Chris Houghtaling was removed as a 58th District Court candidate after the Secretary of State flagged suspicious signatures on the petitions.
“There were irregularities with it,” Secretary of State spokeswoman Gisgie Gendreau said of the petition signatures. “I do know that it was referred to the Attorney General and it is under investigation.”
Randy Wood, spokesman for the Attorney General's Office, confirmed that the case is being investigated.
Judicial candidates had to submit a required number of signatures from registered voters in the county by May 1 to be on the Aug. 7 primary ballot.
Some of Houghtaling’s ballot petition signatures were deemed invalid, and he fell below the required number of 1,000 to have his name on the ballot, election officials said. The Board of State Canvassers deemed his petition "insufficient" on June 6.
Craig Bunce and Vernon Helder were left as the only two candidates in the running for the 58th District Court seat. With only two candidates, the Aug. 7 primary for that race was canceled. Bunce and Helder will face off for the seat in the Nov. 6 general election.
According to an article by the Lansing-based MIRS News service, the circulator at the center of the ballot controversy is former Grand Haven school board member Brandon Hall. Hall resigned from the school board in 2010 after being convicted of stealing hundreds of dollars from a Grand Haven Area Public Schools cancer fundraiser.
The article says Hall signed his name as the circulator for nearly half of Houghtaling's 90 petition pages, and the penmanship is similar on many of the signature pages.
"It appeared that one or more individuals signed multiple times under different names," Secretary of State spokesman Fred Woodhams said in the article.
Neither Hall nor Houghtaling, an attorney and president of the Grand Haven school board, responded to multiple e-mails and phone calls from the Grand Haven Tribune.
Hall was also organizing a political debate at Loutit District Library for candidates running for the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners. The event had been scheduled for July 30 and was to feature candidates Phil Kuyers, Ken David, Don Munski, Jeff Stille, Roger Bergman and Nancy Fuller.
According to Library Director John Martin, the event was canceled after three of the five candidates said they were unable to attend it.
“We contacted three of the candidates who said they would be here, and all three said their plans changed and they weren’t going to make it,” Martin said.