The bipartisan Michigan Board of State Canvassers ruled Thursday that five Republican candidates for governor, including two front-runners, are ineligible to run because of fraudulent signatures on candidate petitions.
The board upheld the state Bureau of Elections’ recommendation that five of the 10 candidates in the August Republican primary, including leading contenders Perry Johnson and James Craig, be disqualified because of invalid signatures on their filing papers.
The Board of State Canvassers vote deadlocked 2-2, with the two Democratic members in favor of accepting the Bureau of Elections recommendation and the two GOP members against it. That means the five GOP candidates will be removed from the ballot, Jonathan Brater, Michigan’s director of elections, explained, according to CNN. They can challenge the decision in court, he added.
The Bureau of Elections, in a report dated Monday, named 36 people who circulated candidate petitions and said they “submitted fraudulent petition sheets consisting entirely of invalid signatures.” That left the five GOP candidates without enough valid signatures to meet the campaign filing legal requirements. There was no indication any of the campaigns knew about the wrongdoing or participated, the Bureau of Elections said.
Craig said his campaign will immediately appeal, and accused the Board of State Canvassers of failing to follow through with its “legal obligation” to reject signatures one by one.
“We are not surprised the partisan Democrats on the committee ruled against Michigan voters,” Craig said in a statement. “It is a travesty that partisans in a position to uphold democracy and the will of the people allowed politics to get in the way.”
Michigan GOP Chair Ron Weiser also said the issue should be pursued in court.
“The way this bureau deviated from its historical practice is unprecedented and I think the arguments laid out by the challengers should have their time in court,” Weiser said. “This is about fighting against voter disenfranchisement and for choice at the ballot box.”
Political strategist John Yob, who is employed by Johnson’s campaign, challenged the recommendation to disqualify Johnson in a statement on Twitter Tuesday.
“We strongly believe they are refusing to count thousands of signatures from legitimate voters who signed the petitions and look forward to winning this fight before the Board, and if necessary, in the courts,” Yob wrote.
The other GOP candidates affected by the decision are Michael Brown, Michael Markey Jr. and Donna Brandenburg.
Even before the board’s vote, Brown announced his withdrawal from the race because of the invalid signatures in a statement posted on his campaign website.
“It appears that after my campaign’s signature gathering was complete, individuals independently contracted for a portion of our signature gathering and validation jumped onto other campaigns and went on a money grab,” Brown said.
“I cannot and will not be associated with this activity,” Brown continued.
The winner of the August primary will challenge Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) in the November general election.