Political pros know better than anyone that election laws are typically crafted by statehouse lawmakers with enough hedges, hurdles and moats to insulate party machines and shield incumbents against insurgent challengers. That’s the nature of the power game. All the more shocking then to Washington’s political class that Representative John Conyers Jr., Democrat of Michigan, was denied a place on the ballot this week. He was widely expected to win his primary this summer as a prelude to a re-election stroll into his 26th term in Congress. Instead, Wayne county officials ruled that most of the 1,236 voter signatures submitted for ballot qualification by Mr. Conyers — one of the civil rights pioneers and Democratic wheel-horses of Washington — were invalid under state law.
Mr. Conyers is hardly defeated. He promises a more difficult write-in candidacy if he can’t get on the ballot through a series of executive and court challenges of the election law. Apologetic county officials said they had no choice. Because some of Mr. Conyers’s petition circulators were not registered voters themselves, state law required that more than 700 signatures they gathered be ruled invalid, reducing the total to less than the 1,000 required minimum.