Judge Strikes Down Petitioning Restriction, Paving Way for Conyers to Get Back on the Primary Ballot

May 23, 2014

Update: The State of Michigan has backed off of an unconstitutional policy preventing sitting U.S. Representative John Conyers from being on the August ballot.

DETROIT – A federal judge today granted the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan’s request to place Congressman John Conyers, Jr. on the August primary ballot. Judge Matthew F. Leitman ruled that the Michigan law requiring circulators of nominating petitions to be registered voters violated the fundamental right of citizens to engage in political speech. Earlier today, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson announced that if all of the valid signatures gathered for Congressman Conyers by non-registered voters were counted, Rep. Conyers would have more than enough signatures to be placed on primary ballot. The case was filed on behalf of Rep. Conyers and three ardent supporters, one who has voted him since 1964 and two who circulated nominating petitions on his behalf.

The following can be attributed to Michael J. Steinberg, ACLU of Michigan legal director who argued part of the case before Judge Leitman:

“Judge Leitman’s wise decision is not just a victory for Congressman Conyers, it’s a victory for all who wish to engage in political speech free of unnecessary government restrictions. Circulating nominating petitions for candidates is core political speech and, in a democracy, the right to engage in free speech cannot be stripped from those who are not registered to vote. Courts across the country have consistently ruled that it is unconstitutional to forbid people who are not registered to vote from circulating petitions, and it is unclear why Michigan’s law was still being enforced.”

In addition to Steinberg, the case was litigated by ACLU Cooperating Attorney Mary Ellen Gurewitz, ACLU of Michigan Deputy Legal Director Daniel Korobkin and ACLU of Michigan Staff Attorney Brooke Tucker. Congressman Conyers was represented by private counsel.

Read the judge's order

Read the ACLU’s complaint

Read more about this case
 

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