Well This Is Embarrassing

Young man, the plain language of the law is the plain language of the law, even when it works against you.

Regulars on either this site or the old one likely are sure to recall the Michigan Dele-Gate Fiasco. The quick synopsis, for the Johnny-come-latelies, is that, on the final night of February in 2012, the MIGOP Credentials Committee (at that time consisting of Bobby Schostak, Sharon Wise, Saul Anuzis, Holly Hughes, Eric Doster, Bill Runco, and Mike Cox) had the high-tech equivalent of a middle-of-the-night, smoke-filled-back-room meeting, and decided, by a 4-2 vote – Hughes didn’t get word of the meeting until after its conclusion – that the published and promulgated delegate allocation rules would be overridden, ex post facto, for no other purpose than to preserve the narrative of a “favorite son” presidential primary win. The resultant grassroots backlash culminated in the Showdown In Motown, where the alleged chief engineer of the fiasco, one Saul Anuzis, was convincingly replaced with Dave Agema (to the ongoing agony of Michigan Republican Progressives).

However, with now mere days before the MIGOP Policy Committee meets to rule on the affidavits of candidacy for the various 2015 State Convention candidates, we see a similar scenario playing out . . . with at least one familiar player in the mix.

Article 3E of the Bylaws of the Michigan Republican State Committee, Qualifications and Rights of Regular Members, (page 5 of the linked PDF) is pretty clear:

Each regular member of the Committee shall be a registered voter in Michigan; in the case of District members, a resident of the Congressional District such member represents. …

Article 3A of the same bylaws also clearly identifies precisely who the “regular members” are (bulleted nature of list added):

The regular members of this Committee shall be:

  • seven (7) persons, no more than four (4) of which shall be of the same gender (one of whom shall be the District Chairman) nominated and elected from each congressional district caucus at the Spring State Convention
  • the Chairman
  • the Co-Chairman (who shall be the running mate of the Chairman)
  • a Coalitions Vice Chairman
  • an Outreach Vice Chairman
  • a Grassroots Vice Chairman
  • an Ethnic Vice Chairman
  • an Administrative Vice Chairman
  • and a Youth Vice Chairman,
  • . . . all of whom shall be nominated and elected at the Spring State Convention in odd-numbered years
  • the Secretary of the Committee who shall be elected at the second meeting of the Committee following its election
  • the Treasurer and General Counsel of the Committee who shall be nominated by the Chairman and confirmed by the Committee at the second meeting of the Committee following its election
  • the Finance Chairman of the Committee who shall serve at the pleasure of the Chairman
  • the National Committeeman and National Committeewoman selected according to law until their successors are elected
  • and the president of the Republican Women’s Federation of Michigan.

. . . which is pretty straightforward. By combining the two paragraphs, we can reasonably conclude that, in order to be one of the 113 regular members of the MIGOP State Central Committee, one has to meet the qualifications for the office in question . . . which specifically includes being a registered voter at the time that one is elected, or appointed, to the office in question.

Michigan Election Law, specifically section 168.492, clearly stipulates the qualifications to be a registered voter in Michigan:

Each person who has the following qualifications of an elector, or who will have those qualifications at the next election or primary election, is entitled to register as an elector in the township, city, or village in which he or she resides. The person shall be a citizen of the United States; not less than 18 years of age; a resident of the state for not less than 30 days; and a resident of the township, city, or village on or before the thirtieth day before the next regular or special election or primary election. …

. . . which, again, is pretty straightforward in its application. Assuming that one meets each of the four qualifications listed in the Election Code, one may then register as a voter in the municipality where one resides. Thus, to be one of the 113 regular members of the MIGOP State Central Committee, one must meet the requirements of MCL 168.492 at the time that one is elected or appointed to one of the seats in question . . . period.

