Longtime Rep. John Conyers Jr. faces the daunting prospect of a write-in campaign after the Michigan Democrat was ruled ineligible for the state's primary election Tuesday.
The Wayne County Clerk announced that Conyers did not file the required number of signatures to qualify for the Democratic ballot in August.
State law requires 1,000 valid signatures to qualify as a candidate. Conyers had submitted 2,000 signatures last month, but another Democratic candidate challenged whether the signatures were gathered by registered voters, as the law also requires. The Wayne County clerk said that after invalidating signatures gathered by non-registered voters, Conyers fell below the 1,000 signature requirement. .
Conyers, first elected in 1964 to represent the Detroit area in Congress, would otherwise be the heavy favorite to stay in office. 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 Rep. John Dingell, another Democrat, retires at the end of his current term.
Cathy Garrett, the Wayne County clerk, called the outcome "unfortunate" but said she was following state law, according to the Detroit Free Press.
Conyers' campaign intends to fight the decision, appealing to the secretary of state. Separately, the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal suit challenging the requirement that signature-gatherers be registered voters.
"We are confident that once Michigan’s law is struck down, Congressman Conyers will be placed on the August primary ballot," Michael J. Steinberg, legal director of the ACLU of Michigan, said in a statement.
If both those efforts fail, Conyers' only option would be to run as a write-in candidate in the Aug. 5 primary. A successful write-in campaign would ensure he was on the November general election ballot.
In a statement, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said he had "every confidence" that Conyers would prevail.
"As the next Dean of the House, the Michigan delegation and pillar of the Democratic Party, Representative Conyers will remain one of the most respected voices in Congress," said Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.).