'Impeach Gretchen Whitmer' Petition Gains Support as Michigan Braces for COVID, Election Battles

A petition demanding impeachment of Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer over her COVID response is gaining traction, just as Michigan enters a decisive week in a separate political battle over election results.

The renewed activity with the Change.org petition, created months ago, follows Republican lawmakers introducing articles of impeachment on Thursday over Whitmer's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, and ahead of Michigan's Board of State Canvassers meeting Monday to decide whether to certify the presidential election—a normally little-noticed process now under intense scrutiny amid claims of election fraud by President Donald Trump and state Republicans.

The petition, entitled "Impeach Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer NOW," calls Whitmer "incompetent" and "deadly" while accusing her of "inadequate" leadership during the pandemic. Concerns include "unnecessary government overreach" and fighting with President Donald Trump for "political clout." As of Sunday, the petition has reached over 7,100 signatures.

The petition calls for impeaching Whitmer over refusing to allow medical professionals to prescribe hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine to specifically treat the coronavirus. However, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that this drug treats the virus. A March memo from Whitmer noted that an investigation would take place if medical professionals are caught prescribing the drug for treating the coronavirus, noting that an "intent to stockpile the drug may create a shortage for patients" who need it.

New cases of COVID-19 have soared in Michigan and most parts of the U.S. over the past month. On Saturday, the state passed the milestone of 300,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus. It also has one of the highest numbers of COVID-related hospitalizations in the country, with over 3,800 people currently hospitalized.

To combat the rapid spread of the virus, Whitmer announced on November 15 a "three-week pause" order would be imposed within the state through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, creating stricter statewide restrictions. These restrictions include closing workplaces where work can be done from home; temporarily halting in-person instruction at high schools and colleges; temporarily suspending indoor dine-in service at restaurants and bars; and halting high school athletics. It also closes some non-essential businesses such as movie theaters, bowling allies and arcades.

"In the spring, we listened to public health experts and saved thousands of lives together," Whitmer tweeted. "I am personally asking each and every one of you to channel that same energy and do everything in your power to protect our communities from this virus and save lives again."

In a Thursday press conference, Whitmer said she's "considering all actions" to keep Michiganders safe during the worsening pandemic.

GOP Michigan State Rep. Beau LaFave tweeted on Thursday that he filed a resolution against Gov. Whitmer—a few days after Rep. Matt Maddock tweeted that he and a "growing list" of Republican state lawmakers have decided that the governor "crossed the line" in terms of COVID-19 restrictions.

"The four articles of impeachment against Gov. Whitmer include failing to respect the separation of powers by exercising power granted to the legislative branch, violating the constitutional rights of the people of Michigan, issuing executive orders against the interests of the people and state, and using state resources to reward political allies," LaFave wrote.

Michigan Protesters
Demonstrators demand the reopening of businesses during an April 30 rally at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing. On Thursday, GOP state lawmakers filed impeachment articles against Governor Gretchen Whitmer due to her restrictions to combat the rapid spread of COVID-19. JEFF KOWALSKY/Getty

The resolution claims "corrupt conduct" by Whitmer and says she committed "crimes and misdemeanors" exceeding her authority.

The state House of Representatives has the power to impeach elected officials for crimes or corrupt conduct while in office by a majority vote under Michigan's constitution. It would take a two-thirds vote in the Senate—where Democrats control 42 percent of the seats in Michigan—to remove the person from office and convict them.

"State law grants emergency powers to the Governor for the purpose of responding to immediate crises, but the Governor may only act in a manner that is consistent with the constitutionally mandated separation of powers," LaFave wrote in one of the four articles. "The state constitution does not permit the Governor to bypass the legislative process nor does it empower her to unilaterally make or amend laws for the protection of public health."

Meanwhile, amid the pandemic, the state is currently involved in post-election drama concerning Trump. Two Michigan Republican lawmakers met with Trump at the White House on Friday amid a push on the part of the president to challenge the election results. Following the meeting, both Michigan Republican House Speaker Lee Chatfield and Michigan Republican Majority Leader Mike Shirkey indicated in a statement that "we will follow the law and follow the normal process regarding Michigan's electors, just as we have said throughout this election." The Associated Press called Michigan in favor for Democrat Joe Biden.

On Saturday, the Michigan Republican Party and the Republican National Committee, asked the Michigan's State Board of Canvassers in a letter to postpone certification so an audit of Wayne County's election results could be conducted, the Detroit Free Press reported. Trump's claims of election irregularities in Detroit, which is located in Wayne County, have not been proven.

In response to the proposal for impeachment, Whitmer's spokesperson, Tiffany Brown, told The Detroit News on Wednesday that the governor was focused on combatting the coronavirus at the moment.

"Gov. Whitmer doesn't have any time for partisan politics or people who don't wear masks, don't believe in science and don't have a plan to fight this virus," Brown said.

Newsweek reached out to Whitmer's office, but did not receive a response in time for publication.