Recall Tim Walz! Part One
Ha ha; it ain’t gonna happen!
Update 5/27: David Strom has tweeted (which I could only find out about because of the kindness of a third party) that he has nothing to do with the recall Governor Walz movement. He’s certainly involved in the Reopen! crowd and has mused about recall on Twitter, too. I can’t point out the tweets because Strom has recently blocked me. I posted a story today about a petition for recall that has been filed; I was unaware of it at the time I wrote this story, although I did post an update below referring to it when when I learned of it. If David Strom says he didn’t have anything to do with it, I’ll take him at his word.
I stand by my remark that he’s part of the febrile movement, however.
– o O o –
There is a febrile movement afoot, led by people like David Strom, to recall Governor Tim Walz for “malfeasance.” What is needed to begin the process of recalling Governor Walz? Twenty-five wingnuts and $100. After that, it gets way harder.
In summary, to recall Tim Walz, a request for a recall petition must be filed with the Secretary of State. If it is found to be in order (correct minimum number of signatories, check for $100 attached, etc.), it is forwarded to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The Chief Justice determines if the petition application passes the judicial smell test. If it doesn’t, the Chief Justice dismisses the petition application. (That happened in some statewide recall efforts that I will mention next time.) If it does, a special master is appointed to conduct a hearing on the application, make findings, and report back to the Supreme Court, which decides what to do with the petition.
If the petition request is granted by the Supreme Court, the petitioners have ninety days to get the signatures of 25% of the number of eligible voters who voted in the election for governor in 2018. That number is 646,822 since the total number of votes cast in the election, according to the Secretary of State, was 2,587,287. (Not the 610,000 figure reported by Alpha News in a story published on May 21st.)
If the persons behind the petition manage to do that, in the face of a recent poll where voters approved of Governor Walz’s handling of the pandemic by about a two to one margin, a recall election, at public expense, will be held.
An effort to recall Governor Walz is Pickett’s Charge and the Franklin Expedition rolled into one.
– o O o –
The current régime for recalling judges, legislators, and constitutional officers was adopted by the voters in the election in November, 1996, by a referendum submitted to the electorate by the Legislature through an act of the 1996 regular session. Both houses of the Legislature were in the control of the DFL at the time, and since referenda don’t require the signature of the governor, then Republican Governor Arne Carlson had nothing to do with it.
The language added to the constitution can be found in Article VIII, and the procedure is fleshed out in Minn. Stat. ch. 211C (2019). The petitioning group can appoint up to three persons to represent the group; it may provide “supporting materials” to the Chief Justice; the officer proposed to be recalled may file materials in opposition. Here’s what the justice has to decide (it could be another justice if the chief justice is the object of the petition):
The justice, or a designee if the justice has a conflict of interest or is unable to conduct the review in a timely manner, shall review the proposed petition to determine whether it alleges specific facts that, if proven, would constitute grounds for recall of the officer under the Minnesota Constitution, article VIII, section 6, and section 211C.02.
If the petition request gets a thumbs up by the Chief Justice, the special master is appointed to have a public hearing within 21 days; the special master must report back to the court within seven days after the hearing, with a report finding:
(1) whether the persons proposing the petition have shown by a preponderance of the evidence that the factual allegations supporting the petition are true; and
(2) if so, whether the persons proposing the petition have shown that the facts found to be true are sufficient grounds for issuing a recall petition.
If the special master determines that these standards have been met, the report must include a statement of the specific facts and grounds for the recall petition.
Both quotations are from Minn. Stat. § 211C.05 (2019).
“Malfeasance” is defined in Minn. Stat. § 211C.02 (2019):
“Malfeasance” means the intentional commission of an unlawful or wrongful act by a state officer other than a judge in the performance of the officer’s duties that is substantially outside the scope of the authority of the officer and that substantially infringes on the rights of any person or entity.
If you’ve been following along with the pandemic at home, friends, you know that the governor, his executive council, and his commissioners have been careful to dot all the I’s and cross the T’s in making the initial finding of and the continuation of the original public emergency order. It’s all been done pursuant to statutes, passed by the legislature.
That a public emergency existed and continues to exist can hardly be doubted. Other than Minority Leader Kurt Daudt’s truculent effort at extortion over a bonding bill, no serious effort has been mounted in the legislature to terminate the order, or so far, to even fail to extend it.
There is no serious argument that the governor’s actions have been malfeasance as defined. One can mount policy arguments about whether the emergency order, and the orders subsidiary to it, went too far, or didn’t go far enough. But they are policy arguments.
There is simply no prospect that the Supreme Court is going to substitute its policy judgment for that of the Walz administration. It ain’t gonna happen. All the Davey Stroms marching around the Supreme Court in tricorn hats and screaming, “He overstepped his bounds!” aren’t going to make a hill of beans worth of difference.
It is also supreme irony that the same people who are considering becoming supplicants to the Supreme Court to recall the governor over policy are the first to scream “activist judges” in any other circumstance.
There will be a part two, probably tomorrow.
Update 5/26: Part two will be delayed for a day or two. But I learned today that the febrile forces of discontent did file a request for a petition to recall the governor. It had enough signatures, and was accompanied by the $100 check, so it was passed on to the Clerk of the Appellate Courts for examination by the Chief Justice.
Based on the location of a number of the petitioners, we might see Rep. Jeremy Munson’s handiwork here. David Strom’s wife, Margaret Martin is, I am informed, employed by the House New Republican Caucus (memorably described by Jeff Kolb as the “Island of Misfit Toys”), of which Munson is a founding member.
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