Dems request investigation into GOP US Senate candidate petitions

GOP US Senate candidates (clockwise): Former US Rep. Justin Amash, former US Rep. Mike Rogers, former US Rep. Peter Meijer and businessman Sandy Pensler (Photos via Michigan Advance)

By Michigan Advance

May 20, 2024

BY JON KING, MICHIGAN ADVANCE

MICHIGAN—A request to investigate alleged “indications of fraud” in the nominating petitions of Republican US Senate candidates has been sent to the Michigan Board of State Canvassers.

According to a release, the request was made by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), along with the Michigan Democratic Party (MDP), and a Michigan voter, Emily Judd, asking the Board of State Canvassers (BSC) to “immediately investigate” the nominating petitions of four GOP U.S. Senate candidates: former US Reps. Mike Rogers (R-White Lake), Justin Amash (I-Cascade Twp.) and Peter Meijer (R-Grand Rapids), as well as businessman Sandy Pensler.

Meijer has since dropped out of the race, but had already submitted his petitions for review. Also running for the GOP nomination is physician Sherry O’Donnell, who was not named in the letter.

“[O]ur initial review of these candidates’ petitions has uncovered patterns that indicate the presence of potential forgery and other fraudulent signature gathering tactics, suggesting a possible repeat of the conduct of petition circulators during the 2022 election,” states the request, which was authored by Christopher Trebilcock, and attorney with Clark Hill PLC.

Trebilcock also authored a letter last week to the BSC on behalf of the campaign of U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly), who is running for Democratic nomination, noting that a challenge filed against her campaign was made by an agent of actor Hill Harper’s campaign, calling it an “unserious complaint” and claimed that it did not follow the Board of State Canvassers’ procedure for signature sampling. Harper is also seeking the Democratic nomination along with businessman Nasser Beydoun.

Allegations of signature fraud resulted in five Republican gubernatorial candidates in Michigan being kicked off the August 2022 primary ballot. This year, questions about fraudulent signatures have been leveled at former Democratic U.S. Rep. Adam Hollier of Detroit, whose candidacy for the 13th Congressional District has been challenged by incumbent US Rep. Shri Thanedar (D-Detroit).

A report by the Wayne County Clerk’s Office has since determined Hollier failed to produce the required 1,000 valid signatures to make the August primary ballot and recommended Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett disqualify him.

As to the request concerning Rogers, Amash, Pensler and Meijer, the letter cited at least five alleged indications of fraudulent signatures:

  • Clear, full page circulator fraud with evidence that all lines of the petition were filled out by the same person
  • Voters’ names appearing across multiple candidates’ petitions in different handwriting with errors in addresses and spelling
  • Voters’ names appearing within a single candidate’s petition more than once, in different handwriting with errors in addresses and spelling
  • Evidence of a “round-robin” scheme
  • Visible circulator handwriting and signature mismatches

“Given the indications of potential fraud revealed by our initial review, we request that the Board immediately conduct a thorough investigation of the nominating petitions submitted by Mr. Rogers, Mr. Pensler, Mr. Amash, and Mr. Meijer for suspected fraud,” stated the letter. “The Board should not certify any of these candidates for the ballot until it has conclusively determined that they have submitted 15,000 valid signatures from actual Michigan voters, as required by law.”

In response to the request, Chris Gustafson, the communications director for the Rogers campaign sent the Michigan Advance this statement;

“Elissa Slotkin said she couldn’t win with Joe Biden at the top of the ticket and that she’d never run against Mike Rogers. So, it’s no surprise her campaign has resorted to the same failed unlawful efforts to subvert democracy that they tried to use against President Trump. This antidemocratic stunt perpetuated by Slotkin’s allies failed and won’t cover for the misery the Biden-Slotkin agenda has inflicted on Michigan working families,” said Gustafson.

Requests for comment were also sent to Amash, Pensler and Meijer for comment but were not returned.

The letter, which provides photocopied examples from the various petitions, also notes that circulators accused of engaging in fraudulent signature collection activity in other petition challenges before the Board of State Canvassers also circulated petitions for the named Republican U.S. Senate candidates.

“The apparent fraud uncovered demands an immediate investigation of the Republican Senate candidates’ nominating petitions,” said Lavora Barnes, Michigan Democratic Party chair. “The Bureau of Elections and Board of Canvassers should uphold their responsibility to protect the integrity of Michigan’s elections and conduct a full, thorough examination to ensure they stand up against fraudulent efforts to circumvent Michigan election law before taking any vote to certify the Republican Senate candidates to appear on the ballot.”

The letter concluded by formally asking the BSC to conduct an immediate investigation of the petition sheets submitted by Rogers, Amash, Pensler, and Meijer, and to invalidate all petition signatures appearing on petition sheets signed by circulators who are found to have engaged in fraud.

“If, after that investigation, the Board determines that any of the candidates have not submitted the required number of valid petition signatures, they should not be certified for the ballot,” it stated.

READ MORE: A new house is being built for Mr. Rogers in his not-yet-neighborhood

This coverage was republished from Michigan Advance pursuant to a Creative Commons license.

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