5 GOP candidates in Michigan ineligible after fraud, election office says

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Five of 10 Republican candidates for the gubernatorial nomination in Michigan are ineligible to appear on the ballot because of invalid signatures on their nominating petitions, the Michigan elections bureau said in a report Monday, upending the race little more than two months before the August primary.

Those the elections bureau said were ineligible include former Detroit police chief James Craig and businessman Perry Johnson, who have been considered the leading candidates for the GOP nomination for Michigan governor. Others were Donna Brandenburg, Michael Brown and Michael Markey.

The Michigan Board of State Canvassers, made up of two Democrats and two Republicans, will meet Thursday morning to discuss the election bureau’s report and rule on whether the candidates can appear on the Aug. 2 primary ballot.

State investigators identified 36 people who circulated petitions “who submitted fraudulent petition sheets consisting entirely of invalid signatures,” according to an elections bureau report published Monday night.

“In total, the Bureau estimates that these circulators submitted at least 68,000 invalid signatures submitted across 10 sets of nominating petitions,” the report stated. “In several instances, the number of invalid signatures submitted by these circulators was the reason a candidate had an insufficient number of valid signatures.”

The gubernatorial candidates were required to collect at least 15,000 valid signatures to appear on the ballot. According to the elections bureau, Craig’s campaign submitted 11,113 invalid signatures and only 10,192 “facially valid” ones, while Johnson’s campaign submitted 9,393 invalid signatures and 13,800 facially valid ones, leaving both below the required threshold.

The bureau’s investigation also found that Brandenburg’s campaign submitted 11,144 invalid signatures and 6,634 facially valid ones; Brown’s campaign submitted 13,809 invalid signatures and 7,091 facially valid ones; and Markey’s campaign submitted 17,374 invalid signatures and 4,430 facially valid ones.

The elections bureau noted that this level of fraud — both in the number of invalid signatures submitted and the number of campaigns affected — was unprecedented. Some of the fraudulent petition sheets tended to show “no evidence of normal wear,” or showed evidence of having been “round-tabled,” a practice in which each person in a group takes turns signing one line of a petition in an attempt to make the signatures appear authentic, the bureau said.

The report comes as former president Donald Trump relentlessly perpetuates the debunked, baseless claim that widespread voter fraud cost him reelection in 2020.

Johnson has said he shares Trump’s “concern about election security” and attended a fundraiser with the former president for a fellow Republican at Mar-a-Lago in March. Craig has sought to distance himself more from Trump’s voter-fraud claims but has said he would support a “thorough audit” of the 2020 election results and would accept Trump’s endorsement if it were offered to him.

The elections bureau said it did not have reason to believe…

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