Thursday, September 16, 2004


As published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
Sept. 16, 2004

Nearly two thirds of the 31,000-plus signatures to put Ralph Nader on the state ballot are “defective” and shouldn’t be counted, according to a legal action filed Wednesday by a group of Democrats — and one Green Party maverick — in an attempt to sink Nader’s candidacy in New Mexico.

Filing in state district court in Albuquerque, the anti-Nader group claims Nader isn’t qualified to run as an independent because he is running as the Reform Party presidential candidate in some states and as the standard bearer for other minor parties in other states.

“They’re making a sham of the whole election,” Nader’s New Mexico coordinator Carol Miller said. “If by some horrible desecration of New Mexico law they succeed in keeping Ralph Nader off the ballot, I predict those votes will go to the Green Party, the Libertarian Party and to George W. Bush, not to Kerry. There will be a backlash.”

A spokesman for the state Democratic Party said the case will be heard Friday morning by state District Judge Wendy York.

The suit was filed after more than a week in which Democrats examined the thousands of pages of petition signatures submitted by Nader backers last week.

“As is the case here, when the Republicans hijack a candidacy, as a means to distract from Bush’s record, it takes a lot of effort and energy to bring honesty into the process,” said state Democratic Party spokesman Matt Farrauto.

Democrats claim Republicans are behind Nader’s effort here — a claimed based on the fact that a Republican state senator distributed some Nader petitions, a petition collection company with Republican ties helped gather signatures and because Republicans have aided Nader in other states this year. Miller disputes that claim.

The common wisdom is that Nader takes votes from Democratic John Kerry.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Vanessa Alarid, the executive director of the state Democratic Party; Abe Gutmann — who founded an organization called Greens for Kerry; Moises Griego, chairman of the Democratic Party in Valencia County; and Richard Kirschner and Laura LaFlamme of Albuquerque.

Named as the defendant was Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil Giron, whose office last week certified Nader to be on the ballot. She will be represented in court by the state attorney general’s office.

Miller said lawyers working for Nader will attempt to intervene to make the Nader campaign part of the case.

The suit was filed after ballots for at least six New Mexico counties have been sent to the printer. State Election Bureau director Denise Lamb said this week that absentee ballots have to be sent to New Mexico members of the military by Saturday.

The suit argues claims there are more than 19,000 defective signatures.

According to the suit:
*10,852 names do not appear on the secretary of state’s voter rolls.
*At least 4,598 signatures are identified to addresses for which no voter is registered.
*At least 2,580 signatures are illegible
*At least 850 signatures have been termed “suspect” by a handwriting expert.
*212 people who signed live in different counties than the one listed on top of the petitions they signed.
*At least 78 signatures belong to people who signed more than once.
Nader needs 14,527 valid signatures to get on the ballot.

Miller said she stands by her petitions.

“I predict next week we’ll all be in a room passing pages of signatures around to lawyers, handwriting experts, tea leaf readers and who knows who else,” she said. “Is this what elections have come to?”

Ralph Nader is on the ballot in 33 states plus Washington D.C., according to an online newsletter that keeps track of the progress of minor parties in the country.

According to Ballot Access News, the states that have placed Nader on the ballot are:

Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa. Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

But, the site notes that in several of these, court actions filed against Nader could remove him from the ballot. Those states — all considered battleground states by Democrats and Republicans — are Arkansas, Colorado, New Hampshire, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Democrats in New Mexico Wednesday filed legal action in an attempt to remove Nader from the ballot.

In addition, there are seven more states in which Nader’s future as a candidate rests with judges. These are Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas.

In Florida it’s been topsy-turvy for Nader.

On Wednesday, Circuit Judge P. Kevin Davey ordered that Nader’s name be removed from the November ballot, finding that the Reform Party — which nominated Nader — isn’t a legitimate party under state law. Davey also ordered that four counties that have already mailed absentee ballots listing Nader send out amended ballots without his name.

Davey had issued a temporary order last week keeping Nader off the ballot, but his ruling was suspended Monday after Florida Secretary of State Glenda Hood filed an appeal. Davey’s ruling on Wednesday reinstates his original decision.
Florida’s Supreme Court has scheduled a Friday hearing on the appeal.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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