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After 50 Years in Congress, John Conyers’ Ballot Placement at Risk

After 50 Years in Congress, John Conyers’ Ballot Placement at Risk

When Rep. John Conyers was elected to the House of Representatives in 1964, he was one of only six black congressmen. Representing Detroit, Michigan, he had won the Democratic primary by just 108 votes. He went on to win 84 percent of the vote in the general election, a trend he would easily continue for the next 25 elections.  A founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. John Conyers has served the citizens of Detroit for 50 years, making him the second longest serving member of the House.

Now for the first time Rep. Conyers may not be on the ballot, all due to a technicality.

Michigan election law says that a candidate can only appear on a ballot via a nominating petition. Beginning in 1966, registered voters within the congressional district sign a petition supporting a candidate for the party’s nomination. The petition must be filed with the Secretary of State by the deadline in order to appear on the August primary ballot. Candidates currently need 1,000 signatures in order to qualify.

Having done this more than 20 times, Conyers campaign turned in his nominating petition with nearly 2,000 signatures, almost double the amount needed.

Election officials invalidated hundreds of signatures for common violations, such as incorrect voter addresses. Still, this left more than 1,200 signatures on the petition. However, Conyers’ opponent, Detroit minister Horace Sheffield III, challenged the signatures gathered by two paid campaign workers. Sheffield was successful in his challenge, which removed another 644 signatures. This left Conyers with only 592 valid signatures, far short of the needed 1,000 to be placed on the ballot.

The signatures were from valid voters in the district. However, the two people circulating the petition were not registered voters, which under Michigan law made them ineligible to circulate the petition and, therefore, nullified all of the signatures gathered. It was Sheffield’s campaign manager that learned the petition circulators were not registered voters and alerted the Secretary of State.

Conyers, along with the ACLU, filed a lawsuit last week to challenge the part of the law requiring that petition circulators also be registered voters. Their argument is that the law is unconstitutional since petition gathering is political speech and voter registration is not a requirement to exercise First Amendment rights. They are joined in the suit by a school board candidate who also wants the law invalidated.

On Wednesday, Conyers’ opponent argued that the congressman waited too long to challenge the law and any changes would disrupt a smooth election process. Besides, his lawyer pointed out, Conyers has done this many times before. The Attorney General, arguing for the state, also opposes changes to the law, claiming it would be unfair to other candidates who met the requirement. Furthermore, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson has not made a final decision as to whether Conyers will be placed on the ballot, as they are currently rechecking the signatures.

Still, as they point out, current law has “very narrow and specific instructions” regarding petitions and requires that circulators are registered voters.

A political consultant hired by the campaign accepts responsibility for the misstep, as it was his company that was hired to gather the signatures. If unsuccessful in his court challenge, Conyers’ only other option is to mount a time consuming and expensive write-in campaign. While such campaigns are rarely successful, his popularity in the overwhelmingly Democratic district increases the possibility for success.

Conyers will have to wait until Friday to learn his next steps. The Secretary of State will complete her review then. Detroit Federal District Judge Matthew Leittman will issue his ruling after her decision.

If successful, Rep. Conyers is expected to easily win his 26th term, which would make him the longest serving representative as his fellow Michigan colleague, and current longest serving congressional member, Rep. John Dingell is retiring this year.

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Photo credit: Chip Somodevilla via Thinkstock

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100 comments

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4:25AM PDT on Jun 12, 2014

After 50 years, he needs to go home! He has been there TOO long! Our founding fathers never intended for anyone to be in congress forever. It was supposed to be a temporary part time job NOT a life long career.

11:46AM PDT on May 31, 2014

More dodge, spin and deny from Dan B. .

You are boring little fool.. As I have stated to you in the past.. I have nothing but contempt for you.. you assuredly remember that post right?

So you not only do not have any argument on any subject, but for all your spin and assortment of other stupidities. you have shown that you are one class

not even mature enough to acknowledge that you are wrong.. You are nothing more than contemptible little dolt here.. But do continue to spin, deny, and lie. It is all you have left..

10:16AM PDT on May 31, 2014

Dennis D.,
People on this site realize that your entire purpose is not to defend your position, but to attack others with a verbal assault. This is the last resort, used by those who cannot defend their position on its own merit. It is used by shyster lawyers in an attempt to discredit witnesses, when they know they have no chance at refuting their testimony. The sooner you realize this, the more likely that people will view you in a positive light, and respond favorably to your posts. Have you noticed the decline in posters on this thread since your arrival?

