U.S. Rep. John Conyers is waging a legal war in federal court over his right to run in the primary, challenging the constitutionality of a state election law that is keeping his name off the ballot. The law that’s got Conyers riled up is a statute that says if you want to gather signatures on a petition to get a candidate on a ballot, you must be registered to vote. Three Conyers supporters filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court Monday, arguing that law is unconstitutional because it violates their political speech and political association rights. Conyers, who turns 85 on Friday, joined the lawsuit today, two days after Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett cited that law in announcing that the longtime congressman won’t appear on the Aug. 5 primary ballot after a majority of signatures turned in to certify him for a 26th term were invalidated. Garrett invalidated more than 700 signatures because five petition circulators were not properly registered to vote. Those signatures should have stayed put, argues Conyers, the second-longest serving member of Congress who has represented parts of metro Detroit since 1965.
“The United States Supreme Court … and courts across the country have struck down voter registration requirements for petition circulators because such requirements violate the First Amendment right to freedom of speech and freedom of political association,” the lawsuit stated.
According to the lawsuit, Conyers’ re-election campaign submitted 1,236 valid signatures of registered voters on nominating petitions for the August primary — 236 more than the 1,000 valid signatures needed. However, the clerk disqualified more than 700 signatures, bouncing him off the ballot.