A federal judge said Wednesday he would make a ruling Friday afternoon in an “exceptionally difficult case” that may help determine the political future of U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr. U.S. District Judge Matthew Leitman, an appointee of President Barack Obama, indicated from the bench he wants to make a quick ruling on the constitutional issues involving the Detroit Democrat’s ouster from the Aug. 5 primary ballot. There are two weeks left until the June 6 deadline when Secretary of State Ruth Johnson must certify candidates for the ballot. Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett last week threw the Detroit Democrat off the ballot after disqualifying hundreds of signatures for Conyers’ candidacy because of voter registration problems with his circulators.
Conyers, 85, appealed to Johnson that bureaucratic bungling by the Detroit clerk and Secretary of State’s offices led to the voter registration problems of his petition circulators. Restoring hundreds of improperly disqualified signatures would give Conyers more than the 1,000 signatures needed under state law, according to the congressman’s legal team.
Conyers — the top Democrat at the U.S. House Judiciary Committee — joined an American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan lawsuit that argues a 1966 Michigan voter requirement for circulators of candidates’ nominating petitions violates the First Amendment.
The legal team for Conyers, the longest-serving African-American in Congress,is asking Leitman for a temporary restraining order or injunction that would toss out Michigan’s law, citing rulings in two court cases that state voter registration mandates for circulators restrict political speech.