Apparently, there’s this popular notion that one may pre-register to vote in Michigan, as long as the next election occurs after one’s eighteenth birthday. However, nowhere in the “Registration of Electors” chapter of Michigan Election Law did I find any statute specifically permitting the pre-registration of electors, which omission is supported by information from the National Conference of State Legislatures, in that Michigan is not one of the states that has an existing state statute specifically permitting pre-registration. Twice recently – in 2009 (2009-HB-4261 and 2009-HB-4337) and 2011 (2011-SB-0101) – legislation was introduced to specifically approve voter pre-registration in Michigan, and both times the bills died in Senate committees.

Having said that, the Voter Registration Application from the Michigan Secretary of State clearly specifies that, to register to vote in Michigan you must be:

  • A resident of Michigan and the city or township where you are applying to register to vote
  • A citizen of the United States of America
  • At least 18 years of age (by election day)
  • Not serving a sentence in jail or prison

. . . so evidently, at least as the election code is actually applied by the duly-elected executive, a person may pre-register on the day immediately following the election immediately preceding one’s 18th birthday, and then as long as the requirements of MCL 168.492 kick in before the next regular, primary, or special election, poof, youse be a registered votah, bro.

Now, by this point, I suspect that most are now wondering why I’m going into such detail regarding exactly when someone qualifies to be a registered voter, and how that might apply to membership on the MIGOP State Party Leadership.

Here’s why.

A week ago, Brandon Hall over at West Michigan Politics broke an interesting little story (that was picked up on Friday by Ron Dwyer at Setting The Record Straight, but apparently nowhere else so far as I’ve noticed) that one Joey Gamrat appears to now have himself an eligibility issue with his candidacy affidavit for Youth Vice Chair.

Evidently, Joey Gamrat (son of Cindy Gamrat, for those of you a little slow on the uptake) in preparation for his run at the Youth Vice Chair seat being vacated by Blake Edmonds, at some point between mid-November and mid-December, pre-registered to vote (his 18th birthday is apparently July 3rd). But for the finale of the 2014 lame duck session, it would probably have been no big deal. However, now we have a statewide ballot proposal that, assuming that I’m correctly inferring from Hall and Dwyer, temporarily invalidates Mr. Gamrat’s voter pre-registration (until May 6th, the day after the vote on Proposal 15-1), and thus the Policy Committee will, at their meeting later this week, rule Gamrat’s affidavit of candidacy void (because he no longer meets the qualifications to be a registered voter in Michigan). And unlike the “Nakagiri Signature Scramble” from a year ago, all the signatures on the planet can’t override this one.

That’s a bugger, because Joey’s a great kid, has absolutely busted his butt for the cause this election cycle, and would make, in my opinion, and excellent Youth Vice-Chair. However, as I pointed out in a comment on the West Michigan Politics FaceBook page, between Michigan Election Code section 168.492 and Michigan Republican Bylaws paragraph 3E, the plain language of the law is the plain language of the law . . . period.

And, go figure, there are some people making a very big stink over this. The general thrust of the argument is that: because Joey Gamrat is already pre-registered to vote, and because said pre-registration happened before the vote to put 2014-HJR-UU (and everything tie-barred to it) onto the May ballot as Proposal 15-1, and because the ballot proposal is a “special election” instead of a “regular election,” and because the first State Committee meeting at which Gamrat will have anything to actually vote on will be the May meeting (after his voter pre-registration will again be valid), that the Policy Committee should “just let it go” and certify Gamrat for the ballot.

The problem, and the surprise, is the people who’re complaining that Gamrat should be on the ballot.

During the runups to the August 2010, May 2012, February 2013, and August 2014 state conventions, it was the constitutionalist insurgency that was loudly and publicly insisting that the establishment play by the rules, instead of changing them to benefit the “insider” candidates. Now? Now, the mere mention that the Policy Committee is going to play by the rules as they’re written – which likely means that “Gamrat for Youth Chair” will be campaignus interruptus – has at least the PowWow faction of tea party branch of the insurgency very much up in arms. Apparently, now that changing the rules benefits them, then by all means the rules ought to be changed!