1:11PM PDT on May 30, 2014

Spinning dodging, denying.. You are a fool.. You just keep on proving why you have no credibility here or any where here on care 2.. And no you were not.
Dan B Wrote:
"Conyers name will appear on the ballot. Our opponent's reputation was tarnished when he challenged the petition. Our side's reputation was tarnished by the appearance of favoritism. We would have been better off to win in a write-in campaign. Did your side lose?"

Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/after-50-years-in-congress-john-conyers-ballot-placement-at-risk.html#ixzz33EOpmhsu

You were talking about this coming primary election.. And that is what I was replying to was on the coming 2014 primiary, fool. So another spin and a dodge from Dan B the denying little fool..

You have shown to every one that not only are you not a scientist, but you have no clue that you even have a passing knowledge of the Constitution or any real idea of a topic that you post here on any forum. good for you. You have earned the status of being a true fool.

11:15AM PDT on May 30, 2014

Dennis, you idiot! I was referring to 2104, not 2000! Learn to read for content. lest everyone else will deem you unfit to post knowledgeably.

7:38AM PDT on May 30, 2014

Dan B. Stop with the bull shyt you side took the hit.. and it is you that stated this;

Dan B.Wrote: "Our side's reputation was tarnished by the appearance of favoritism."
Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/after-50-years-in-congress-john-conyers-ballot-placement-at-risk.html#ixzz33D3qOmwR

What you want to play dodge, spin and lie through your teeth.. Give it up Dan as usual win you lose an argument. You do is the same boring bull.. Dodging and spinning It does not make you right. It make you lije the fool you are here.

7:26AM PDT on May 30, 2014

Dennis D.,
I do not know why you think someone's reputation may have been tarnished in the 2000 election, or why you think it is hyperbole.

Once again, the only court that can determine constitutionality is the supreme court. Any lesser court's decision does not have that authority.

Do you still have trouble accepting that someone with quite different values than yourself can be of the same political party or vote for the same candidate? Very few voters agree overwhelming with either party, but allign themselves with the party that more closely represents their own values. This is why more people declare themselves independent, than either D or R.

3:22AM PDT on May 29, 2014

Dan B.In that presidential election the democrats lost.. I actually did not vote for Al Gore that year.. Didn't like him or former President Bushjr.

No one reputations were tarnished.. Thanks again for proving you love to use hyperbole. Another less than endearing trait of yours..

And as long as there is not an an appeal the Decision stands as being constitutional. Some times even after the appeal of the original Decision. It can still be considered constitutional, but not correctly applied in a narrow definition. I know a little too arcane for that little brain of yours.

Since when have you become a democrat or lib-. Oh right this is where you indulge in that troll activity of pretending to now agree With me.. Another less than attractive trait you indulge in as well.

7:04PM PDT on May 28, 2014

Dennis D.,
The supreme court did not decide the constitutionality of the election procedure. You do not seem to grasp that. This judge does not have that decision making power. That is what you are failing to understand. A decision not to appeal does not prove constitutionality. You really should read what the constitution says about elections.

My side was not cheated - Conyers name will appear on the ballot. Our opponent's reputation was tarnished when he challenged the petition. Our side's reputation was tarnished by the appearance of favoritism. We would have been better off to win in a write-in campaign. Did your side lose?

5:28PM PDT on May 28, 2014

Dan B. I understand it far better than you seem to be able to comprehend any part of the Decision handed down by this court.

It does and is constitutional until some one can walk into a court and prove otherwise.. DEERRR!!!

As there does not seem to be an appeal in process. it is constitutional. And the Decision will stand. You can wail how your side was cheated.

I saw enough liberals cry over the Supreme Court decision that handed the White House to former President Bushjr. Was it the right decision.

I know that in the end it has been proved that it was the decision that adhered to the Constitution. A little FYI the Supreme justices did not want the Decision to be a political one. It turned into anyways. Something that for many of the Supreme justices on both sides Conservative/liberal still did not like sitting in on making the Decision. In much the same same vein. This judge looked at what was before him and made a Decision. One that you now decry as not being constitutional.

So sad, to bad for you. Cry all you want. The Decision stands as a Constitutional. Until or unless someone can walk into a Court and prove otherwise. Good luck with that. As there does not seem to be an appeal in the works.

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