The Michigan Board of Canvassers deadlocked Thursday along party lines on the recommendations of the Bureau of Elections, which held that five Republican candidates for governor should be denied spots on August's primary ballot.
That means former Detroit police chief James Craig, Bloomfield Hills businessman Perry Johnson and three others must go to court to get a chance with voters.
In the meantime, Craig and Johnson lose invitations to debate two other candidates next Thursday at the Mackinac Policy Conference. They "are no longer eligible to participate," says the Detroit Regional Chamber, which invited Tudor Dixon and Ralph Rebandt to debate with Garrett Soldano and Kevin Rinke.
The Bureau of Elections had determined that all five candidates lacked enough signatures on their ballot petitions because most of their submitted signatures were fraudulent.
"We have an obligation to determine whether the requisite number of qualified and registered voters have signed these petitions," Democratic canvasser Mary Ellen Gurewitz said before the votes. "What we know is for at least 30 circulators, all of the petition signatures that they have submitted are false."
The two Democratic canvassers voted to accept recommendations from the state Bureau of Elections that the candidates be blocked from the ballot. The two Republican canvassers went against the recommendations of state election officials.
The other candidates the elections bureau wanted disqualified are Michael Markey of Grand Haven, Michael Brown of Stevensville and Donna Brandenburg of Byron Center. All used professional signature-gatherers who, the bureau held, submitted thousands of invalid signatures for the necessary 15,000 required.
The state GOP had argued, before the vote, that the bureau was bound to check every individual signature on the petitions. Instead, bureau employees found that particular signature-gatherers had committed fraud, and invalidated their work.
Bureau of Elections staff checked about 7,000 signatures among about 68,000 from the allegedly fraudulent circulators against the qualified voter file, which contains records about voters and their signatures, Brater said.
“We did not find a single registered voter with a matching signature for any of those circulators for any candidate of the ones we looked at,” (Michigan elections director Jonathan) Brater said. “If we found even a small number that looked legitimate, we took them out of the fraudulent circulator category and they are not reflected in this report.”
Brown has already dropped out of the race. Craig and Johnson vowed to take their cases to court.