Leading Republican gubernatorial candidates James Craig and Perry Johnson may be disqualified from the ballot after failing to submit enough valid petition signatures, The Detroit News reports.
The state Bureau of Elections in a report said that Craig and Johnson are ineligible after finding thousands of signatures they submitted were forged.
The report identified 36 petition circulators "who submitted fraudulent petition sheets consisting entirely of invalid signatures." The bureau said it was "unaware of another election cycle in which this many circulators submitted such a substantial volume of fraudulent petition sheets consisting of invalid signatures."
Massive fraud scheme:
The bureau said that it had never encountered a fraud scheme this vast.
"In total, the bureau estimates that these circulators submitted at least 68,000 invalid signatures submitted across 10 sets of nominating petitions," the report said. "In several instances, the number of invalid signatures submitted by these circulators was the reason a candidate had an insufficient number of valid signatures."
The bureau said nearly 10,000 of the 21,305 signatures submitted by Craig were fraudulent and said more than 9,000 signatures submitted by Johnson were invalid.
"(T)he Bureau did not fully process the challenge because the number of signatures removed from the total after the review of fraudulent-petition circulators were such that Mr. Craig was already far below the minimum threshold for ballot access," the report said.
Half of candidates may be eliminated:
Along with Craig and Johnson, the bureau said that financial adviser Michael, Michigan State Police Capt. Michael Brown and entrepreneur Donna Brandenburg also failed to submit enough valid signatures. The report could disqualify half of the 10-candidate field.
Craig and Johnson vowed to fight the recommendation before the Board of Canvassers makes an official decision on Thursday.
"We strongly believe they are refusing to count thousands of signatures from legitimate voters who signed the petitions and look forward to winning this fight before the board, and if necessary, in the courts," Johnson consultant John Yob said.