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Michigan will not appeal ruling that put Rep. Conyers on ballot

U.S. Representative John Conyers addresses the audience during a news conference at the Ford Motor Research & Innovation Center in Dearborn,
U.S. Representative John Conyers addresses the audience during a news conference at the Ford Motor Research & Innovation Center in Dearborn,

By Brendan O'Brien

(Reuters) - Michigan officials said on Friday they will not appeal a federal judge's order that put longtime Detroit-area Democratic U.S. Representative John Conyers on the August primary ballot.

Conyers, one of America's most prominent black politicians and the second-ranking U.S. representative in seniority, had been disqualified from the primary based on registration rules that left him far short of the required valid signatures.

But U.S. District Judge Matthew Leitman found on May 23 that a Michigan law requiring petition circulators to be registered state voters may violate Conyers' constitutional rights and ordered that he be allowed to appear on the ballot.

Fred Woodhams, spokesman for the Michigan secretary of state, said in a statement that based on the facts of Leitman's order, the state had decided not to appeal the order allowing Conyers onto the ballot.

Woodhams said he could not comment further because the case was ongoing. Representatives for Conyers and his primary opponent, the Reverend Horace Sheffield, could not be immediately reached for comment.

Conyers submitted more than double the 1,000 signatures required to appear on the primary ballot, but Sheffield challenged the validity of his paperwork.

Election officials threw out hundreds of signatures gathered by people who were not registered voters in Michigan and disqualified Conyers from appearing on the primary ballot. Conyers then challenged the law in federal court.

Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson had argued that the law helps combat election fraud.

Conyers, 85, was first elected to Congress in 1964 and is a former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. He ranks second in seniority behind fellow Michigan Representative John Dingell, who is retiring this year.

He represents a solidly Democratic district where President Barack Obama won 85 percent of the vote in the 2012 election.

(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Leslie Adler)

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