State won't appeal federal judge's order to put John Conyers on ballot

Secretary of State agrees with Wayne County Clerk's ruling, but federal judge issues injunction

DETROIT – The state of Michigan won't appeal a federal judge's order to put Rep. John Conyers on the 2014 primary ballot. 

Despite the county and state's rulings that he's not eligible for the ballot, a federal judge ruled Conyers (D-Detroit) will appear on the ballot.

On Friday, a spokesman for the state said it won't appeal that ruling.  

"Based on the facts of the judge's order, the state has decided not to appeal in the Conyers case," said state spokesman Fred Woodhams in an email. 

The issue arrived at the state level after the veteran lawmaker appealed a ruling by the Wayne County Clerk that he didn't submit enough valid nominating petitions to qualify for ballot. The Secretary of State seconded that ruling with a report released May 23, denying the appeal.

"Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett correctly determined that Congressman Conyers' failure to submit a minimum of 1,000 valid signature renders him ineligible to appear on the August 5, 2014 primary election ballot," the Secretary of State report concluded.

Hundreds of Conyers' petition signatures were invalidated because it was discovered that some of his petition gatherers were not registered Michigan voters as required by law.

However, just hours after the Secretary of State's report, U.S District Judge Matthew Leitman issued an injunction:

"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," reads Leitman's conclusion.

In other words, Leitman ruled Michigan's requirement that petition gatherers must be registered voters isn't Constitutional.

"There was some frustration in it, we were up and we were down," said Conyers. "Going out, getting people to write in your name, which is a big challenge even for me as long as I've been in office, so I feel very, very good."

If Conyers had been left off the ballot, challenger Horace Sheffield would be unopposed in the Democratic primary in the overwhelmingly Democratic district.

"They've been in court, they've been at the attorney general's office, how about showing up and having a robust debate about what's in the best interest of the people of the 13th District?" said Sheffield. "People are ready for change, our district and this whole city, this whole region is suffering now. We need some energy and some vision to move it forward."

However, Conyers' campaign staff has indicated he would likely run as a write-in if he wasn't allowed back on the ballot.

Conyers, who was first elected to Congress in 1964, would be the longest-serving active member of Congress if he would be re-elected this fall.

Conyers said he firmly believes he has more to give.

"I've always said that I love my job and I'm ready to do everything to get re-elected, but I don't think this is the last time. I hope it's not, but it may be," said Conyers.

Read: Secretary of State staff report on Conyers' petitions.

Read: Staff report's supporting documents.

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About the Authors:

Rod Meloni is an Emmy Award-winning Business Editor on Local 4 News and a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional.