Nader wins some, loses some in fight to appear on ballots

Wednesday, September 1, 2004

Independent candidate Ralph Nader's effort to be included on the Nov. 2 presidential ballot has both gained and lost ground in the last week.

On the positive side for the Nader campaign, the former consumer advocate scored a victory in his home state of Connecticut when elections officials said yesterday that he would be on the general election slate. In Wyoming, elections officials announced on Aug. 30 that enough signatures had been certified for Nader to appear on that state's ballot.

In Florida, an elections spokeswoman confirmed that Nader's name would appear on that state's ballot.

Meanwhile, Nader was dealt some setbacks, including in Pennsylvania where a panel of judges decided Aug. 30 that he wouldn't be allowed access to that state's ballot. Also this week, elections officials in Missouri and Massachusetts said Nader wouldn't be on the presidential ballot in their states because he didn't have enough valid petition signatures.

In Ohio, the state Democratic Party on Aug. 30 filed a formal protest of Nader's attempt to qualify as an independent in that state. The Democrats argue that Nader's petitions are riddled with fraud.

In Nevada, a judge has been asked to drop Nader from the state's November ballot by a lawyer for the state Democratic Party and for three women who said Nader supporters used sneaky tactics to get their names on a petition backing his bid for president.

On Aug. 27, Nader supporters in Maryland filed suit to get him on the ballot, arguing that local election officials rejected more than 600 signatures that should have been counted on petitions they filed to create a new political party.

And in Michigan, Democrats claim that Republicans seeking a ballot spot for Nader lack the legal standing to challenge a state election panel's decision to keep him off the slate.

So far, Nader is officially on the ballot in 13 states and Washington, D.C., and can appear on at least five others through his Reform Party endorsement. He has submitted petitions to be on the ballot in at least 15 other states, but has met with resistance from legal challenges filed by Democrats to keep him off ballots.

Larry Perosino, a spokesman for Connecticut Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, confirmed yesterday that Ralph Nader had turned in a petition with enough valid signatures to earn him a place on the Nov. 2 ballot.

Backers of Nader, a native of Winsted, said they turned in 12,000 signatures. Ralph Ferrucci, Connecticut coordinator for the Nader campaign, said the campaign was notified by the secretary of the state's office that 7,618 signatures on nominating petitions were validated. A minimum of 7,500 signatures are required.

Connecticut and its seven electoral votes will not likely be a battleground state. In a Quinnipiac University poll released Aug. 19, Democratic Sen. John Kerry leads President Bush 45% to 38%, with 6% for Nader.

Nader won 64,452 votes in Connecticut in 2000, or about 4% of the total. Democrat Al Gore won the state with 56%.

On Aug. 30, the Wyoming Secretary of State's Office announced that enough signatures submitted by the Ralph Nader and Michael Peroutka campaigns had been certified for the presidential candidates to appear on general election ballots in that state.

Each campaign gathered about 7,000 signatures in Wyoming. Of those, 3,643 — 2% of the number of people who voted in the U.S. House race during the 2002 general election — had to be valid for the candidates to make the ballot.

Peroutka is the Constitution Party's nominee. His running mate is Chuck Baldwin.

Founded in 1992 and formerly known as the U.S. Taxpayers Party, the Constitution Party's platform includes opposing all abortions, basing government on Christian principles, slashing Washington programs and barring women from combat.

The Constitution Party has not met the requirements to become a recognized party in Wyoming, so Peroutka will be listed on Wyoming ballots as an independent.

Nader is competing as an independent this year after running as the Green Party's candidate in 2000. His running mate is Miguel Camejo, a registered member of the Green Party.

Ralph Nader will be on the November ballot in Florida, where four years ago his candidacy is widely believed to have cost Democrat Al Gore the presidency.

The Reform Party, which had endorsed Nader in May, submitted an application to the state's Division of Elections yesterday to place Nader and running mate Peter Camejo on the ballot, one day before the deadline.

“We accept it, it will go to the governor, he will certify it, and the names will appear on the ballot,” said Jenny Nash, an elections spokeswoman. The governor is Jeb Bush, brother of the Republican president.

