Board to assess fraud claims within GOP campaigns for Michigan governor: Here’s what that means

Michigan Elections Bureau recommends 5 GOP candidates be kept off primary ballot

Election inspectors are reflected in a window at right as they begin processing ballots while a voter outside arrives to drop off a ballot at an official drop-off box on Election Day at City Hall in Warren, Mich., in Macomb County, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. (AP Photo/David Goldman) (David Goldman, Copyright 2020 Associated Press)

The Michigan Board of State Canvassers is set to meet this week to determine who will appear on the ballot for the 2022 gubernatorial primary election in August after five GOP candidates reportedly failed to submit enough nominating signatures.

The Michigan Elections Bureau on Monday reported that five out of 10 Republican candidates hoping to go up against current Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer did not submit enough valid signatures to qualify for the August primary.

Each candidate is required to submit 15,000 valid signatures to qualify to run in the primary election. During its investigation, the state elections bureau says it found thousands of signatures to be invalid and fraudulent across five Republican campaigns.

The bureau is recommending that GOP candidates James Craig, Perry Johnson, Michael Brown, Donna Brandenburg and Michael Markey do not appear on the ballot in August. The Michigan Board of State Canvassers will make the final decision, though experts say the board typically follows the bureau’s recommendations.

The bipartisan, four-member board is scheduled to meet on Thursday, May 26, to consider the bureau’s findings.

On Monday, the bureau said it found more than 11,000 of Craig’s signatures and over 9,000 of Johnson’s to be invalid. More than 42,000 fraudulent signatures were reportedly tossed from the campaigns of Brown, Brandenburg and Markey. Craig and Johnson are two of the top GOP contenders for Michigan’s 2022 gubernatorial election.

The bureau’s findings were announced some weeks after the Michigan Democratic Party and a super PAC tied to GOP candidate Tudor Dixon challenged the validity of signatures submitted by several Republican candidates, alleging mass forgery. The bureau said Monday its investigation and findings are independent of those challenges, though their reports are similar to reports made by other groups.

The Michigan Democratic Party believes that a number of petition circulators who worked for more than one GOP candidate -- at least including Craig, Johnson and Dixon -- all forged thousands of signatures using a process called “round-robining.” Through this process, a small group of individuals take turns writing names, addresses and fake signatures on different lines on several petition sheets using a list of real voters, hoping the variation in handwriting makes the petition appear authentic.

Read more: Details: Why petitions for 3 Michigan GOP governor candidates are being challenged

Craig, Johnson and Dixon have denounced challenges made against them and the validity of their petitions.

On Tuesday, Republican candidate Brown announced that he is dropping out of the race entirely, saying he will “not be associated with this activity,” and that he will exit the race with his integrity intact. In a statement posted to his campaign website, Brown claims those responsible for circulating his nominating petitions “jumped onto other campaigns and went on a money grab” after they were finished gathering signatures for his campaign.

The state elections bureau says it does not currently have reason to believe that “any specific candidates or campaigns were aware of the activities of fraudulent-petition circulators.”

If the board agrees with the bureau’s recommendations and bars the five candidates from the ballot, the five qualifying GOP candidates would include Dixon, Garrett Soldano, Kevin Rinke, Ryan Kelley and Ralph Rebandt.

You can read the Michigan Elections Bureau’s reports on Craig and Johnson below.

More: Michigan bureau: 2 top GOP governor candidates short signatures due to fraud

About the Author:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.