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Whitmer vetoes an election bill despite wide bipartisan support

Three quarter view of the governor standing at a lectern with the state seal on it
Michigan Governors Office
FILE - In this photo Sept. 16, 2020 file photo, provided by the Michigan Office of the Governor, Gov. Whitmer addresses the state during a speech in Lansing, Mich.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has vetoed a bill that would require her to set a special election schedule within 30 days of a vacancy occurring in the Legislature.

The bill was adopted with bipartisan support, but Whitmer said in a short, terse veto message that she was protecting her office.

“House Bill 4996 places restrictions on the executive branch’s exercise of its constitutional authority. I will not tie the hands of future Michigan governors,” she said.

Throughout her first term, the Democratic governor and legislative Republicans have fought over the limits of executive power. That was most starkly on display in the battles over COVID-19 orders. Whitmer has vetoed other bills for encroaching on executive power.

In this case, though, many Democrats were on board with requiring governors to set a special election schedule within 30 days of a vacancy caused by the death, removal or resignation of a lawmaker. Governors can sometimes take months to do that.

Republicans reacted with resentment, especially since the bill was sponsored by state Representative Andrea Schroeder, a Republican who died in office in October from cancer. Special elections in May selected her replacement and filled two other vacancies.

Republican Representative Ann Bollin chairs the House Elections and Ethics Committee, and served with Schroeder. She said the veto left her “heartbroken and frustrated.”

“She introduced this legislation because she was focused on putting people first and making sure they had a voice representing their interests in the Legislature,” said Bollin.

“She wanted to establish a clear expectation that special elections would be scheduled in a timely manner because we are all here to serve the people of Michigan.”