Conyers joins ACLU lawsuit over petition signatures

Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) signed onto a lawsuit Thursday, challenging a ruling that keeps his name off the ballot in the Michigan Democratic primary. 

Conyers, one of the longest serving House members, joined an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit filed earlier this week that challenges as unconstitutional a state law that prevents people who are not registered to vote in Michigan to collect petition signatures for a candidate. 

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The Wayne Country Clerk determined earlier this week that nearly three quarters of his petition signatures to get on the ballot were invalid. 

More than 600 were tossed out because the people who helped collect them were not registered in Michigan. 

Only 592 of the signatures gathers were found to be valid, far less than the 1,000 needed. 

The lawsuit is filed on behalf of two people who helped collect signatures for the congressman, Ederl Moore, 72, and Tiara Willis-Pittman, 19.

The ACLU claims the Michigan law violates the First Amendment's right to political expression. The group is asking the county clerk to count those signatures that were deemed invalid because of the law. 

The Michigan legislature amended its election law regarding referendum petition signatures earlier this year, according to the ACLU, after the group filed a similar lawsuit about referendum petition signatures collected from non-Michigan voters. 

"Circulating nominating petitions for candidates is core political speech and courts across the country have consistently ruled that it is unconstitutional to forbid people who are not registered to vote from circulating such petitions,” said Michael Steinberg, legal director of the ACLU of Michigan, when the lawsuit was first filed. “We are confident that once Michigan’s law is struck down, Congressman Conyers will be placed on the August primary ballot.”

Conyers's campaign is also preparing for a potential write-in campaign against his primary opponent, Rev. Horace Sheffield III, who first challenged the petition signatures. 

In a short interview with The Associated Press, Conyers was hesitant about predicting the success of the lawsuit. 

After first saying "of course" he would get on the ballot, he later amended himself. 

"It's in court so I don't want to start predicting — I take that statement back," he said.