DETROIT (AP) — Longtime Michigan Congressman John Conyers will appeal a decision that he lacked enough valid signatures on a petition to get on the August primary election ballot, a campaign official said.
Conyers' campaign chairman Bert Johnson said the Democratic lawmaker from Detroit, who was first elected to the House in 1964, plans to file an appeal Friday with the Michigan Secretary of State, the last day he can do so.
Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett, a Democrat, ruled this week that Conyers lacked enough signatures to appear on the Aug. 5 primary ballot because some petition collectors hadn't complied with state voter registration requirements.
The statement that Conyers plans to appeal came one day after the lawmaker joined a federal lawsuit challenging the requirement that petition collectors be registered voters. The suit was filed against Garrett and Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson by the American Civil Liberties Union's state chapter on behalf of two people gathering signatures and others.
The lawsuit and ACLU officials say the U.S. Supreme Court and the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes Michigan, have struck down such requirements because they violate rights of free speech and political association.
The ACLU also asked the court to order Garrett and Johnson to stop enforcing the law, which the group believes is unconstitutional. A hearing is planned for Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Detroit.
Under state law, people who circulate nominating petitions to get candidates on primary election ballots must be registered voters. Michigan lawmakers last month amended the law to eliminate voter registration requirement for those circulating ballot initiative and referendum petitions and qualifying petitions for several statewide offices. It does not apply to the election involving Conyers and some other state offices, which the ACLU said does not make sense.
Bert Johnson said the Michigan requirement that people who circulate petitions be registered voters is "draconian."
Conyers' opponent in the primary, the Rev. Horace Sheffield III, filed the challenge after learning at least two people hired to get signatures for Conyers weren't registered at the time to vote in Wayne County.
If Conyers' appeal fails, he will have to run as a write-in candidate, which Johnson said they are prepared to do if necessary.
Given voters' familiarity with the Conyers name in a heavily Democratic district, winning an expensive write-in campaign is feasible, said Adrian Hemond, a Democratic political strategist with Grassroots Midwest in Lansing.
"It's the Conyers name for crying out loud. He's got a following. If Conyers only makes a token effort at it, it won't go well. But if he gears up and raises the money, he can do it."
Hemond said that as a 25-term congressman, Conyers is better known than former Republican Rep. Thad McCotter of nearby Livonia, who abandoned a write-in campaign in 2012 after he did not qualify for the primary ballot due to fraudulent signatures.
Associated Press writer David Eggert in Lansing contributed to this report.
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