OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
The Michigan Supreme Court has weighed in on the case of three Republican contenders for governor being removed from the ballot.
The Republicans, one of whom was considered a top contender, will not appear on the August primary ballot, The Detroit News reported.
The court sided with the state Bureau of Elections in saying that there were too many forged signatures on the petitions to get the candidates on the ballot.
The 6-1 decisions by the state’s highest court mean that former Detroit police Chief James Craig, whom many viewed as the front runner for the GOP nomination, and businessman Perry Johnson, who poured millions of dollars into his campaign, are out of the race.
The decisions from the Supreme Court came as the Bureau of Elections on Friday sent out the official candidate list to local clerks, setting in motion the process of formatting and printing ballots for the Aug. 2 primary. The gubernatorial candidate list included only those candidates who were certified by the Board of State Canvassers last week, said Tracy Wimmer, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s office.
For Craig, the Supreme Court’s decisive ruling was a stunning end to his campaign for the state’s highest office.
Before Friday, the state had never seen someone lead a gubernatorial primary race for a year and then never make the ballot, Michigan political consultant John Sellek said of Craig.
The Michigan Court of Appeals on Wednesday rejected a bid and unanimously ruled against businessman Perry Johnson, then later the same day denied a motion to step in from businessman Michael Markey and finally denied an appeal from former Detroit police chief James Craig, who was considered a top contender, The Washington Post reported.
The three Republicans vowed to continue the fight to the Michigan Supreme Court.
“The voters should be deciding who their candidates are, not an unelected board of government bureaucrats,” Craig said. “Rest assured, we will be appealing this questionable decision to a higher court. Our fight is not over.”
Last week the Michigan Board of Elections ruled that the two most popular Republicans for the job are not eligible to be on the ballot, Fox News reported.
Republicans seem to have lost two of their most serious contenders for the gubernatorial election in Michigan. Chief James Craig of the Detroit Police Department and businessman Perry Johnson – two of the most prominent Republicans running against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer – both failed to produce the valid signatures necessary to get on the ballot.
Gubernatorial candidates are required to submit 15,000 valid signatures to appear on the state ballot. According to the bureau, the affected candidates were victimized via a series of petitioners who obtained nothing but invalid or otherwise unusable signatures, putting them well below the mark.
“Michigan’s petition process is fatally flawed because it easily allows criminals to victimize candidates for public office and their thousands of supporters who legitimately sign petitions,” Johnson said on Monday. “We must bring quality to the petition process by allowing campaigns a mechanism to compare signatures that are gathered by circulators with signatures on the Qualified Voter File to ensure their legitimacy.”
“Criminals are able to defraud campaigns and their thousands of supporters by submitting signatures of questionable legitimacy to be included with legitimate signatures,” he said. “Criminals can commit fraud for money or by purposely infiltrating a victimized campaign with illegitimate signatures in a Machiavellian attempt by the opposing party to later have them removed from the ballot. Unfortunately, the signatures provided to campaigns cannot currently be checked until after their submission to the Secretary of State. This needs to change, immediately.
He argued that the issues were similar to those faced by the automobile industry in the 1980s.
“The problems facing Michigan’s petition process have similarities with the problems we
encountered in the automotive industry in the 1980’s,” he said. “They were checking quality at the end of the assembly line rather than in the beginning. Therefore, they were throwing out products after the car was built rather than fixing the quality in real-time prior to building the car. We implemented statistical process control to bring quality to the front end of the process and that dramatically improved manufacturing quality across the country.”