Senior Congressman John Conyers’ Re-Election in Danger

By Brentin Mock May 23, 2014

Update Friday, May 23 at 4:57 p.m.: A wire bulletin was just released by Associated Press stating that a federal judge has allowed Conyers back on to the ballot.  


Rep. John Conyers, 85, who represents Detroit in Congress, has been denied entry to the ballot for re-election this term due to a petition snafu. With 50 years of service, he has the second longest record as both a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and in Congress. But that may come to an end given election officials found problems with the signatures that Conyers’ team collected for his petition for reelection. Apparently some of the signature gatherers were not themselves registered to vote, a violation of Michigan law, which led to his disqualification. Conyers has been fighting to get back on the ballot since last week, when the errors were reported. He’s also fighting the rule itself, which he says is unconstitutional. But the Secretary of State office made its final ruling today declaring Conyers off the ballot. The merits of the rule itself will be decided later. At this point Conyers has one opportunity to remain in the race, and that is to mount a massive write-in campaign. 

Conyers has not only been a congressional leader on civil rights issues, but also on keeping alive the topic of reparations for African Americans. Ta-Nehisi Coates’ recent argument for reparations in The Atlantic relies heavily on the fact that Conyers has opened every congressional session for the past 25 years with the introduction of his House Resolution 40 bill, which would call for a congressional study of slavery and its lingering effects. Writes Coates:

That HR 40 has never–under either Democrats or Republicans–made it to the House floor suggests our concerns are rooted not in the impracticality of reparations but in something more existential. If we conclude that the conditions in … black America are not inexplicable but are instead precisely what you’d expect of a community that for centuries has lived in America’s crosshairs, then what are we to make of the world’s oldest democracy?

Congress may never get to explore the answer to that question if Conyers is kept off the ballot and left unable to keep the initiative alive.