Quick reminder offered on legal requirements for electing board chairs and vice chairs

By Matt Nordfjord, Esq.

With a new year comes the responsibility for county boards to elect chairs and vice chairs. This process is governed by Michigan Compiled Laws (MCL) 46.3.

The county board of commissioners is required to elect one of its members as chair and one member as vice chair, per MCL 46.3(4).

The chair shall be elected each odd-numbered year for a 2-year term, unless the board provides by resolution or board rule that the chair shall be elected annually, for a 1-year term.  The vice chair is required to be elected annually for a 1-year term.

The election of a chair or vice chair must occur at the first meeting of the county board of commissioners in a year in which a chair or vice chair is to be elected. The term of a chair or vice chair begins upon their election.

The board does not have the option of electing a vice chair for a 2-year term. Rather, the election of the vice chair must occur annually at the first meeting of the board, regardless whether the election of the board chair occurs annually. The election of a chair and vice chair is determined by a majority vote of the county board members elected and serving, as per MCL 46.3(2).

A unique aspect of an election for a board chair (but not the vice chair) is that state law allows for a secret ballot. (See MCL 46.3a.) The law does not mandate a secret ballot, but it allow for one in this specific circumstance. If the board chooses to conduct the election of the board chair by secret ballot, a majority of the board must vote to authorize this mechanism.

Matt Nordfjord is a shareholder with the law firm of Cohl, Stoker & Toskey, P.C.


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