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Top Republicans Lose Bid to Be Put Back On Ballot in Michigan Gubernatorial Race

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


A leading Republican gubernatorial contender in Michigan has been removed from the ballot by a state appeals court, which means his name is unlikely to appear on the state’s GOP primary in August.

As reported by The Associated Press, the Michigan Court of Appeals actually kept two GOP contenders off the ballot after ruling that state election officials who suspected signature fraud did not have any obligation to examine campaign petitions line by line.

The report noted:

The court first ruled against Perry Johnson, a wealthy businessman considered to be a leading candidate for the Republican nomination, and then applied the 12-page decision to investment adviser Michael Markey.

The opinion would seem to doom the chances of former Detroit Police Chief James Craig and entrepreneur Donna Brandenburg, who were also barred from the ballot last week.

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There appears to be no dispute that fraudulent signatures were turned in by paid circulators, though there’s no evidence that the candidates were aware of the scam. In a court filing, attorneys representing the Board of State Canvassers called it an “unprecedented situation.”

The board actually tied on the question of whether the candidates were ineligible, meaning there was no definitive decision to reinstate them. State election officials said that Johnson, Craig, Markey, and Brandenburg failed to meet the 15,000-vote signature threshold because there were too many fraudulent signatures.

In the case of Johnson, some 7,000 signatures were moved to the scam column after election staff discovered dead voters on petitions along with misspelled names and some signatures with first names only accompanied by the last initial.

On appeal, Johnson asked the higher court to overrule the canvassers and place his name on the ballot. He argued through attorneys that he would meet the signature threshold if the state election bureau would examine each signature line. Only about 20 percent of the 7,000 signatures were compared to signatures in the qualified voter file.

“The board … had a clear legal duty to investigate, but it did not have a clear legal duty to conduct a comparison of each fraudulent signature against the qualified voter file,” the appeals court said in a 3-0 opinion.

The AP added: “Five other Republican candidates landed a ballot spot, including Tudor Dixon, a former conservative TV news host who has the backing of Betsy DeVos, who was head of the U.S. Education Department during the Trump administration.”

“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 of the situation in a campaign statement last month after the lower court removed him and Craig from the ballot.

“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,” the statement continued.

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“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,” Johnson continued.

“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 added.

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The state elections agency announced its decision after officials there reviewed the signatures and other materials submitted by both of the candidates.

The agency said that it tracked the fake or invalid signatures to around three dozen petitioners who submitted stacks of petitions that contained nothing but unusable or invalid signatures. In all, the Bureau of Elections found five GOP gubernatorial candidates had submitted too many invalid signatures.

Now, Republican efforts to even field a viable candidate to run against Whitmer appear to be in jeopardy.

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Earlier in May, Michigan State Police seized a number of electronic voting machines as part of an expanded investigation into potential breaches linked to the 2020 election.

State police seized a voting machine tabulator in Irving Township, Barry County Clerk Pamela Palmer told CNN. The state probe is aimed at determining whether anyone who should not have been allowed to access voting machine data was able to breach election protocols.

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