And, filed under the category of “strange bedfellows,” is the text message that I received from one Richard Anderson, quickly upon the heels of my online comment just under a week ago:

”There is nothing in the bylaws that disallows Joey from running. You should read the bylaws closer. … He has to be a registered voter to serve; it says nothing about running. Also, he will be a registered voter on May 6, before the first state committee meeting where there will be a chance for him to vote. Again, a close and clear reading of the bylaws makes it clear that nothing makes Joey ineligible to run, so your argument is moot. You disagree with the bylaws? Take that up with the next state committee.”

Uh huh. So, Dick, it’s not that I disagree with either the bylaws or the election code; I read them, and I agree with them exactly as they’re written. I also happen to know that, as a matter of habit, the State Committee meets immediately following the closing gavel of the State Convention, for the specific purpose of inducting the newly-elected members (because the term of office for the outgoing regular members – except for the National Committee man and woman – is considered to have been completed at the adjouring gavel of the “spring” state convention), so the newly-elected members begin their service at that point. If the clear letter of the bylaws makes him ineligible, then he’s ineligible, and that’s that for that. The problem, sir, is that apparently certain members of tea party leadership (and apparently also StratNat operatives) are doing their damnedest to lawyerball the process, and praying that such doesn’t bite them in the kiester on the convention floor.

The Honorable Cindy Gamrat, for her part, has adopted a “let the process play out” stance on the whole matter:

I appreciate all the work the grassroots does for Liberty. The Joey Gamrat thing is about a young man who saw an opportunity to make a difference and he took it. He didn’t stay on the sidelines but put it all on the line to step forward and do all that comes with such a big decision. He invested his time, money, and energy and has campaigned hard, traveling the state every night, arriving home usually around 2:00am. Since his campaign has started he is rarely home as he has worked tirelessly to meet as many delegates as possible. He was all in from the beginning and had put a lot into a full fledged campaign when the lame duck added a new election and Joey was caught in that midstream. Even so he has continued to go the course as the logistics get worked out. I am proud of the effort he has given and the experience and growth he has gained through this endeavor. He was and is “all in” and a new lame duck session hasn’t changed his heart. He has shown integrity and courage through it all and I am honored to be called his mom.

. . . which, in my estimation, is a bit disappointing. As I recall, Mrs. Gamrat was one of the most vocal advocates for the state party playing by the rules during the runup to the 2013 State Convention, and now . . .? (Truth be told, I appreciate the difficulty of her position.)

Look, my read on this is fairly straightforward. Joey Gamrat rolled the dice, for all the right reasons, on what should have been a safe bet. No one was counting on the lame-duck, piece-of-sausage ballot proposal messing things up. However, if at first you don’t succeed, then you’re in some pretty excellent company (Julie Andrews, Todd Courser, Walt Disney, Thomas Edison, Dwight Eisenhower, Henry Ford, Theodor Geisel, Steve Jobs, Michael Jordan, Abraham Lincoln, W. H. Macy, Paul McCartney, J. K. Rowling, and Kurt Warner all come to mind).

As I understand it, the trick to being successful isn’t to get it right on the first try, but rather to learn how to manage defeat, rejection, and setback. Gamrat gambled, it backfired, these things happen. If he stays conspicuously within the rules, steps back, and absorbs the loss, then he keeps his professional and political reputation and integrity intact for the next go-around.

To do otherwise is to give his opponent – Mike Banerian – a major attack line that he’d be quite justified in using, loudly and often, over the next five or so weeks, and will also risk permanently damaging the integrity of both the PowWow network and Mr. Gamrat’s personally going forward.

For what my opinion is worth, the risk isn’t worth the payoff.

You Betcha! (12)Nuh Uh.(17)

  4 comments for “Well This Is Embarrassing

  1. DrDawn
    January 20, 2015 at 8:01 am

    I totally understand your point. However, I suspect that most of us didn't know that special elections "counted" in the determination of qualifications--precisely because of the unpredictability of such elections. People shouldn't have to hang in the balance, while legislators haggle back and forth, largely because certain legislators refuse to respond appropriately to constituents.