Democrats believe Gore would have carried Florida in 2000 — and thus won the presidency — if Nader hadn't been on the ballot as a Green Party candidate. President Bush won Florida by 537 votes after five weeks of recounts. Nader received 97,421 votes. Democrats say most of those votes would have gone to Gore.

The Florida Democratic Party has promised to scrutinize the ballot application for a possible challenge.

A panel of three state judges on Aug. 30 rejected Ralph Nader's bid to be listed as an independent candidate on Pennsylvania's presidential ballot, eliminating a political wild card Democrats feared would give President Bush an advantage in a major battleground state.

In tossing out Nader's nominating petition, the Commonwealth Court panel said he forfeited the right to run as an independent in Pennsylvania when he accepted the national Reform Party's nomination in May.

Pennsylvania law prohibits a person who is affiliated with a political party from running as an independent.

The judges dismissed Nader's argument that the ban applies only to candidates in Pennsylvania primaries and not to their activities in other states, such as Michigan, where Nader is seeking recognition as the Reform Party candidate.

“The law in this commonwealth is that statutes must be interpreted in a common-sense and rational manner and in such a way as to avoid absurd or unreasonable results,” Judge Doris A. Smith-Ribner wrote on behalf of the panel.

The ruling strikes a heavy blow against Nader's campaign, which has been swamped with challenges to its nominating petitions across the country, and was cheered by supporters of John Kerry, who political observers say has the most to lose if Nader were on the Pennsylvania ballot.

Samuel Stretton, the Nader campaign's Pennsylvania attorney, said he planned to appeal to the state Supreme Court “unless they tell me not to.”

“That's a very significant decision,” he said. “It would essentially be the death knell of any independent candidate” who is recognized elsewhere by a third party.

Kevin Zeese, a Nader campaign spokesman in Washington, said an appeal was likely “because this decision is wrong.”

Nader supporters in August submitted roughly 47,000 signatures to get him on the Pennsylvania ballot, far more than the 25,697 he needed. Lawyers for eight voters sympathetic to Kerry's candidacy challenged the signatures, charging that more than 37,000 of them were forged or flawed.

The Commonwealth Court held a hearing on the “party disaffiliation” issue and other motions in Philadelphia on Aug. 27, even as plans were being made for a line-by-line examination of Nader's petitions in five courtrooms starting at the end of this week.

The Aug. 30 ruling made that review unnecessary.

Nader's status on the Pennsylvania ballot is important to both Kerry and President Bush as they compete for the state's 21 electoral votes — the fifth-largest prize in the Nov. 2 election — in what could be an extremely close race.

Recent independent polls have shown Kerry with a slight lead or running neck-and-neck with Bush in the state, while Nader attracted less than 5% of the vote.

Democrat Al Gore carried Pennsylvania in 2000, beating Bush by fewer than 205,000 votes out of 4.9 million cast. Nader, the Green nominee that year, received 103,392 votes.

Ralph Nader won't be on Missouri's ballot in November, after failing to appeal a ruling by the secretary of state.

Missouri Secretary of State Matt Blunt had said Aug. 18 that supporters of the independent presidential candidate failed to submit enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Nader's supporters submitted 12,893 signatures by the July deadline, but Blunt said local election officials verified only 9,006 — 994 short of the number required.

The Nader campaign had said it was considering whether to fight the matter in court. Aug. 27 was the deadline to appeal, and court officials said on Aug. 30 that Nader had filed nothing in Cole County Circuit Court, the seat of state government.

A Nader spokesman did not return calls seeking comment.

Nader still could submit paperwork to qualify as a valid write-in candidate. The deadline for that is Oct. 22, but even then, people would have to add his name to their ballots to vote for him.


Ralph Nader failed to secure a place on the Massachusetts presidential ballot, Secretary of State William Galvin announced yesterday.

Yesterday was the deadline to submit signatures to the state election division for a place on the Nov. 2 ballot. Nader needed 10,000 certified signatures, but his campaign only submitted 8,132 that passed state muster, said Galvin spokesman Brian McNiff.

McNiff said Nader's campaign also failed to turn in other qualifying paperwork, such as the acceptances of his electors and certification that all the electors were registered voters.

