By Ed White, Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) – State attorneys said Thursday it would be very difficult but not impossible to move up a special election to fill the seat of former U.S. Rep. John Conyers, who suddenly quit in December.

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A federal judge heard arguments on a request to set an earlier date. Michael Gilmore, a Democratic candidate and lawyer, said the rights of 13th District residents are being violated by an 11-month gap without a member of Congress.

“Serving democracy is always in the public interest. The cost of it is simply priceless,” said Gilmore, responding to the state’s claim that changing the dates could cost at least $800,000.

Conyers, a Detroit Democrat, resigned in December amid allegations of sexual harassment, triggering a special election to fill the remaining months in his term.

Gov. Rick Snyder set a primary election for Aug. 7, the date for primary elections statewide, followed by a special election on Nov. 6. The winner would serve only for two months.

Gilmore is proposing a spring primary, followed by an election on Aug. 7. The winner would serve for five months.

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But Assistant Attorney General Heather Meingast said it would cost roughly $800,000 to stage a stand-alone primary election in the Detroit-area district. She said the governor made a cost-conscious decision to schedule the race for Conyers’ seat on days when elections already are being held.

There is “no racial discrimination in this,” Meingast said, referring to a district that is more than 50 percent black.

She said an earlier election would be “technically possible” but not “desirable.”

Melissa Malerman, a lawyer at the state elections bureau, said there are many critical steps, especially a requirement that certain military members get a ballot at least 45 days before an election.

U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith didn’t make an immediate decision. He wants both sides to file more information next week.

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