Paul Jacob

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the liberal icon and 49-year, 25-term congressman representing bankrupt Detroit, has failed to gather enough valid voter signatures to earn a spot on the Democratic Party Primary ballot in this very Democratic Party-dominated (and nearly-destroyed) district.

How many signatures was Conyers’s campaign required to obtain?

Well, Michiganders wishing to put an issue on the statewide ballot must gather 258,087 voter signatures — or 322,609 for an initiative constitutional amendment. With 14 congressional districts, one might do the math and suppose that a congressional candidate would need, say 18,000 signatures.

But no, Michigan congressional candidates must get only a mere one thousand voters to sign their petitions. And for an incumbent, that hardly seems so difficult.

Indeed, the Conyers campaign turned in twice the requirement: 2,000 signatures. But after being checked by Wayne County, Michigan, election officials, only 1,119 of those were verified as actually coming from registered voters in the district.

That was still sufficient, of course, until Conyers’s opponent in the August 5th Democratic Primary, Rev. Horace Sheffield, challenged several people who circulated the petition for Conyers. Sheffield claimed the petition passers were not registered to vote in the district as required by Michigan law and, therefore, their signatures should not be counted.

One man, Daniel Pennington, was also found to have an outstanding arrest warrant in Lansing, Michigan, not to mention his fugitive status on a parole violation in Battle Creek. Those lurid tidbits may sell newspapers (and columns), but the problem in qualifying the Conyers’s petition is confined to whether Pennington was registered to vote while circulating the petition.

Conyers’s office claimed that Mr. Pennington and another petition circulator had registered back in December of last year. In fact, the official Qualified Voter File database clearly listed the date as Dec. 13, 2103. After a review, however, Detroit Elections Director Willie G. Wesley Jr. concluded that his office received the registrations on April 28 of this year, too late for the petition drive. That December date had been “erroneously” entered by an elections employee.


Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.