DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – Michigan election officials have affirmed a decision to keep longtime Detroit congressman John Conyers off the August primary ballot.
The Secretary of State’s office said Friday it found problems with the Democrat’s nominating petitions. Conyers is required to file signatures from at least 1,000 voters in his district.
Conyers, 85, had appealed to the state after Detroit-area election officials said there were problems with some people who collected signatures. The circulators weren’t registered to vote or had listed a wrong registration address.
WWJ Legal Analyst Charlie Langton said the ruling comes as no surprise.
“The law in Michigan right now — no question about it — is you must be a registered voter to circulate a petition; and John Conyers did not have registered voters circulate petitions,” Langton said.
Talking to WWJ City Beat Reporter Vickie Thomas last week, local Political Consultant Steve Hood — who was hired by the Conyers camp to collect petition signatures— took the blame for the oversight.
“I did not double-check my circulators. I made a mistake,” he said.
This doesn’t mean the fight is over, however.
While the Secretary of State does not have the power to declare a statute unconstitutional, but a federal judge still might.
“The Secretary of State very clearly said we want to make sure we can prohibit fraud and we want to have some order to out elections,” said Langton. “But we’re waiting for a judge right now, and we could have a ruling at any moment.”
Langton believes Conyers stands a decent chance.
“Why is there any reason why the law would be that you’d have to be a registered voter to circulate petitions?” said Langton. “…If you were running for Congress, could you get your family from out of state to help you circulate petitions? Ah, you couldn’t in Michigan, because they’re not registered voters. That doesn’t make sense.”
Conyers, who has been in Congress since 1965, could still mount a write-in effort if necessary in the heavily Democratic district — and his campaign manager has said he plans on it.
There is precedent in Michigan for such an effort. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan launched a successful write-in campaign in last year’s primary after his name was kept off the ballot due to a residency issue.
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