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Democrats allege dead voters, signature fraud in filing petitions for Republican gubernatorial campaigns

Petition gatherer holding a pen and clipboard speaks to another person
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The Michigan Democratic Party is challenging nominating petitions for three Republican candidates for Governor.

The complaints against campaigns for Tudor Dixon, James Craig, and Perry Johnson allege forgery, the use of dead voters’ signatures, and date errors.

Attorney Steven Liedel worked on the challenges against the Dixon and Johnson campaigns.

During a Wednesday morning press conference, Liedel said the Johnson campaign submitted at least 66 signatures of voters who were legally dead. He also said the investigation found evidence of voters signing his petition multiple times, as well as people signing more than one nominating form.

“[It] demonstrates serious quality control issues," Liedel said, arguing the Republican candidates' signature-gathering process was rife with problems.

The Johnson campaign submitted 22,700 signatures, according to the Secretary of State’s website. Major party gubernatorial candidates in Michigan must file at least 15,000 signatures to get on the primary ballot.

John Yob, a campaign consultant for Johnson's campaign, said the Democrats' claims were weak.

“Democrats are clearly scared of Perry Johnson’s momentum. Even if every absurd accusation made by the Democrats was legitimate they still failed to challenge enough to impact Perry’s ballot access. Perry will be on the ballot and it looks like both Chief Craig and Tudor Dixon will be removed,” Yob said in a statement.

His words weren’t far off from Dixon’s response to allegations that her petitions included an inaccurate date for when the governor’s term would end.

“The Democrats are launching a desperate, bogus challenge to our candidate qualifying petitions. The other two may not have enough signatures. For us, they are claiming that valid signatures should be disqualified because the Democrat lawyers find the gubernatorial term ending in 2026 to be confusing,” a statement from Dixon read.

Challengers said the heading on her petitions should show the governor’s term as ending on January 1, 2027. They said her campaign also ran into the issues of signatures by dead voters.

Dixon’s campaign turned in 29,735 signatures. But opponents said the date issue could invalidate the petition pages it submitted.

Meanwhile, former Michigan Democratic Party chair Mark Brewer made several allegations against the Craig campaign at the press conference.

Among them were claims that 6,933 signatures across 710 petition sheets were forged by at least eight forgers.

Brewer said that happened through a process called “round robin-ing.” That’s where a group takes turns forging signatures on a petition, often leaving tell-tale signs.

“There is extensive evidence of this round robin-ing process. Petition after petition after petition with handwriting that is essentially the same as elsewhere, using these tells,” Brewer told reporters.

If true, that could lower Craig’s 21,000 signatures below the qualifying signature threshold.

“All of these signatures on all of these petitions can be checked. And that is what we hope and expect the Bureau of Elections will now do with the significant evidence that we have filed,” Brewer said.

Craig’s campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Despite campaigns’ optimism, Liedel said candidacies could be at stake.

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