The GOP’s efforts to unseat Michigan’s Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, ran into some trouble on Tuesday when the state’s elections bureau determined that five of the ten Republican candidates had faked the signatures necessary for them to appear on the ballot. Because of the bogus ink, half of the field could now be ineligible for the August 2 primary.
There was quite a bit of fraud, according to the Michigan Bureau of Elections. Some compromised petition sheets “consisted entirely of invalid signatures.” Others showed evidence of being “round-tabled,” the process in which a group of people takes turns signing names so the same handwriting isn’t repeated line after line. A few showed “no evidence of normal wear” and misspellings of voters’ names, suggesting that whoever botched the job didn’t really put their full effort into trying to defraud the Wolverine State. In total, for the governor’s race and other down-ballot contests, an estimated 68,000 invalid signatures were submitted.
The affected Republicans included former Detroit police chief James Craig and businessman Perry Johnson, who are considered front-runners in the crowded primary. The report found that Craig submitted over 11,000 invalid signatures and Johnson submitted over 9,300 invalid signatures; with the forgeries cut out, both failed to reach the required 15,000 signatures to appear on the ballot. The Michigan Board of State Canvassers will meet on Thursday to review the elections bureau’s report and determine if the un-fab five will be in the primary.
While the elections bureau did not find evidence that the candidates were aware of the schemes conducted on their behalf, the widespread fraud comes amid a yearslong effort in which Donald Trump has alleged without evidence that Democrats “rigged” the 2020 election in Michigan and other states that flipped blue last cycle. Craig has said he is in favor of a “thorough audit” of the 2020 race, while Johnson has said he shares Trump’s concerns “about election security.”