issues elections are notorious for low voter turnout. The May 5, 2015, statewide issue attracted approximately 30% of registered voters in Kasson and Elmwood townships.
Kasson Twp. Date total number of voters
total number of voters 11/4/14 2318 630 5/5/15 1304 363 8/4/15 1191 106
It is interesting that a similar ballot issue in Elmwood in 2014 ended in a tie 1126 to 1126. But on August 4, 2015, the issue was decided by half of the entire voter turnout in the previous election.
The entire county was coping with disastrous conditions. There is no question that the elections in Kasson and Elmwood Townships should have been delayed. The law not only allowed but demanded it. Citizens of these townships have been attempting redress of this issue at all levels.
The County prosecutor, Joe Hubbell advised that since there was no allegations of fraud there is nothing he can do. We’ve yet to hear positive movement in vacating this election from Sen Booher and Rep. Ray Franz. Both have been asked for governor intervention.
The disaster was an act of God. The disenfranchised hundreds an act of ignorance. Someone needs to step up and fix this as one disenfranchised voter affects us all.
Where was Ruth’s office?
Locally, this issue of the public safety millage is extremely contentious. The township supervisor has been trying to jam a wasteful expansionist fire services programs and A21 style hogwashery down the throats of residents since he arrived. This type of tragic misapplication of the democratic process could happen at any time, and now apparently has, yet does not get the attention a non existent terrorist threat does in the very same communities as they take ‘homeland security dollars’ to prepare for.
As for Michigan’s Secretary of State? Vote integrity might have once been her platform once upon a time. I’m not sure it matters much any more.
Happy Kayaking Ruth.
Conversations were had with a SOS employee who advised "we don't have disasters" but we have emergency managers in every county, every township, etc., but "we don't have disasters". The emergency managers are tied to Homeland Security--but we don't have disasters. If this were true, why do we have emergency managers tied to Homeland Security--who report to the head of the state Homeland Security who reports to the Governor that there's a disaster declared somewhere in the state? It cannot be stressed enough the advice given to Clerk Crocker by the Secretary of State was flawed and should have read: “Remember, election dates and polling place hours cannot be moved or extended without a court order.” or State of Disaster. Duh!
An argument might be made that the declaration of Disaster holds the same weight as declaring some measure of Martial Law. While Martial Law is arbitrary in character, a Disaster is not. Martial Law". . .is established and administered in a place or district of hostile territory held in belligerent possession. . .which suspends all existing civil laws" (Blacks Law Dictionary). Some measure of Martial Law has been used by Governors in the past for riots and other civil unrest. Curfews may be set (and I believe a curfew was set in many areas of this storm aftermath) essentially restricting civil liberties--a measure of martial law. Another measure of Martial Law utilized during this Disaster was use of the Michigan National Guard. If the Gov was in China during this disaster, someone had the authority in the homeland to order these boys and girls to work.
I believe that once there's a declaration of Disaster--ALL CIVIL LAWS are suspended. The main fear of Martial Law being declared at the federal level is that ELECTIONS ARE SUSPENDED. It is therefore a reasonable conclusion that the Declaration of Disaster, suspends election law.