Michael Richardson, Nader's campaign coordinator in Massachusetts, said the campaign filed a total of more than 13,000, but almost 5,000 were disqualified for various reasons.

Richardson said “it would be premature to say (Nader) won't be on the ballot.” He estimated a roughly 50-50 chance that the campaign would sue over the disqualified signatures.

Even if the rejections aren't challenged, Richardson said Nader would likely launch a write-in campaign. The deadline to qualify for that is Sept. 3.

“We want to make sure that Massachusetts voters have a chance to vote for Ralph Nader, even if they have to go to the trouble to write his name in,” he said.

The state Democratic Party has filed a formal protest of consumer advocate Ralph Nader's attempt to qualify as an independent presidential candidate in Ohio, contending his petitions are riddled with fraud.

The Aug. 30 protest asks Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell to hold a hearing on the matter early this month.

A Blackwell spokesman said the Ohio Democrats' request was under review.

Nader spokesman Zeese asked, “What are they so insecure about? Don't they want voters to have a choice?”

Nader needed 5,000 valid signatures of registered voters to make the Nov. 2 ballot. Earlier this month, his campaign submitted almost 15,000 signatures.

In a letter accompanying the official complaint, Democrats singled out petition circulator Steve Laws of Lorain, who said he collected signatures on the same day from counties in opposite corners of Ohio.

Butler County election officials threw out 96% of 633 Nader signatures, many because circulators were not registered voters.

The Democrats said Republican officeholders signed the Nader petitions in hopes he would siphon votes from Democrat John Kerry.

In Medina County alone, 90 of the 138 names given belong to Republicans and include Common Pleas Judge Christopher Collier, county Recorder Nancy Abbott and GOP Chairman Ralph Berry.

Polls indicate Nader may attract as much as 2% of the vote in Ohio, where Kerry and President Bush are in a tight race for the state's 20 electoral votes.

Four years ago, Nader received 2.5% of the vote in Ohio — not enough to change the outcome. Bush won Ohio by 3.6% points over Democrat Al Gore.

A lawyer trying to get Ralph Nader dropped from Nevada's November ballot raised questions yesterday about the reliability of a firm hired to collect the signatures Nader needed to qualify for the ballot.

Attorney Paul Larsen, representing the state Democratic Party and three women who say Nader supporters used sneaky tactics to get their names on a petition backing his candidacy, grilled Jennifer Breslin about the way she monitors her signature-gatherers.

After drawn-out questioning of Breslin, her attorney, Keith Loomis, objected but Larsen countered that he considered Breslin's business practices “extremely relevant.”

“Well, I don't,” snapped District Judge Bill Maddox, who said he had heard enough of Larsen's argument about poor oversight of the signature-gatherers and got his point.

Larsen alleged there were forged names and other problems among the nearly 12,000 signatures initially turned in by Nader supporters. He wants a court order directing Secretary of State Dean Heller to revoke his previous certification putting Nader on the ballot.

If the judge deletes all the names that have been questioned, Larsen said only 314 would be left. About 5,000 names are needed to ensure a spot on the ballot.

Larsen also questioned whether Republican activists had a hand in funding the signature-gathering effort, but Breslin said she was paid by the Nader camp.

The hearing started Aug. 30, and Maddox said he planned to resume the hearing today. He has said he wants as much information as possible, so there's a good record in the event of a likely appeal of his decision to the state Supreme Court.

Besides Breslin, other witnesses have included Joan Ward of Las Vegas who testified Aug. 30 that there's “no way” she signed a Nader petition — and her signature on one of the petitions was a forgery.

Also testifying were Myrna McKinley and her granddaughter, Renee McKinley, both of Henderson, who said that in registering to vote they were tricked into backing Nader by a supporter who covered up the top of a signature sheet that showed Nader's name.

Nader spokesman Kevin Zeese has denied any trickery was involved, and said Democrats “just don't trust the voters to make a choice and don't have confidence in their candidate's ability to compete. … They're grasping at straws.”

Chris Carr, the state Republican Party's executive director, has described as “totally untrue” the claims by Democrats that Nevada Republicans funded the Nader signature-gathering effort.

