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Courts deny Craig, Johnson, Markey challenges; uphold removal from primary ballot

headshots of James Craig, Perry Johnson, and Mike Markey
Courtesy campaign websites
GOP gubernatorial candidates James Craig, Perry Johnson, and Michael Markey.

Updated June 2, 2022 at 1:09 p.m.:

A judge has declined to put a former Detroit police chief on the Republican ballot for Michigan governor. James Craig is the third candidate to lose a court challenge after state election staff said campaign petitions were marred by fraudulent signatures.

It's a remarkable setback for Craig, who has high name recognition in southeastern Michigan.

A judge says she must abide by a Michigan appeals court decision released Wednesday that kept two other Republicans off the Aug. 2 ballot. They didn't meet the 15,000-signature threshold because of fraudulent signatures on petitions. The appeals court says state election staff didn't have to go line by line.

Updated, June 1, 2022 at 4:41 p.m.:

Two Republicans lost bids Wednesday to get their names on the Republican primary ballot in the race for governor.

The Michigan Court of Appeals handed a defeat to Perry Johnson and Michael Markey – ruling they failed to collect enough valid petition signatures. That’s based on what appears to be widespread fraud by paid signature circulators. But the court ruled in both cases all that matters is whether they have enough signatures, and upheld how state election officials made that determination.

The campaigns argue the state Bureau of Elections was too aggressive in policing signatures.

Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig has also filed a lawsuit to get on the ballot. Time is growing short with a Friday deadline approaching to finalize the ballot. All these cases could wind up before the Michigan Supreme Court.

Updated, June 1, 2022 at 2:24 p.m.:

The Michigan Court of Appeals dealt a defeat Wednesday to Perry Johnson. He was kicked off the August Republican gubernatorial primary ballot.

The court ruled unanimously that Johnson failed to show that he deserves a spot on the ballot after he did not collect enough valid petition signatures. The reason appears to be fraud by paid petition circulators.

The reasoning could also be applied to two other cases where GOP candidates were removed from the ballot. James Craig and Michael Markey have also filed lawsuits to get their names on the ballot after their petitions were also rejected due to apparently fraudulent signatures. Those decisions are still pending. Once issued, they could all be appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court. That’s as the clock is ticking toward a Friday deadline to finalize the primary ballot.

Original post, May 31, 2022:

The deadline to file motions in GOP gubernatorial candidate Perry Johnson’s lawsuit against state election officials was Tuesday.

He’s suing to remain on the primary ballot after the Board of State Canvassers failed to agree on the handling of thousands of signatures on Johnson’s nominating petitions.

The Bureau of Elections found those signatures were likely faked, meaning Johnson might not have met the ballot qualifying threshold. The Board of State Canvassers deadlock meant the elections bureau's recommendation to exclude Johnson, four other GOP gubernatorial candidates, and a handful of candidates for other offices from the primary ballot was sustained.

Johnson maintains he has enough valid signatures.

Still, attorney Steven Liedel filed a motion arguing Johnson isn’t entitled to a spot in the race.

“[If] the court were simply to place him on the ballot now, they would just be invalidating all of the fraud that appears to have occurred — the documented fraud, documented by multiple sources beyond the Bureau of Elections,” Liedel said.

And the group Voters Not Politicians filed an amicus brief Tuesday arguing Johnson has no legal right to ballot certification.

“Candidates for governor only had to collect 15,000 signatures. So, for candidates like Perry Johnson that failed to do that and are now refusing to take responsibility and are trying to blame others, they don’t deserve to be on the ballot. And it was right for the state to disqualify them,” the group's executive director Nancy Wang said.

In its response to the lawsuit filed Tuesday, the Board of State Canvassers requested the court decide whether the board should declare Johnson’s “petition sufficient under the circumstances.”

Meanwhile, the state is seeking to dismiss a separate lawsuit in the Court of Claims from Johnson’s fellow candidate James Craig.

In requests for summary disposition, attorneys for the Board of State Canvassers and the Michigan Secretary of State argue Craig failed to establish a claim for a violation of his right to due process.

The Secretary of State also argues there’s little time for a delay with ballot deadlines rapidly approaching.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
The Associated Press is an independent global news organization dedicated to factual reporting.
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