LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Business owner Perry Johnson filed a lawsuit Friday to try to get on Michigan’s August primary ballot, the first of many likely legal challenges after five Republican candidates for governor were barred because of too few valid petition signatures.
Johnson asked the state Court of Appeals to intervene and order the Board of State Canvassers to put him on the ballot. James Craig, a former Detroit police chief with significant name recognition, also plans to turn to court.
With just days until the Aug. 2 ballot must be finalized, the appeals court put the case on a rocket docket, setting Tuesday as the deadline for the state to answer the lawsuit. A decision could soon follow.
The state elections bureau said petitions were rife with fraudulent names and signatures created by paid circulators, bringing Johnson and Craig below the 15,000-signature threshold needed to run in the primary.
But Johnson’s legal team said the state improperly struck entire sheets, foreclosing the possibility that signatures of some voters were valid, and should have inspected each petition line by line.
"They failed to carry their burden of establishing the invalidity of enough of Mr. Johnson’s signatures by clear, competent and convincing evidence," the lawsuit states.
The Board of State Canvassers, made up of two Republicans and two Democrats, deadlocked 2-2 Thursday on whether to bar Johnson, Craig, Donna Brandenburg, Michael Brown and Michael Markey. The tie means they remain off the ballot; Brown has dropped out.
There seems to be no dispute that fraudulent signatures were on the petitions, though there’s no evidence that the candidates were aware of it.
Five other Republican candidates landed a ballot spot, 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 Republican primary will face Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in November.