The Gongwer Blog

by Elena Durnbaugh, Staff Writer

If Reps. Win Local Elections, How Fast Could A Special Election Be Called?

Posted: February 5, 2023 5:18 PM

Two members of the House of Representatives plan to run for mayor in their respective cities this year. If both win, the timing of when they resign from the House could affect Democrats' thin 56-54 majority.

Rep. Kevin Coleman (D-Westland) announced he is running for mayor in his home city of Westland in December.

The current mayor is resigning before the end of his term, so it's still unclear if the winner of the election would take office immediately following canvassing of the November election results or if the new mayor would take office in January, when a new term for mayor normally begins in Westland.

"A determination has not yet been made regarding when the winner of that election would be permanently seated to complete the balance of the unexpired term," Westland City Clerk Richard LeBlanc said in an email.

The city attorney has been consulted, and the Clerk's Office is waiting for a response, Mr. LeBlanc said.

Rep. Lori Stone (D-Warren) also is gearing up for a run for mayor in Warren. Earlier this month, she formed a candidate committee to seek the office of mayor. Ms. Stone is also hosting a kickoff fundraiser on Saturday, according to an event posting on Facebook.

Ms. Stone declined to comment on her plans on January 26 when a Gongwer News Service reporter inquired with her at the Capitol.

They mayoral term for the city of Warren will begin in November following the completion of canvassing, according to City Clerk Sonja Buffa.

The timing of the Westland term beginning is key, assuming Mr. Coleman wins.

If it's November – and Ms. Stone wins – he and Ms. Stone would exit the House at about the same time and cause House Democrats to see their 56-54 majority become a 54-54 tie. House Rules would keep Democrats in charge of the gavel and thus in control of committees and the floor agenda but Republicans could prevent any bill from passing should they all vote no for perhaps as much as two to three months.

However, if Mr. Coleman and Ms. Stone win and Ms. Stone exits in November/December and Mr. Coleman in January, there would likely be a much shorter window of time with the House at 54-54. Democrats with a 55-54 majority could still pass bills the same as now, needing all of their members to vote yes.

This is all academic, of course, unless both Mr. Coleman and Ms. Stone win.

If either Mr. Coleman or Ms. Stone win their local elections, the results likely wouldn't be official until mid-December, Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum said.

That means a special election to fill a seat in the House wouldn't be able to be called until late December or early January.

"Looking back to December 14 of 2021, the governor called a special election for March 1 and then the general election for May 3," Ms. Byrum said. These special elections were to fill three House seats triggered by November elections that saw two House vacate their seats to move to the Senate and one vacancy caused by a death.

The turnaround for a special election will be even tighter this year with the new election laws that require military members and overseas voters to have absentee ballots 45 days prior to the election.

If the Legislature moves the presidential primary up to February, that could further shrink the timeline, as it's likely that the special election would be called to be on the same ballot to avoid costs for the local communities. The governor, however, has substantial discretion on when to schedule a special election.

"That doesn't get much time for the county clerk to do election programming and ballot printing," Ms. Byrum said. "That's why it's important that the legislature enact legislation for Proposal 2 so that some clerks, if desired, can start doing pilots for early voting and Proposal 2 implementation this coming August and November elections."

– By Elena Durnbaugh

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