    Therefore, a sort of "grandfathering" principle does not seem unreasonable. After all, these special elections are usually the result of incompetence, procrastination, and/or wheeling and dealing. Going forward, therefore, we need to see that this is clarified and, if necessary, it should be changed, so that special elections do not become a special "tool" of the corrupt.

    Given the history of perceived influence by this state's central committee on the construction of (retroactive) legislation (remember the mall), the taxpayers will be charged with the expense of a contrived special election every time it is of political expediency to block a young candidate they don't like.

    You Betcha! (10)Nuh Uh.(1)
    • January 20, 2015 at 8:42 am

      It is highly doubtful that the moving up of the next election was predicated on Joey running for the Youth Chair, but on the surface, it could be so. Changing any law that causes an election to be altered and cause harm to a candidate's bid is known too make the new law to follow enactment before and after current election. Thus, the new law is held to be nil for the ongoing election, making Joey grandfathered or the State Convention postponed til after May 5th.

      E Pluribus Unum

      You Betcha! (6)Nuh Uh.(0)
    • Kevin Rex Heine
      January 20, 2015 at 10:31 am

      Well, Dawn, my initial response to that is the adage that ignorance of the law is no excuse for non-compliance. The plain language of the law is the plain language of the law (MCL 168.492 in this instance), and the onus is on the candidate to be aware of the law. Further, MCL 168.641 specifies that, except as otherwise provided an election in Michigan shall be held on one of the following regular election dates:

      • The February regular election date, which is the fourth Tuesday in February.
      • The May regular election date, which is the first Tuesday after the first Monday in May.
      • The August regular election date, which is the first Tuesday after the first Monday in August.
      • The November regular election date, which is the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

      . . . and, prior to 2012, damn near every school district in this state held its school board elections on the May regular election date of every year.

      Also, let's remember that the principal reason that 2014-HJR-UU is on the ballot is specifically because it's asking voters for permission to increase the sales tax, which is required to be a ballot proposal according to the Michigan Constitution. So, this isn't so much about “contriving” a special election for the purposes of screwing a young man of champion character out of holding office, as it is about the governerd’s senate sausage grinders punting a tax hike onto the ballot (so that they can persuade the low-information voters to give them permission to raid our wallets).

      As far as “grandfathering” goes, I see no such provision in MCL 168.492 (quoted in the original post). That said, Tom Lambert pointed out to me that MCL 168.500d appears to provide the Policy Committee with some wiggle room (emphasis added):

      A person who has properly completed an application for registration at an office of the secretary of state or his agent shall be permitted to vote in all elections occurring not less than 30 days after making application if the clerk determines the person is qualified and the identification card is not returned by the post office as provided by section 500c. If the clerk determines the person is not qualified, the clerk immediately shall send a notice to the applicant at the address stated in the application stating the determination and the reasons therefor. A person shall be permitted to vote if he presents at the polls a validated voter registration application receipt and the clerk determines the person is qualified.

      So, apparently, the Michigan Election Code does provide for a person to hold a valid registration prior to being duly qualified to vote. This takes us back to the Voter Registration Application from the Michigan Secretary of State which clearly specifies that, to register to vote in Michigan you must be “at least 18 years of age (by election day).” So what we now have here is the question of whether the SOS executive policy permits this interpretation of the law. Perhaps Eric Doster or Theresa Mungioli should get a clarification from Secretary Johnson.

      You Betcha! (5)Nuh Uh.(8)
      • Corinthian Scales
        January 20, 2015 at 11:16 am

        Oh, if things go like they have in the recent past, any determination by Doster, Mungioli, or the SoS, it should not have any ill effects upon young, Mr. Gamrat's campaign.

        Because within all the subterfuge about "the governerd’s senate sausage grinders punting a tax hike onto the ballot," well, there would have to be zero evidence of Party collusion to exclude anyone, yes?

        You Betcha! (6)Nuh Uh.(0)

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