Common Cause Michigan Comments on Board of State Canvassers Decision to Remove Candidates from Aug. 2 Primary Ballot

LANSING, MI — Yesterday afternoon, the Michigan Board of State Canvassers were deadlocked at a hearing regarding the validity of signatures on the petition for five GOP candidates for governor. Because of the deadlock, James Craig, Perry Johnson, Michael Brown, Donna Brandenburg and Michael Markey will be removed from the Aug. 2 primary ballot. Additionally, three judicial candidates have also been removed for similar reasons.Under Michigan law, candidates are required to submit a minimum of 15,000 lawfully collected signatures. The five gubernatorial and three judicial candidates allegedly did not meet that requirement. In a MI Elections Bureau report, staffers said they identified 36 petition circulators who submitted at least tens of thousands of invalid signatures across multiple petitions drives for various offices.

As a result, the Bureau recommended these petitions be labeled as insufficient, with the candidates being removed from the primary ballot. At the hearing, two members agreed with the recommendation and two opposed, leading to the tie.

Jonathan Brater, Michigan’s director of elections, said during the hearing that a lawsuit must be filed by the nine candidates to be placed back on the ballot.

Statement of Quentin Turner, Common Cause Michigan Policy Director:

Yesterday, the Michigan Board of State Canvassers in a deadlock tie decided that eight Michigan candidates would no longer be on the ballot based on insufficient signatures. Make no mistake, Common Cause Michigan is firmly against using deception to get elected.

This process, however, has uncovered a larger discussion and the need to address our policies currently in place. This action is unprecedented, with challengers finding out about their alleged indiscretions just days before pleading their cases to the Board of Canvassers.

Additionally, though it is apparent many of the names found within the petition are fraudulent, there has yet to be a thorough investigation into every petition and signature in question. This means thousands of Michiganders will have their right as citizens to back the candidate of their choosing stripped without proper transparency or due process of these petitions. The process of removing these signatures based on random sampling and automatic disqualification goes against Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s previous recommendations.

There has been a lack of clear policy, law and procedure in this process, and we must have a discussion as to how to best update our systems so that this never happens again.

To learn more about the process and the staff findings, click here.