LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan elections bureau found that a group trying to recall an indicted lawmaker from office did not submit enough voter signatures to trigger a referendum, ending the closely watched effort in a seat that may decide which party next controls the state House.
Officials late Thursday released the results of a formal review of 13,871 signatures turned in by the committee hoping to remove state Rep. Larry Inman, a Williamsburg Republican. They found 11,993 valid signatures, 208 fewer than the minimum 12,201 needed to trigger primary and general elections in March and May.
A preliminary canvass, released in mid-December, showed the group was 94 signatures short.
“Recall election or no, at the end of the day, this community is stronger for this effort, and I am humbled to help lead it,” Sondra Hardy, an organizer, said Friday.
A jury last month acquitted Inman of lying to the FBI. Jurors deadlocked on attempted bribery and extortion charges stemming from an alleged scheme to trade his vote on repealing the state's prevailing wage law for campaign donations from a union, and he may be tried again in federal court.
Election officials were ordered to formally canvass the recall petitions after the Michigan Supreme Court rejected the state's decision to disqualify all of them due to a missing word. Staff said they received nearly 1,700 signature challenges, including 911 that the recall committee sought to rehabilitate after they were initially deemed invalid and 785 that a lawyer, Eric Doster, said should not have been validated.
Doster did not file his challenges on behalf of a group but has long been tied to Republican or conservative legal causes.
Staffers accepted 485 signature challenges, determining that 166 were valid and 279 were invalid.
“Of course we are disappointed with this result, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth the effort,” said Michael Naughton, a lawyer for the recall committee. “Our elected officials are accountable to the community. Since the recall is the one tool we as a community have to hold our representative accountable, it’s the tool we used. I’m proud of our community for taking on this recall, regardless of the result.”
Inman, who is in his third and final House term under term limits, was stripped of his committee assignments, staff and office access by GOP House Speaker Lee Chatfield when the charges were filed in May. He also is barred from attending Republican caucus meetings.
Inman holds a competitive district in the Traverse City area that could be key for Democrats' hopes of winning the House majority in November. The GOP now has a 58-52 edge and has controlled the chamber since 2011.
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