Whitmer calls for special election to fill 3 vacant MI House seats

Michigan

LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has called for a special election to fill three vacant seats in the Michigan House of Representatives.

On Tuesday, the governor sent a letter to Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson calling for a special election to fill vacant seats for the 36th District located in Macomb County, 43rd District located in Oakland County and 74th District in Kent County. All three were vacated by Republicans.

Whitmer is calling for the special primary election to be held on March 1 and the general election on May 3.

Two of those seats were vacated after Rep. Douglas Wozniak and Rep. Mark Huizenga, who represented the 36th and 74th districts, were both elected to the state Senate. The third was vacated after the death of Rep. Andrea Schroeder, who represented the 43th District.

For the clerks hosting those special elections, the race is on.

“The biggest challenge that us local clerks are going to face is the time crunch,” said Walker City Clerk Sarah Bydalek.

Ballots are typically prepared 45 days before an election.

For the March primary, that means absentee ballots would go out by mid-January.

The printing company that produces ballots, envelopes and other supplies for the city of Walker says the turnaround time for ballots is about three weeks.

“We don’t have three weeks. So hopefully they can put a rush on it and maybe turn those around in a week, is my hope,” said Bydalek. 

In requesting the special election, Governor Whitmer said she wants to ensure residents of the districts with vacant seats are represented in Lansing.

But it will also cost local taxpayers.

“The city of Walker will have to absorb the cost for each election … like we had to last year for our open senate seat. So this will be a cost of $25,000 for each election to the city of Walker,” said Bydalek.

The May run off happens just six months before voters in the 74th will return to the polls to fill the seat.

So why not wait?

A spokesperson for Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says the current seats are being filled under the current district map. Those boundaries are likely to change by November through redistricting. 

“So, it could be very confusing. And the person running for the seat in March … (and) May, could be a different district when it comes to the fall,” said Bydalek.

Still, the special election is causing a mad dash in communities both large and small, from Walker to Tyrone Township.

Tyrone Township Clerk Shelley Worley says the election will cost the township between $8,000 and $9,000.

But cost is not Worley’s biggest concern.

“I think the biggest burden we’ll see is workers,” said Worley.

COVID-19 and other factors have made attracting poll workers a challenge, especially in smaller communities.

“We do have some problems with that,” said Worley. “But we also have the township around that I can go to that won’t be having an election that may be have workers that I can use.”

Both clerks say despite the challenges early on, those challenges won’t impact the integrity of the vote.

“It’s going to more fast paced in the clerk’s office on this first end, between now and January 20th,” said Bydalek.

As for the candidates who will appear on the ballot, we should know that by early January.

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