(Source: MIRS.news, Published 06/03/2022) The Michigan Supreme Court Friday killed James Craig, Perry Johnson and Michael Markey Jr.'s hopes that they would make it onto the August primary ballot as gubernatorial candidates.
The court did not issue an order in Donna Brandenburg's case, but the election director filed an affidavit acknowledging staff found Brandenburg's missing petitions. However, even if the Bureau of Elections assumes every signature is valid, she remains 2,168 short of the required 15,000, according to the affidavit.
In a 6-1 order in Johnson's appeal, the court said it was not persuaded to hear the case, with the exception of Democratic-nominated Justice Richard Bernstein, who would have ordered oral arguments because Johnson "raises serious concerns about ballot access" and whether the current process appropriately balanced fraud concerns.
In the Johnson order, Democrat Chief Justice Bridget Mccormack said the sufficiency of petition signatures is a Board of State Canvassers' matter that "requires some expertise." Johnson's quarrels with the BSC's methodology, however, "won't change" the deficiencies, she noted.
Republican-nominated Justices David Viviano and Brian Zahra joined McCormack's statement, but Zahra wrote separately to request that the Legislature amend Michigan's election law to speed up the deadline for reviewing petitions by six weeks to allow the judicial branch "a better opportunity to provide meaningful judicial review to those allegedly aggrieved" by BSC and BOE decisions.
Zahra noted that if Johnson's argument that the BOE erred by failing to check every signature against the qualified voter file, he is only entitled to that relief, not having his name placed on the ballot. And the eight days for the candidates to challenge the disqualification simply isn't enough for cases that present complex questions of law, he noted.
"The people of Michigan deserve thoughtful, cogent, and well-reasoned decisions from this Court," Zahra wrote.
Friday is the deadline for finalizing the ballot.
Vivano, who also wrote separately, opined the Michigan Court of Appeals may have erred when it held the BSC does not have to check petition signatures against the digitized signatures in the QVF before disqualifying them.
The fifth disqualified gubernatorial candidate, Michigan State Police Capt. Michael Brown, withdrew after the BSC disqualified him.
In May, the BOE said 36 circulators forged an estimated 68,000 signatures over 10 candidates' nominating petitions.
Affidavit Confirms Lost Petitions Found
Brandenburg was the only candidate to allege that the BOE lost some of her petitions, and Elections Director Jonathan Brater acknowledged staff found the missing petitions Thursday, according to an affidavit filed late Friday with the court.
Brater, who said the petitions were “accidentally” stored in a different location than normal, said the staff determined that 2,894 signatures on 301 sheets had been "submitted by the same fraudulent-petition circulators previously identified" while 3,304 signatures on 587 sheets were submitted by circulators not identified as fraudulent, but sheets from at least two of those circulators "also appear suspicious."
Still, Brater said even if the BOE assumes that every signature on Brandenburg's lost petitions are valid, she "would have at most 12,832 signatures," which falls below the required 15,000.
Brater's affidavit encourages the Supreme Court to order the production of the digitized signatures in the QVF so the court can compare the signatures with the petition signatures. He also recommends the court order the BOE to "bring the physical sheets to the courts" for review and volunteered that staff could also bring their computers to court to look up voter signature comparisons.
It is not known if the justices will accept that invitation.
As of Friday, the gubernatorial field remains at five candidates – businesswoman Tudor Dixon, real estate broker Ryan Kelley, Oakland Hills Community Church pastor Ralph Rebandt, businessman Kevin Rinke and chiropractor Garrett Soldano.
The winner of the August primary faces Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in November's general election.
Meanwhile, the BOE referred its fraud findings to the Attorney General's office for a criminal investigation.
Judicial Candidates' Efforts To Make Ballot Fail
A Court of Claims judge Friday denied two judicial candidates' requests to make the August primary ballot.
Judge Elizabeth L. Gleicher today denied separate complaints from Angelique Camfield and Philip Cavanagh with prejudice, which means they cannot bring it again.
Camfield, who wants a seat on the 9th Circuit Court bench, submitted 1,015 signatures, but six of her sheets left blank the required space for entry of the date of the primary election. In the end, she was 78 signatures shy of the 1,000 needed to make the ballot.
Gleicher's order noted that Camfield did not file her request for relief "until nearly the last minute."
"Her lack of diligence alone gives the Court reason to deny the request for mandamus relief," Gleicher wrote.
Cavanagh, who wants a seat on the 3rd Circuit Court bench, received similar rebuke, with Gleicher noting that the Michigan Court of Appeals already rejected Cavanagh's complaint before he tried again in the Court of Claims.
The BOE held that 3,816 of Cavanagh's 5,348 signatures submitted were valid. He needed 4,000 to make the ballot.
"He has not given this Court any reason why it can or should grant him the same relief – albeit under different labels – that was denied by the Court of Appeals," the judge wrote.