The Michigan Democratic Party filed a petition challenge against three leading Republican gubernatorial contenders on Wednesday, alleging fraudulent signatures and other concerns that might prevent them from qualifying for the GOP primary.
Ex-Detroit Police Chief James Craig, businessman Perry Johnson, and Tudor Dixon, the former anchor of a conservative TV news show, all filed complaints with the Board of State Canvassers on Tuesday.
A separate challenge was filed by Michigan Strong, a super PAC linked to Dixon, alleging fraud against Craig, who has been polling in the lead and is one of ten Republicans who turned in signatures by the deadline last week. In the fall, the primary winner will face Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
According to the Democratic complaint, at least eight of Craig’s circulators used a signature forging practice known as “round-robins,” in which a small group of people forges signatures over several petition sheets using a list of legitimate voters. In an attempt to imitate authenticity, several singers combine their writing styles.
Dems challenge 3 top Michigan Republican gubernatorial candidates' petitions; allege mass forgery by circulators who collected Craig’s petitions, inaccurate heading on Dixon petitions; complaint also flags issues with Johnson signatures; state will review https://t.co/M5DQVVdHdj
— David Eggert (@DavidEggert00) April 28, 2022
According to the complaint, more than 6,900 of his 21,000 signatures were collected in this manner and should be disqualified. If this is accurate, Craig will fall short of the 15,000 valid signatures required to get on the August primary ballot. According to the challenge, faulty circulator certificates should invalidate around 1,900 signatures.
“In the nearly 40 years I’ve been practicing election law in Michigan, I’ve never seen such proof of forgery and fraud in a petition drive,” said attorney Mark Brewer.
According to Michigan Strong spokesperson Fred Wszolek, catching the fraud was “very straightforward,” as sheets from one Craig circulator, for example, all have similar handwriting and were filed in consecutive sequence. Craig’s campaign attempted to file an additional 4,200 signatures on April 19 to provide a buffer, but he was 20 minutes late, according to him.
Marli Blackman, a spokesperson for Craig’s campaign, said the signatures have “complete confidence” and that the complaints are a “last-ditch effort” by opponents who are “terrified” by his support and momentum.
Dixon’s over 30,000 signatures should be thrown out, according to the challenge, since the petitions incorrectly state that the next gubernatorial term ends in 2026, when it ends on Jan. 1, 2027.
While state law does not require a gubernatorial candidate to disclose a term expiry date on a nominating petition, he or she cannot make false representations on the form if they do, according to the complaint’s author, lawyer Steven Liedel.
Dixon called it a “desperate, fraudulent challenge” in a statement. “Democrats would go to any length to shield Gretchen Whitmer from having to confront me,” she claimed.
The complaint also accuses fraud, stating that Johnson’s campaign utilized six circulators accused of falsifying Craig’s petitions. Johnson is a self-funder who has spent more than $3 million on advertising. One of them also went about collecting Dixon’s signatures.
“The Johnson petitions have enough quality-control issues to cast considerable doubt on his candidacy,” Liedel added.
Democrats are “scared” by Johnson’s momentum, according to Johnson campaign consultant John Yob.
“Even if every ludicrous claim leveled by the Democrats was true, they failed to challenge him enough to deny him access to the ballot box,” he added. “Perry will be on the ballot, and we’re looking forward to seeing the results of other candidates’ more statistically significant challenges.”
In May, the state elections bureau will evaluate the signatures of the challenged candidates and offer recommendations to the bipartisan, four-member canvassing board. In June, ballots are printed. The decisions are usually accepted by the board.