GOP ballot debacle: Who are the circulators behind the fraudulent signatures?

Michigan only requires circulators are U.S. citizens; they don't have to be from the state
Posted at 4:13 PM, Jun 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-06 17:43:28-04

(WXYZ) — After the GOP ballot signature debacle, many people are asking, who are the people who gathered what the Michigan Bureau of Elections says are fraudulent signatures?

A warrant issued in 2011 for election fraud paints the picture. One candidate who was running for governor at the time and had his campaign destroyed by fraudulent signatures says the man whose name was on the warrant was hired by him to collect signatures.

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Shawn Wilmoth is one of several people now at the epicenter of an alleged fraudulent petition scheme that has disrupted the Republican campaign for governor.

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"They (the records) say he was wanted for extradition by Arlington, VA for election fraud," said Macomb County Prosecutor Peter Lucido.

In Arlington County, Virginia, records show Wilmoth later pleaded guilty to election fraud and served 5 years probation.

Mike Brown who voluntarily ended his campaign for governor after the Bureau of Elections found 13,809 invalid signatures out of his 20,900 collected says his campaign hired Shawn Wilmoth to collect many of the bad signatures.

He says other campaigns impacted hired Wilmoth, too.

"When you get the election board to say these signatures aren’t what they appear to be and money was taken from candidates to get these signatures, it's a crime," said Lucido.

Seven Action News stopped by the listed address of Shawn Wilmoth’s company, First Choice Political Consulting, which is in a co-working office in Ferndale. He was not there.

We tried his home in Warren, hoping to hear his side. Someone at the door said he was not home.

Campaigns impacted by what the Michigan Bureau of Elections calls unprecedented petition fraud hired companies like Wilmoth's to gather signatures.

Appeals denied by Michigan Supreme Court

The Bureau said 30 “fraudulent-petition circulators submitted petition sheets across at least ten campaigns."

The Michigan Secretary of State says six others did so for a single campaign.

So who are they? We looked them up, and started knocking on doors.

Neighbors confirm one house we stopped at belonged to Niccolo Mastromatteo in Ortonville.

The Bureau of Elections says he suspiciously turned in identical petition sheets for different candidates running for judge.

As we knocked on his front door, someone matching his description came out the back door, got in a truck and took off. Many are not easy to track down.

While some states require circulators be from that state, Michigan only requires they are U.S. citizens.

Two experts from the University of Michigan says the responsibility for preventing problems like this falls on campaigns, but Michigan’s system does not allow much time for corrections.

"I think it needs to start with the campaigns. The campaigns themselves should take a hard look at their decisions about how to gather the signatures they need," said Professor Jonathan Hanson, University of Michigan Gerald R Ford School of Public Policy.

Professor Michael Traugott, University of Michigan Center for Political Studies Research Professor, says, "If the calendar was extended or longer and there was a preliminary check, the candidates might have been notified that there were issues."

If you think the law should be changed now is the time to contact your representative.