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Judge Rules U.S. Rep. John Conyers Will Appear On Ballot

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Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) is seen at a news conference (credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images, File)

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) is seen at a news conference (credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images, File)

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DETROIT (WWJ) – A judge has ordered that longtime U.S. Rep. John Conyers be placed on the August primary ballot.

State election officials, earlier Friday, declared the Detroit congressman ineligible after problems were found with some people who gathered petition signatures for his campaign.

Two of those workers were not registered voters, which violates Michigan election law.

Later Friday, Detroit federal Judge Matthew Leitman issued an injunction ordering that Conyers’ name will appear.

“(The judge) did an analysis of the case — a very extensive analysis,” reported WWJ’s Charlie Langton, “and the judge said that there’s no governmental reason to require somebody to be a registered voter when they circulate petitions.”

Judge Leitman, in doing his own tally, found that Conyers did in fact turn in more than the one thousand signatures required.

He decided, basically, that those who signed in support of the congressman’s candidacy knew what they were doing — and that’s what matters.

“Defendants have offered no evidence of voter confusion,” the ruling reads. “The public interest favors the enjoining of the likely unconstitutional Registration Statute.”

[View A Copy Of The Decision]

Conyers praised the judge’s ruling.

“Judge Leitner’s decision affirms that all should have equal entry and access to the political process,” he said in a statement. “I am thankful that we now have an opportunity to have a more vigorous discussion about the issues that affect us all. I always felt that democracy would win.”

Horrace Sheffield, who filed the initial challenge in court, will be running against Conyers in the 13th district.

Conyers has been in Congress since 1965; and Sheffield says, after 49 years, it’s time his opponent stepped down.

“If the congressman was 50 years old or younger and had the energy, it would be different,” Sheffield said. “We’re finding fault on every single basis here, and it’s an awful lot even for a person my age in terms of being able to muster the strength to do this.”

Sheffield said there’s a lot of hard work ahead in the district.

“We’ve got a lot of working poor in our district; we’ve got communities that are being forced to shut their public school system, forced to go into emergency management,” Sheffield added.

Steve Hood, who’s been working on Conyers’ campaign, says the congressman is still fit for the job.

“Oh, yeah, yeah. On his worst day he’s sharper than Horrace Sheffield will ever be,” Hood said.

Hood — who was hired by the Conyers camp to collect petition signatures— took the blame for the whole debacle.

“I did not double-check my circulators. I made a mistake,” he told WWJ’s Vickie Thomas last week.

It was unclear as of Friday if Secretary of State Ruth Johnson planned to appeal Leitman’s ruling.

“It’s too early to comment.”We’ve received the judge’s order, but will have to review it with our attorneys before we decide how to proceed,” ” a spokesperson told WWJ on Friday.  “What I can tell you is that the secretary is sworn to uphold the law, and that’s what she has done in this case and will continue to do.”

Time is short. The ballots must be printed by June 6.

Conyers’ campaign manager Bert Johnson is optimistic.

“We have continued to build momentum in the campaign,”  Johnson said, in a media release. “People from all over the city, the state, the nation and world have stepped up to support Mr. Conyers. They recognize his outstanding legislative and civil rights history. Interestingly enough, this campaign was energized by the earlier questions surrounding his candidacy. People could just not imagine this congressional servant not being there when people needed him. ”

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