Federal Judge Orders Michigan to Put Rep. John Conyers on the Primary Ballot

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Update: Longtime Rep. John Conyers will appear on the primary ballot for his own re-election attempt after all, following a successful last-ditch appeal to a judge on the matter. 

Federal Judge Matthew Leitman's order, WXYZ reported, overrides the Michigan Secretary of State Elections Division's determination from earlier today that the Representative did not have enough valid signatures to appear on the primary ballot. Without Leitman's intervention, Conyers would have needed to run as a write-in candidate. 

Original Post: Longtime Rep. John Conyers lost his appeal to a decision that took his name off of Michigan's primary ballot for his current seat in the House. Conyers, if re-elected, would be the longest-serving current member of Congress. The current longest-serving member of Congress, Rep. John Dingell also of Michigan, will retire at the end of this term. 

How did the longtime Democratic Representative end up in this position? It has to do with Michigan's strict laws governing who may appear on an election ballot. This year, Conyers faced a primary challenger: Rev. Horace Sheffield, from Detroit. Both Sheffield and Conyers had to collect a certain number of valid signatures in order to get a spot on the August 5 primary ballot. At first, it looked like both had succeeded. That is, until Sheffield challenged the validity of several of Conyers's signature collectors, on the grounds that they may not have been registered voters at the time they were working for the campaign. It's a strange rule, but it's still the rule. As it turns out, two of Conyers's signature collectors didn't meet that requirement, meaning that all of the signatures they collected — including those deemed as valid signatures from voters in the 13th district — were invalidated. 

Recommended Reading

Then, the Wayne County Clerk's office announced that without those signatures, Conyers's campaign didn't have enough to make it on the ballot: "I am bound by the current laws and statutes of the State of Michigan that set forth very specific and narrow instructions regarding candidate petitions and the authority of the County Clerk," Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett said earlier in May. Conyers had the right under Michigan law to appeal to the Michigan Secretary of State, but that appeal did not go in his favor. 

As the Associated Press notes, Conyers has one last hope for an intervention here: at the request of his campaign, a federal judge is expected to rule later today on whether the law itself is constitutional. Unless that decision goes in his favor, however, Conyers has to hope that he can pull together enough write-in votes to keep his career going after nearly 50 years in office

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.