(WXYZ) — The Michigan Court of Appeals has denied requests from Republican gubernatorial candidates Perry Johnson and Michael Markey, and the Court of Claims denied a request from James Craig – to reinstate all three on the August primary ballot.
Johnson, Markey and Craig filed lawsuits after the Michigan Bureau of Elections said five GOP candidates for governor did not have the 15,000 valid signatures required to move forward.
Michael Brown and Donna Brandenburg were also found to not have the signatures to move forward, with the bureau of elections determining fraudulent signatures were turned in by the campaigns.
Johnson was the first to file a lawsuit last week, with the ruling coming down on Wednesday morning. Brown dropped out of the race after the fraudulent signatures came out.
"We conclude that Johnson has not carried his burden of establishing that he is entitled to a writ of mandamus, so we deny his complaint," the court wrote in their first ruling.
The Board of State Canvassers then deadlocked along party lines – 2-2 – on whether or not to put Johnson on the ballot, which then defaulted to the bureau's ruling.
"The Board had the discretion to disqualify their obviously fraudulent signatures without checking the signatures against local registration records. The Board, therefore, had a clear legal duty to investigate, but it did not have a clear legal duty to conduct a comparison of each fraudulent signature against the qualified voter file. Likewise, because the Board had the discretion to not check each and every signature submitted by the fraudulent-petition circulators, the act Johnson is seeking to compel defendants to perform is not ministerial in nature," the court wrote.
Later Wednesday, the court denied Markey's request to get his name on the ballot citing "the same essential reasons set forth in Johnson v Bd of State Canvassers." Craig's appeal denial came down Thursday morning from the Michigan Court of Claims.
Craig released the following statement after the ruling, saying he plans to attempt to get the ruling reversed in the Michigan Supreme Court:
“I am very disappointed with the Court of Claims’ decision. I am also discouraged by their complete disregard to the law and case precedent. It is clearly stated that the Bureau of Elections must go line by line in order invalidate a signature. This was not done; admittedly by the BOE during their testimony before the Board of Canvassers. We will continue to fight for our campaign to be on the August primary ballot as a Republican candidate for Governor. The voters should be deciding who their candidates are, not an unelected board of government bureaucrats. Rest assured, we will be appealing this questionable decision to a higher court. Our fight is not over,” said Craig.
Johnson and Bradenberg have since filed appeals with the Michigan Supreme Court.
Bradenberg released the following statement on Thursday regarding the fight in court:
"This is a very complicated legal issue. Unlike other candidates, we were not challenged and did not receive notice. Other candidates had weeks of knowledge to prepare, whereas my campaign was ambushed last Monday outside of any legal process. My right to Due Process was violated as well as were my legal and Constitutional Rights.
The BOE suspected foul play since March and withheld that information. Had they come forward with a public warning to protect both the voters signing petitions as well as myself as a candidate, we would have had time to remove anything in question and replace it. They did nothing to call attention to a potential problem. Therefore, it is either gross negligence or complicity.
And further note, the Board of Elections apparently lost 10,000 of my signatures, and we have yet to have a resolution with that issue; they have not acknowledged my second drop of signatures. Where did 10,000 of my signatures go!
The State of Michigan botched every number cited…it is all random and arbitrary, including their process, which they admitted 'making up on the fly.' "
“Candidates bear a responsibility for collecting and submitting sufficient, valid signatures to qualify for the ballot,” Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said in a statement. “I am glad the court recognized this responsibility and continue to be grateful for the professional staff at the Bureau of Elections and their meticulous attention to detail and compliance with the law.”
Five other Republican candidates did have enough signatures for the August primary ballot, including Tudor Dixon, a former conservative TV news host who has the backing of Betsy DeVos, head of the U.S. Education Department during the Trump administration.
The winner of the primary race will go on to face Democratic incumbent Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in November.