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Michigan GOP gubernatorial candidates lose court battles to get back on the ballot

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Michigan Republican James Craig and two other GOP candidates for governor have lost court battles to get their names back on the ballot for the upcoming gubernatorial primary.

Half of the would-be Republican challengers to incumbent Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) were locked out of the race last week after Michigan's board of canvassers left in place a decision by the state's bureau of elections. Earlier in May, the bureau said that five of the 10 Republican candidates for governor did not submit enough valid petition signatures to qualify for the GOP primary ballot.

Craig, who was presumed the front-runner for the GOP nomination and was found to have turned in more than 11,000 invalid signatures, had asked the Michigan Court of Claims to require the board of canvassers to review his nominating petition signatures line-by-line to prove invalidity or fraud, WDIVTV reports. He claimed that the board was required by law to verify each petition signature using the Qualified Voter File, a database of registered voters in the state.

But the court rejected his challenge. The court said that the board "did not have a clear legal duty to compare all of the signatures in plaintiff's nominating petitions against the QVF" to determine their genuineness. Similar rulings were handed down in challenges brought by businessman Perry Johnson and financial adviser Michael Markey.

These decisions mean that five lesser-known candidates, Garrett Soldano, Kevin Rinke, Ryan Kelley, Tudor Dixon, and Ralph Rebandt, are the only candidates who will appear on the GOP ballot in August.

Responding to the court's ruling, Craig said he is "very disappointed" and announced his intention to appeal the case to the Michigan Supreme Court. He also told the Detroit News last week that if his legal challenge is unsuccessful, he may attempt to mount a write-in campaign for the GOP nomination.

"Rest assured, we will be appealing this questionable decision to a higher court,” Craig said in a statement. “Our fight is not over.”

Johnson is also taking his case to the state supreme court.

A review by Michigan's Bureau of Elections found there were at least 68,000 invalid signatures submitted between the five GOP candidates. The bureau said it was "unaware of another election cycle in which this many circulators submitted such a substantial volume of fraudulent petition sheets consisting of invalid signatures."

Michigan state law requires that candidates for governor submit at least 15,000 valid signatures, and 100 from each congressional district, to qualify for a party's primary ballot.

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