LANSING, MICH – Michigan Republican Party representative, Chief of Staff Paul Cordes, appeared before the State Board of Canvassers to deliver remarks requesting the body take another look at the petition signatures submitted by candidates running for governor:
REMARKS BY MICHIGAN REPUBLICAN PARTY CHIEF OF STAFF PAUL CORDES:
I am here to urge you today to reject the recommendations of the Secretary of State’s office to disqualify five Republican gubernatorial candidates from the ballot.
Let’s start with the law and Secretary Benson’s guidance regarding the evaluation of signatures. The State has a duty to determine whether each one of the signatures on a nominating petition are valid and genuine. By statute, the Board “shall verify…the genuineness of a signature” by comparing the petition signature “with the digitized signatures in the qualified voter file” MCL 168.552(8) (13). In plain English, the Board has an obligation to verify the genuineness of each and every signature on a nominating petition by comparing it to the digitized signature in the QVF.
That was not done.
Secretary Benson has further instructed the Bureau of elections and the members of the Board that, when canvassing nominating petitions, they “must perform their signature verification duties with the presumption that a voter’s petition signature is his or her genuine signature.” And, in comparing signatures, the Board and the Bureau “should treat the signature as valid” if “there are any redeeming qualities in the petition signature as compared to the signature on file.”
That standard was not followed.
You cannot have two sets of rules. You cannot change the rules midway through the game.
I don’t refute that systematic fraud occurred. But both the law and Secretary Benson’s own guidance on evaluating signatures prohibits the wholesale rejection of pages of petitions and tens of thousands of signatures without any review. The opposite was done here.
It is especially important these rules be followed given the fact that candidates have no access to signature files and did not receive a line-by-line account of every rejected signature to contest what many times is a subjective decision by a BOE staff member. Candidates have no way to defend their signatures which is why the burden is placed on the challengers and on the state. That burden has not been met.
Frankly, the public interest is not being served here. Disqualifying two of the highest polling candidates in this primary, as well as three others who have expended significant resources in their campaigns is disenfranchising to Republican voters who ultimately should be the decision makers in who their candidate for Governor is this cycle.
I’m leaving behind a memo written by our general counsel which I would ask each of the canvassers to read prior to any votes today.
I strongly and respectfully urge the board of canvassers to reject the recommendations of the staff, and vote in favor of allowing all five GOP candidates for Governor back on the ballot.
The remarks follow a memo released by the Michigan Republican Party requesting that the state board of elections compare each allegedly fraudulent signature on gubernatorial candidates’ nominating petitions to those the state has on file, and not make wholesale rejections of all signatures collected by circulators.
You can read the memo here.