Provisions Related to Filling a Vacancy in the Office of Lieutenant Governor
Note 2008-04, November 2008

The 1963 Michigan Constitution makes clear the line of succession to the office of the governor when a vacancy occurs. Under Article V, Section 26, the first person to fill a gubernatorial vacancy is the constitutionally-established lieutenant governor. However, the Constitution is silent with respect to filling a void in the office of lieutenant governor. The lack of specific constitutional provisions for filling a vacancy in the office of lieutenant governor was a change from the prior 1908 Constitution.

Roles of the Lieutenant Governor. The office of the lieutenant governor is created in Article V, Section 21 of the 1963 Constitution. Article V, Section 25 provides that this office has both executive and legislative roles. The executive role of Michigan’s lieutenant governor is largely ceremonial. The Constitution does not invest this position with any unique executive branch powers as Article V, Section 1 vests all executive power with the governor. The lieutenant governor may perform duties assigned by the governor under Article V, Section 25; however, this section prohibits the governor from delegating any of his/her powers to the lieutenant governor.

In the governor’s absence from the state (e.g., attendance at out-of-state meetings and foreign trade missions) or in a case of the governor’s inability to serve (e.g., placed under anesthesia for medical procedures), the powers of the governor first devolve to the lieutenant governor. This is not equivalent to a scenario where the person elected to the position of lieutenant governor ascends to the office of the governor because of a vacancy in that office. In the former case, the lieutenant governor serves temporarily as the governor whereas in the latter the lieutenant governor becomes the governor until the next gubernatorial election.

The lieutenant governor does not have any express executive powers; however, the Michigan Constitution expressly provides this position with legislative powers. Article V, Section 25 designates the lieutenant governor as the president of the Michigan Senate, the presiding official of the chamber. Twenty-five other states also grant this role to their lieutenant governor. The lieutenant governor’s role and responsibilities as the presiding officer of the Michigan Senate are prescribed by the rules of the body. Further, Section 25 grants the lieutenant governor the power to cast the deciding vote in the event of a tie vote in the 38 member Michigan Senate, the only time that this official may vote.

Gubernatorial Succession. In Michigan, the office of lieutenant governor is first in line of succession to the governorship, a feature shared with 43 other states. (Note: Four states designate the senate presiding office as successor and three states have the secretary of state as successor.) Vacancies in the office of governor can occur as a result of impeachment, removal, resignation, or death. Following the lieutenant governor, the next in line is the elected secretary of state, the elected attorney general, and others as prescribed by law (Article V, Section 26). Section 67 of the Michigan Election Law (Public Act 116 of 1954) designates the president pro tempore of the Senate and the speaker of the House of Representatives, in that order, to follow the attorney general in the line of gubernatorial succession.

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