The Michigan Bureau of Elections recommended disqualifying half of the candidates in the Republican primary for Michigan governor because of invalid signatures on their candidate petitions.
The bureau, in a report dated Monday, named 36 people who circulated candidate petitions who “submitted fraudulent petition sheets consisting entirely of invalid signatures.” If the bipartisan Michigan Board of State Canvassers votes to accept the bureau’s report on Thursday, five of the 10 candidates in the Aug. 2 GOP gubernatorial primary will be disqualified.
“The Bureau’s review of sheets submitted by fraudulent-petition circulators has resulted in determinations that many candidates have insufficient petitions for this election,” the report says. It added that the bureau would report the suspected fraud to the police.
While invalid signatures on candidate petitions are hardly rare, the Michigan bureau said this was the first time it discovered wholesale fraud.
“The Bureau is unaware of another election cycle in which this many circulators submitted such a substantial volume of fraudulent petition sheets consisting of invalid signatures, nor an instance in which it affected as many candidate petitions as at present,” the report says.
The report affects Republican gubernatorial candidates James Craig, Perry Johnson, Michael Brown, Michael Markey Jr. and Donna Brandenburg, according to M Live.
There is no reason to suspect candidates or campaigns “were aware of the activities of fraudulent-petition circulators,” the report says.
Michigan law requires candidates for governor to collect at least 15,000 valid signatures and “a minimum of 100 signatures in each of at least half of the state’s congressional districts.”
This year’s elections are plagued by a scarcity of petition circulators due to an increase in the number of candidate petitions and fewer in-person events, according to news reports cited by the Bureau of Elections. The reports also note the cost of gathering signatures has quadrupled to $20 for each one.
“Regardless of the level of review candidates conducted before submitting nominating petitions, the Bureau’s recommendation to the Board is based on the number of valid signatures remaining after review,” the Bureau of Elections report continues.
Some of the affected candidates have objected to the disqualification recommendation.
“I’m the threat,” Graig told Fox 2. “You know what’s sad about this? The people of Michigan should have a say on who should lead their state, fair and square.”
“I can’t prove anything right now, but I am going to get to the bottom of it, because they wanted me out,” Graig continued.
Political strategist John Yob, who is employed by Johnson’s campaign, lashed out on Twitter.
“The staff of the Democrat Secretary of Staff does not have the right to unilaterally void every single signature obtained by the alleged forgers who victimized five campaigns,” Yob wrote.
“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 added.
The winner of the GOP primary will face Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who is unopposed in the Democratic primary, in the November general election.