Rep. John Conyers, Jr. may not be allowed on the ballot, but that won't stop him from running.
A Michigan state official deemed the veteran lawmaker ineligible Tuesday to run for his 26th term in Congress due to issues over the collection of petitions, saying Conyers, 84, didn't file enough valid signatures to make the ballot for the Democratic primary on Aug. 5. But Conyers' campaign chair, state Senator Bret Johnson said Wednesday that if the 25-term congressman's appeal to get on the ballot fails, he's "fully prepared to do a write-in campaign."
Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett said Conyers used a number of unqualified people -- namely, those not registered to vote -- to collect a substantial portion of his petition signatures.
Conyers has three days to file an appeal to the Michigan Secretary of State in an effort to overturn Tuesday's decision, and Conyers' campaign says they plan to submit their appeal by Friday, adding that the congressman will join an ACLU lawsuit -- filed Monday -- which claims that the state law requiring petition circulators to be registered voters is unconstitutional.
“It is a very unfortunate circumstance that an issue with a circulator of a petition would disqualify the signature of valid registered voter,” Garrett said in a statement. "It is my determination that in accordance with the current laws and statutes of the State of Michigan, the nominating petitions filed by Congressman John Conyers, Jr. are insufficient to allow his name to appear on the August 5, 2014 primary ballot,” she added.
Garrett said the office remains bound by “very specific and narrow instructions regarding candidate petitions” and "eagerly awaits the courts' review.”
Serving Congress since 1965, Conyers, who will turn 85 on Friday, is a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus. He was the first black member to serve on the House Judiciary Committee and remains its ranking Democrat. His tenure in Congress exceeds all other African Americans.
A longtime civil rights activist and lifetime member of the NAACP, Conyers has sponsored or co-sponsored several landmark bills, including the Martin Luther King Holiday Act, the Alcohol Warning Label Act, the National Voter Registration Act, and the Hate Crime Statistics Act. Additionally, Conyers sponsored a Justice Department study on police brutality and was instrumental in passing 2002's Help America Vote Act, which was drafted in response to the 2000 presidential election.
Regarding the appeal, Johnson said, “There is clear Supreme Court and federal court precedent overturning petition residency laws and requirements, and we are confident that those laws will be invalidated in Michigan as well. Representative Conyers has fought his entire career defending the right to vote, and he looks forward to fighting this battle for the precious right to participate in our electoral process as well."
The congressman’s campaign said they are confident Conyers, whose district includes parts of Detroit, will ultimately be allowed on the ballot.
If Conyers surpasses this hurdle – and wins – he’s on track to become the longest serving current member of the House of Representatives.