The Republican candidates for Michigan governor who just a few days ago were considered frontrunners to take on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) will remain off the ballot as the state prepares for its August primary. The state Board of Canvassers was right when it kept them off of the ballot due to thousands of forged or otherwise invalid signatures, multiple Michigan courts ruled this week.
The GOP candidates failed to qualify for the ballot last month after the state Bureau of Elections found thousands of fraudulent signatures on their qualifying petitions. A party-line vote by the state Board of Canvassers ended their candidacies last week. The candidates then appealed that decision in court.
But on Wednesday and Thursday, the Michigan Court of Appeals and the Michigan Court of Claims said the election authorities had acted appropriately: Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig and businessman, self-proclaimed “quality guru” Perry Johnson and others had collected nowhere near enough legitimate signatures to qualify for placement on the Aug. 2 primary ballot, the courts found.
Craig, Perry and other candidates had appealed the decision because the Bureau of Elections said that, due to the “unprecedented” number of fraudulent signatures, they didn’t have time to check every single suspected signature fraud against a state file.
The Bureau identified 68,000 invalid signatures from an initial review, and did not find a single valid signature after spot-checking around 7,000 of them against the state file, officials said.
State law says that “the Board had the discretion to disqualify their obviously fraudulent signatures without checking the signatures against local registration records,” the appeals court said Wednesday, responding to Johnson’s emergency appeal in a ruling signed by three judges.
On Thursday morning, the Michigan Court of Claims cited Johnson’s case in its decision on Craig’s appeal, with Judge Elizabeth L. Gleicher writing that the former case made clear that “the Board did not have a clear legal duty to compare all of the signatures in plaintiff’s nominating petition against the [Qualified Voter File.]”
An appeal from another gubernatorial candidate who submitted fraudulent signatures, Michael Markey, was denied “for the same essential reasons” as Johnson’s, the appeals court said.
The candidates’ banishment from the race opened the door for some unlikely Republican frontrunners, including a far-right activist who attended the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and a former right-wing TV show host who’s earned a valuable endorsement from Michigan’s DeVos family and praise from Donald Trump.