A federal judge ordered that Michigan Rep. John Conyers Jr.'s name be placed on the state's primary election ballot, likely sparing the veteran Democrat the need to mount a write-in campaign.
Just hours earlier, Michigan's secretary of state agreed with a county election official's decision to disqualify Conyers, since he failed to meet the requirement of submitting 1,000 valid signatures with his candidacy filing. Conyers had submitted 2,000 signatures, but only 455 were deemed to be valid, in part because some of the individuals who collected them were not registered voters as state law requires.
Judge Matthew Leitman, who sits on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, sided with Conyers supporters' argument that the requirement that signature gatherers be registered voters was unconstitutional, citing a 2008 appeals court decision on a similar case in Ohio. If the 765 signatures ruled invalid because of the registration issue were counted, Conyers would exceed the required total and qualify for the Aug. 5 ballot, Leitman found.
The state has the right to appeal the decision.
Conyers, first elected in 1964 to represent the Detroit area in Congress, would be the heavy favorite to stay in office if not for the petition issue. He is in line to become the longest serving member of the body, which brings the honorary title of Dean of the House, when fellow Michigan Democrat John Dingell retires at the end of his current term.
Before the court ruling, Conyers' campaign said it was prepared to wage a write-in effort if necessary.
"The situation has energized the campaign," said Conyers spokesman Ron Scott. "Mr. Conyers is ready and willing. He's more excited than he's been in 50 years."