Veteran Congressman John Conyers' Mistake Could Keep Him Off The Primary Ballot

05/09/2014 07:30 pm ET | Updated May 10, 2014

Michigan officials say veteran Rep. John Conyers likely did not collect enough valid signatures to appear on the Aug. 5 Democratic primary ballot, according to WXYZ-TV.

A staff report from the Wayne County Clerk's Office on Friday found that Conyers had only 592 valid signatures, according to the news station. The candidate turned in 2,000 signatures, of which 764 had been invalidated in an earlier review and another 644 are now being questioned after a challenge from Conyers' Democratic opponent. State law requires 1,000 valid signatures.

The problem for Conyers begins with another legal requirement: Those who circulate the petitions to be signed must themselves be registered voters.

One of Conyers' signature collectors, Daniel Pennington, has a criminal record and is a fugitive -- he allegedly failed to complete probation stemming from a 2012 home invasion charge in Battle Creek, Michigan -- the Detroit Free Press reports. He and another petition worker reportedly registered to vote a week after petitions were due, though Conyers' campaign has said they actually registered to vote in December.

Rev. Horace Sheffield, who is running against the veteran congressman in the 13th District's Democratic primary, challenged the signatures.

Conyers has served in Congress since 1965 and would be the longest-serving sitting member of the House if he were reelected.

Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett will make a final decision on the signatures next week. According to the Detroit News, Conyers has three days to appeal the decision to the Michigan secretary of state. If he is ultimately not deemed qualified, he may still launch a write-in campaign.

The issue could also be decided in court. On Conyers' behalf, activist Robert Davis is challenging Michigan's requirement that signature collectors must be registered voters, according to WDIV-TV.

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