Five Republicans running for governor in Michigan are not eligible because many of the signatures they submitted were invalid, the state’s Bureau of Elections reported on May 23.

At least 68,000 fraudulent signatures were submitted for 10 candidates, including former Detroit Police Chief James Craig and businessman Perry Johnson, the bureau said (pdf).

Removing the invalid signatures means five of the candidates do not have enough to qualify for the ballot.

The bureau is advising the removal of the candidates—Craig, Johnson, State Police Capt. Michael Brown, businesswoman Donna Brandenburg, and financial adviser Michael Markey—from the list of choices for voters.

The Board of State Canvassers will decide on May 26 whether to accept each recommendation.

Johnson strategist John Yob challenged the report.

The bureau, headed by Democrat Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, “does not have the right to unilaterally void every single signature obtained by the alleged forgers who victimized five campaigns,” Yob said in a statement.

He pointed to state law that says the invalidity of one or more signatures on a petition for candidacy does not affect the validity of other signatures.

“We strongly believe they are refusing to count thousands of signatures from legitimate voters who signed the petitions and look forward to winning this fight before the Board, and if necessary, in the courts,” Yob said.

Johnson also unveiled a plan he said would bring necessary reforms to the petition process.

“Criminals are able to defraud campaigns and their thousands of supporters by submitting signatures of questionable legitimacy to be included with legitimate signatures,” Johnson said in a statement. “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.”

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson speaks in Detroit, Mich., on Aug. 18, 2020. (Rebecca Cook/Reuters)

Craig told the Detroit Free Press that the invalid signatures were part of “a well-planned and orchestrated effort to get me off the ballot.”

He wants Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, to investigate what happened.

A spokeswoman with Nessel’s office told The Epoch Times in an email that the agency is not yet investigating because it has not received a formal request for a probe from the Michigan Department of State, which includes the election bureau.

Brown dropped out of the race, citing the findings of the bureau.

“It appears that after my campaign’s signature gathering was complete, individuals independently contracted for a portion of our signature gathering and validation jumped onto other campaigns and went on a money grab. They were involved in allegedly fraudulent signature gathering activities with these campaigns causing the Michigan Bureau of Elections to declare all of the signatures connected to those individuals as invalid,” he said in a statement.

“I cannot and will not be associated with this activity,” he added.

Brandenburg and Markey have not reacted to the report and did not respond to requests for comment.

The primary elections for the Michigan gubernatorial race are slated for Aug. 2.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, is running unopposed.

If all five candidates that allegedly filed invalid signatures are removed from the ballot, voters will choose from seven other GOP candidates.

They are: businesswoman Tudor Dixon, realtor Ryan Kelley, pastor Ralph Rebandt II, businessman Kevin Rinke, teacher Bob Scott, chiropractor Garrett Soldano, and entrepreneur Evan Space.

Zachary Stieber


Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.

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