The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit Monday in federal court to argue U.S. Rep. John Conyers belongs on the Aug. 5 primary ballot because it’s unconstitutional for Michigan to require that petition collectors be registered voters. The ACLU is suing on behalf of two of Conyers’ constituents, including Tiara Willis-Pittman, one of Conyers’ petition circulators whose signatures were tossed because she was deemed an unregistered voter at the time of collection. The lawsuit comes on the eve of a scheduled decision by Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett whether Conyers qualifies for the ballot. A clerk staff investigation released Friday found the Detroit Democrat has 592 signatures — 408 less than the 1,000 required to make the ballot for the 13th Congressional District. More than 640 signatures for Conyers, 84, were disqualified after a challenge by primary opponent the Rev. Horace Sheffield of Detroit resulted in a clerk office staff’s finding that the petition circulators were not registered voters as required by state law. Willis-Pittman, 19, had submitted 80 signatures.
The finding endangers the political career of Conyers, who has represented Detroit for nearly 50 years.
Whatever Garrett decides, either campaign could appeal within three days to the Secretary of State’s Office. If Garrett rules against Conyers, he could also sue in Wayne County Circuit Court.
If Conyers still doesn’t prevail after appeals, he could mount a write-in campaign.
Conyers’ campaign chairman, state Sen. Bert Johnson, said they welcome the ACLU lawsuit but will continue with their own potential legal challenge and write-in campaign.
“If they should be victorious, it has great implications for our campaign,” said Johnson, D-Highland Park. “And we obviously would welcome those changes. It’s always better to be on the ballot than be a write-in.”