Paid signature collectors allegedly submitted pages of false signatures for 10 Michigan primary candidates. So many fake signatures were submitted that five Republicans were removed from August 2 primary ballots. Two were leading GOP candidates to challenge Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
Michigan requires Republican and Democratic gubernatorial candidates to get at least 15,000 signatures on nominating petitions. They all submitted more than the required number of nominating signatures. Five of them, though, fell below the minimum after phony signatures were removed from the count.
The elections bureau said former Detroit Police Chief James Craig and businessman Perry Johnson were ineligible. The other three invalidated Republican candidates are Donna Brandenburg, Michael Brown and Michael Markey Jr. State investigators determined that 36 petition circulators submitted sheets of signatures that were all false.
“These circulators submitted at least 68,000 invalid signatures submitted across 10 sets of nominating petitions,” the state’s Bureau of Election wrote. Their report on fraudulent nominating petitions said they do not believe any of the five were aware the circulators were faking signatures for them. The report noted the low availability of qualified collectors, which pushed the pay from a normal $6 up to $21 for each signature recorded.
Images at the bottom of the report make it clear why suspicions were initially raised because they are almost exact, except for candidate names.
“At this point, the Bureau does not have reason to believe that any specific candidates or campaigns were aware of the activities of fraudulent-petition circulators,” state election officials stated. They added that campaigns should examine their petitions before filing them with the state.
Perry Johnson believes there may be more sinister motives at play than greedy, unscrupolous collectors trying to pump up their pay by falsifying signatures.
“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 said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the signatures provided to campaigns cannot currently be checked until after their submission to the Secretary of State.” He added this practice needs to change immediately.