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Judge orders Rep. John Conyers put on ballot

John Conyers has had 50 years in Congress.

AP/file 2012

John Conyers has had 50 years in Congress.

DETROIT — A judge on Friday ordered US Representative John Conyers’s name placed on the August primary ballot, trumping Michigan election officials who said the Democrat was ineligible because of problems with his nominating petitions.

The ruling by US District Judge Matthew Leitman capped a turbulent day of law and politics and appeared to diminish the possibility that Conyers — second in seniority in the House — might have to mount a write-in campaign to keep his 50-year congressional career alive.

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Conyers needed 1,000 petition signatures to get a spot in the Democratic primary. But many petitions were thrown out because the people who gathered names weren’t registered voters or listed a wrong registration address.

But Leitman issued an injunction putting Conyers on the ballot. He said a Michigan law that puts strict requirements on petition circulators is similar to an Ohio law that was struck down as unconstitutional by a federal appeals court in 2008.

Leitman said the free speech rights of Con-yers and the circulators were harmed.

There is evidence that the failure to comply with the law was a ‘‘result of good-faith mistakes and that [circulators] believed they were in compliance with the statute,’’ he said.

Leitman’s decision came hours after the Michigan secretary of state agreed with Detroit-area election officials and said Con-yers was disqualified.

Conyers, 85, was pleased with the sudden victory.

‘‘I’m trying not to smile openly much but this is very good news, and it’s also good news for the process,’’ Conyers told WXYZ-TV.

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