Sunday read: ‘I feel your pain’: How petition fraud ruined former Michigan congressman’s career

Candidates’ responsibility is to ensure signatures aren’t forged and adequately gathered

The state elections bureau said their petitions were rife with fraudulent names and signatures created by paid circulators, bringing Johnson and Craig below the 15,000-signature threshold needed to run in the primary.

DETROIT – Over Memorial Day Weekend, former Detroit Police Chief James Craig appealed the Michigan Elections Bureau’s decision to keep him off the August Republican primary ballot.

Sunday Read is ClickOnDetroit’s Sunday news review to help readers catch up on some of the most important topics of the week.

Candidate Perry Johnson filed his appeal on Friday. Two other Republicans are expected to appeal their cases Tuesday (May 31), and with the deadline to have the ballots printed on June 3, they are all hoping for hearings.

But this is not the first time we’ve seen this signature fraud issue crop up.

You’ve undoubtedly seen clipboard carrying people outside grocery stores and other places looking for you to sign their petition. In this case, a candidate’s petition.

Some candidates pay signature companies anywhere between $7 and $20 a signature to get the 15,000 names a gubernatorial candidate needs to get on the ballot.

Former Michigan Congressman Thaddeus McCotter has been on the wrong end of this kind of trouble. He spoke exclusively to Local 4 about the current situation.

“In the immortal words of Bill Clinton, ‘I feel your pain,’” said McCotter.

The former congressman can laugh today. He didn’t a decade ago as he saw his political career implode in 2012.

While in Asia on a congressional junket, staffers in Michigan turned in improper petition signatures, causing McCotter to resign from congress.

McCotter has watched this current problem crop up and believes the state might want to re-think its gubernatorial nominating process.

“With a petition only requirement, you’re looking at an act of faith, an act of trust in the people going out and collecting the petitions,” McCotter said.

McCotter pointed to the late Detroit Democratic Congressman John Conyers similar signature problem in 2015.

Conyers went to federal court, and a judge there allowed him on the ballot because he’d made a reasonable faith effort at ballot access.

McCotter believes the state should follow suit in the governor’s race.

“It does make imminent sense,” McCotter said. “It does require an act of faith. There was good faith on the part of the candidates. They did try, they were let down, but there should be access to the ballot, be an overriding principle that we try to protect at all costs to ensure that the electorate has as many choices as possible in front of them. I would argue yes.”

McCotter points out how someone running for the Michigan legislature can turn in signatures or put up $100 to get on the ballot.

“It would preclude one more possibility of dirty tricks influencing access to the ballot and hence an outcome of an election,” McCotter said. “I’m not saying that’s what happened in this case. The Michigan Bureau of Elections is not saying in this case, but it could happen down the road.”

The candidates’ responsibility is to ensure signatures aren’t forged and adequately gathered. They sign an affidavit swearing to the accuracy. But few candidates actually sit down and personally verify their signatures.

About the Authors:

Rod Meloni is an Emmy Award-winning Business Editor on Local 4 News and a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional.

Brandon Carr is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with WDIV Local 4 since November 2021. Brandon is the 2015 Solomon Kinloch Humanitarian award recipient for Community Service.