GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A day ahead of a Michigan state board of canvassers meeting, which will determine which Republicans make the ballot in the August primary, News 8 is learning more about the company that allegedly had a hand in invalidating five Republican gubernatorial campaigns.

In a report released Monday evening, the state bureau of elections named 36 petition circulators they believe submitted invalid petition sheets on behalf of several candidates running this fall. As a result of an investigation, the elections bureau recommended five of the 10 Republicans vying for their party’s nomination be removed from the ballot. 

In one portion of the report, election staffers also mention the head of a company tied to the fraudulent signatures. While they don’t directly name the business, in a footnote they linked an article from WFLA, News 8’s sister station in Tampa, Florida, which named Shawn Wilmoth of First Choice Contracting LLC in Warren.

The article mentions prior fraudulent election activity Wilmoth has been tied to. Virginia court records show Wilmoth was charged with two counts of felony election fraud in 2011. 

Candidate Mike Brown, who spent 34 years with the Michigan State Police, confirmed First Choice Contracting LLC as the business he used to collect some signatures during his campaign. He said he also used some volunteers.

Following the release of the state elections bureau report, Brown withdrew from the gubernatorial race, saying he does not want to be tied to the alleged fraud. 

“I have made many tough decisions for the right reasons over my life. This is a painful but necessary decision I make decisively because that’s what the citizens deserve,” Brown said in a letter on his campaign site. 

Brown said he believes canvassers accused of submitting invalid signatures were trying to make some quick cash.

“We contracted them for some signatures on the campaign and like I said we were getting weekly reports on the validations of (our signatures) but it looked like in that last 20 or so days, some (petition circulators) went with other campaigns and basically did a money grab because they were paying $20 a signature,” said Brown. 

The state elections bureau report says during this election cycle, the average cost of signature gathering rose from $5 to $7 per signature to $20 per signature. 

While the elections bureau report says Brown’s petition sheets included names of dead voters and apparent forged signatures, Brown said to his knowledge the hired canvassers provided valid signatures to his campaign.

He went on to say he was told because the canvassers are accused of fraud in other campaigns, every signature they acquired was ruled invalid, including the signatures for Brown’s campaign. 

“I feel sorry for all the people that supported me both volunteering and financially,” said Brown.

Political consultant Dave Doyle, who has worked on several campaigns throughout five decades, said candidates have the choice of using their own volunteers to get signatures or hiring out.

“The real labor-intensive part is standing on street corners or walking into places where there’s a lot of people and asking them if they’re willing to put their name on this petition to get this person on the ballot,” said Doyle.

Doyle said it’s typically easier for established candidates to generate enough volunteer support to gather petition signatures. He said because of this, hiring help for signatures is sometimes necessary but making sure they’re legit is on the candidate.

“For me, it is also the most important part of the campaign: getting on the ballot. It’s up to the candidate to ultimately have somebody who’s in charge of that process,” said Doyle.

The state board of canvassers is set to meet Thursday to determine which Republicans will secure a spot on the ballot. There’s no word on charges for the petitioners accused of submitting the fake signatures.