DETROIT – Five Republican candidates for Michigan governor were officially thrown off the ballot Thursday by the Michigan Board of Canvassers.
Those candidates include former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, Perry Johnson, Donna Brandenburg, Michael Markey and Mike Brown.
Officials agreed that there are thousands of fraudulent signatures across 10 campaigns gathered by the same paid signature gatherers.
“This was not a mistake,” said Jonathan Brater of the Michigan Bureau of Elections. “This is not a mistake. They knew they were doing this; They did this deliberately, and our staff is confident in saying that these signatures should not be counted.”
Read more: Board assesses fraud claims within GOP campaigns for Michigan governor: Here’s what that means
After a stiff vote by the Michigan Board of State Canvassers on Thursday, following recommendations from the bureau that several governor candidates be disqualified due to invalid signatures, the five gubernatorial candidates are officially off of the ballot -- including Craig and Johnson, the GOP’s top contenders for the race.
Both men’s campaigns say they plan to fight the outcome in court.
“The bureau had a large task for it, and it did a valiant effort,” said Craig’s attorney George Lewis. “Unfortunately, they cannot do random sampling; they cannot do automatic disqualification.”
Their lawyers argued that every signature should have been vetted against the qualified voter file instead of disqualifying petitions submitted by petition gatherers who had fake signatures.
A judge will have to ultimately decide how this moves forward.
“Anybody who has ever run a campaign before that requires signatures should have a vetting process and should know the companies,” said Dennis Darnoi. “There are only a few that do this stuff. It’s really, really bad malpractice by the campaign managers.”
The investigation into the signature gatherers accused of forgery has been turned over to Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.