As published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
Sept. 10, 2004
The state Bureau of Elections on Thursday certified independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader to be on New Mexico’s general-election ballot. But the chairman of the state Democratic Party said his party is likely to file legal action to derail Nader, possibly as early as today.
“Ralph Nader is not a legitimate independent candidate," Democratic chairman John Wertheim said Thursday. “We doubt this Republican-backed petition drive is sufficient. It’s very likely we’ll challenge it.”
But time is quickly running out. Earlier this week state elections director Denise Lamb said her office will have to mail absentee ballots to New Mexico voters who are in the military and/or overseas by the end of next week.
Carol Miller, Nader’s New Mexico coordinator, said that Wertheim’s threat of a lawsuit “shows disrespect to the courts and to the people of the state.”
Although the Nader campaign this week submitted petitions with more than 31,000 signatures — more than twice the number needed — Wertheim said Democrats checking the petitions found “a bunch” of signatures of people not registered to vote. He declined to give an exact number.
But another argument Democrats might make in court is that Nader isn’t truly an independent candidate because he’s been endorsed by several minor parties, including the Reform Party, the Peace and Justice Party, the Populist Party and the Independent Party of Delaware.
Last month a panel of three judges in Pennsylvania ruled that Nader shouldn’t be on the ballot as an independent in that state because he is the Reform Party’s nominee.
It isn’t clear whether New Mexico election law has the same provision that knocked out Nader in Pennsylvania.
In this state an independent candidate is defined as a “candidate without party affiliation.” It would be up to a court to determine whether Nader is affiliated with parties in other states that endorse him.
In Florida this week, a court ruled that Nader couldn’t be on the ballot as the Reform Party candidate because that party — started by Texas billionaire Ross Perot who ran for president twice in the 1990s — is not a legitimate national party and did not follow Florida law in giving Nader its nomination.
Miller predicted a court will quickly throw out any Democratic lawsuit in New Mexico.
“I can’t imagine any lawsuit against us getting any votes for John Kerry,” she said. “I think there could be a backlash against them.”
Democrats nationwide are afraid that Nader will pull votes away from Democrat Kerry and perhaps throw the election to President Bush.
Some New Mexico Republicans — including state Sen. Rod Adair of Roswell — advocated that Republicans sign Nader’s petitions.
In New Mexico four years ago, Democrat Al Gore beat Bush by only 366 votes. Nader, at that time running as the Green Party candidate, received 21,251 votes.
Few political observers expect Nader to do that well this year. An Albuquerque Journal poll this week showed Nader at only 1 percent — about a quarter of his 2000 total.
Despite his setback in Florida, Nader received some good news Thursday when an Oregon judge ruled that Nader’s name should appear on Oregon’s ballot — overturning a decision by the state’s Democratic secretary of state.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
Friday, September 10, 2004
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