Judge Rules Conyers Can Be on Primary Ballot Despite Not Meeting Signature Requirements

by Andrew Johnson

A federal judge ruled that Representative John Conyers (D., Mich.), the second-longest serving congressman, will appear on an August primary ballot even though more than half of his campaign’s submitted signatures were invalid under Michigan law.

After Conyers’s primary opponent, Reverend Horace Sheffield, challenged the congressman’s ballot petition, election officials discovered that a large number of his campaign’s signatures had been collected by volunteers who weren’t registered Michigan voters, as the law required.

After several legal challenges and examinations, Michigan’s secretary of state, Ruth Johnson, found Conyers to be ineligible on Friday, hours before the judge’s ruling.

“There is evidence that their failure to comply with the Registration Statute was the result of good faith mistakes and that they believed they were in compliance with the statute,” Judge Matthew Leitman wrote in his ruling, according to the Detroit Free Press. “As Secretary Johnson implicitly acknowledged in her ruling issued today, if the signatures excluded pursuant to the Registration Statute may not be excluded from Mr. Conyers’ total — and this Court holds that they may not be — then Mr. Conyers has enough signatures to qualify for placement on the ballot.”

“He shall be placed on the ballot,” he ruled. Conyers’s campaign had also challenged the constitutionality of the requirements for signature collectors; federal judges elsewhere have struck down such requirements.

In 2012, Michigan Republican representative Thad McCotter was kept off of the ballot because of invalid signatures. McCotter initially pursued a write-in campaign, before eventually dropping the effort and resigning from Congress.

Conyers is currently the second-longest serving congressman, and will become the longest-serving next session if reelected, because fellow Michigan congressman John Dingell is retiring.