The Michigan Court of Claims on Wednesday rejected James Craig’s appeal to remain on the ballot for the state’s Aug. 2 gubernatorial primary after the Board of State Canvassers did not certify him to run.
Craig, who was a top Republican contender for this year’s governor race against incumbent Democrat Gretchen Whitmer, failed to submit enough valid nominating signatures in order to qualify for the primary ballot, according to an investigation by the state’s elections bureau. The bureau says it found thousands of invalid and fraudulent signatures, which placed Craig below the required threshold of 15,000 valid signatures.
The bureau recommended that the Michigan Board of State Canvassers keep Craig off of the ballot, alongside four other GOP candidate hopefuls who also allegedly submitted invalid and fraudulent signatures. The board deadlocked during a vote on May 26, and Craig was not certified as a gubernatorial candidate.
In response, Craig asked the Michigan Court of Appeals to require the Michigan Board of State Canvassers to review his nominating petition signatures line-by-line to prove invalidity or fraud. Craig’s complaint alleges that the board is obligated under law to use the Qualified Voter File (QVF) to review each petition signature for genuineness.
Much like the ruling in a similar complaint brought forth by Perry Johnson, another hopeful GOP candidate, a Michigan Court of Claims judge ruled Wednesday, June 1, that the board “did not have a clear legal duty to compare all of the signatures in plaintiff’s nominating petitions against the QVF” to determine their validity. The court maintains that the board had the discretion to disqualify signatures they found to be fraudulent.
As of Thursday, Craig will not be allowed to run in Michigan’s gubernatorial primary, and neither will Johnson or investment adviser Michael Markey. The rulings seem to doom the chances for entrepreneur Donna Brandenburg, who was also barred from the ballot last week.
In response to the court ruling, Craig said he is “very disappointed” and that he plans to take the case to the Michigan Supreme Court.
“Rest assured, we will be appealing this questionable decision to a higher court,” Craig said in a statement. “Our fight is not over.”
Johnson is reportedly appealing the opinion in his case to the Michigan Supreme Court, as well. The Johnson opinion was cited in the opinion in Craig’s case.
More: 2 candidates for Michigan governor lose key ballot ruling
GOP candidate Michael Brown, who also reportedly submitted fraudulent and invalid signatures, dropped out of the race altogether ahead of the Board of State Canvasser’s decision.
Investigations found that a number of petition circulators who worked for several of the Republican candidates all forged thousands of signatures using a process called “round-tabling.” Through this process, a small group of individuals take turns writing names, addresses and fake signatures on different lines on a petition sheet to vary the handwriting and make the sheets appear legitimate.
The Michigan Elections Bureau said that it did not have any reason to believe the candidates knew about the petition fraud. Still, officials have maintained that candidates and campaigns are responsible for hiring their own petition circulators and overseeing the circulation process to ensure it is operating legally and properly.
Five GOP candidates have been approved to run in the August primary: Tudor Dixon, Garrett Soldano, Kevin Rinke, Ryan Kelley and Ralph Rebandt.
You can read the court’s entire opinion on the Craig case below.
Related: ‘I feel your pain’: How petition fraud ruined former Michigan congressman’s career