Recent polls show President Bush and Kerry locked in a tight Nevada contest, with Nader getting 2% to 4% of the vote in this battleground state.

Bush received 49.5% of the Nevada vote in 2000, while Democrat Al Gore got 46% and Nader got 2.5% when he ran as a Green Party candidate.

Supporters of Ralph Nader have filed a suit to get him on the Maryland presidential ballot, arguing that local election officials rejected more than 600 signatures that should have been counted on petitions they filed to create a new political party.

The State Board of Elections on Aug. 20 said Nader supporters fell 547 signatures short of the 10,000 needed to start a Populist Party with Nader as the presidential candidate.

Virginia Rodino, coordinator for Nader's Maryland campaign, said yesterday that volunteers already have found more than 600 signatures that should have been counted by local election boards. That would be more than enough signatures to create a new party. Volunteers are continuing to check petitions and expect to find more valid signatures, she said.

Donna Duncan of the State Board of Elections said she had not seen the signatures that Nader volunteers say should have been counted and could not comment on whether they are valid.

“We're consulting with the attorney general to determine our next step,” she said.

The Nader campaign chose to create a new party in Maryland because it was easier than putting him on the ballot by petition, which would have required 30,000 signatures of registered voters. The campaign turned in more than 15,000 signatures to create a Populist Party, but more than 5,000 were rejected by local boards because the signers were not registered voters or because of flaws in the petition process.

Rodino said signatures that should have been counted were rejected for a variety of reasons.

“Some were just mistakes. Absolutely nothing was wrong with the signatures,” she said.

Other categories included women whose names changed because they got married, voters who had moved to a new county and had not changed their registration and signatures that were difficult to read but could be verified by date of birth and address, Rodino said.

She said volunteers were still checking signatures from Prince George's and Montgomery counties and Baltimore city. A list of signatures the Nader campaign thinks should be counted will be presented to the election board by tomorrow, Rodino said.

If the state board does not change its mind, the Nader campaign will pursue the suit that was filed in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court on Aug. 27, she said.

If Nader does qualify in Maryland, he is not expected to have an impact on the presidential balloting. John Kerry is heavily favored to defeat President Bush, with the latest Maryland poll showing Kerry running 13 points ahead of the president.

Republicans seeking a Michigan ballot spot for Ralph Nader lack the legal standing to challenge a state election panel's decision to keep him off the ballot, Democrats say.

The Board of State Canvassers has failed to muster the needed votes to accept about 50,000 signatures turned in to put Nader on the ballot as an independent. Republicans collected about 45,000 of the signatures.

Nader needed 30,000 signatures to get on the Michigan ballot as an independent.

On Aug. 23, the board deadlocked 2-2, with Republicans voting to certify the signatures and Democrats voting against doing so.

On Aug. 25, Republicans asked the Michigan Court of Appeals to order Nader's name to appear on the ballot.

But in a response filed Aug. 30, state Democratic Party lawyer Mary Ellen Gurewitz said only Nader and not the Republicans has the legal standing to challenge the canvassing board's decision. Michigan law requires that such challenges come from candidates themselves, she said.

“I'm confident we'll prevail,” Gurewitz said on Aug. 30, pointing out that the state Supreme Court has ruled that legal standing to sue be narrowly interpreted.

Nader's campaign has not challenged the canvassers' decision but instead is trying to win a ballot spot for him as a Reform Party candidate. It has sued Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land in U.S. District Court in Detroit, seeking an order that recognizes his endorsement by the Reform Party.

Land has cited a dispute over who represents the Reform Party in the state in refusing to put Nader on the ballot.

GOP spokesman Matt Davis said on Aug. 30 that a Republican staff member who circulated the petitions and three signers have a “vested interest” in the case and should be able to sue.

“The Democratic Party often engages in legal fantasies,” he said. “This is one of them. … It's sad that the taxpayers of Michigan have to exhaust additional resources because the Democrats are so thoroughly immersed in trying to disenfranchise Michigan voters.”

Gurewitz said Republicans hope to siphon away anti-Bush votes from Kerry.

“They're just mischief-makers,” she said.

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