John Conyers Restored to the Primary Ballot

July 01, 2014

Inexplicably, when the Michigan legislature repealed the residency requirement for collecting petition signatures for voter initiatives and referenda, it left in place a requirement that individuals collecting signatures for political candidates be registered voters in this state.

In May 2014 the Wayne County Clerk and the Secretary of State announced that Congressman John Conyers, who has represented parts of Detroit and surrounding areas in Congress for nearly 50 years, was not eligible for the August 2014 primary ballot because of an error in the voter signature petitions he submitted.

Although more than enough valid voter signatures were turned in, some of the individuals who actually circulated the petitions and collected the signatures were not registered to vote. The ACLU of Michigan filed a federal lawsuit to challenge this decision, noting that the U.S. Supreme Court and the Sixth Circuit have already ruled that requiring petition circulators to be registered voters violates the First Amendment right to political speech and association. We represented two of the petition circulators and a resident of Conyers’ district who wanted to be able to vote for him in the August primary.

After an emergency hearing, Judge Matthew Leitman ruled in our favor and ordered the Secretary of State to put Conyers on the ballot.

(Moore v. Johnson; ACLU Attorneys Michael J. Steinberg, Dan Korobkin and Brooke Tucker; Cooperating Attorney Mary Ellen Gurewitz of Sachs Waldman; John Pirich and Andrea Hansen of Honigman.)

View the full 2014-2015 Legal Docket.