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Maryland Judge Upholds Election Board Decision to Keep Nader Off Ballot

By Samson Habte
Capital News Service
Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2004

WASHINGTON - A Maryland judge Tuesday upheld a State Board of Elections decision to deny presidential hopeful Ralph Nader a spot on the ballot as a candidate of the Populist Party.

Nader supporters had gathered 15,094 signatures, well over the 10,000 needed by a third party to put a candidate on the ballot. But elections officials last month invalidated 5,631 of the signatures.

The elections board said the rejected voters were incorrectly listed under counties where they did not reside, violating a rule that is aimed at making it easy for county election officials to verify signatures.

Nader's campaign sued to overturn that decision.

The campaign conceded that the voters were listed under the wrong counties, but argued that it was unconstitutional to throw out the signatures of registered voters. It said technological advances have made verification easier and eliminated the rationale for the county-by-county requirement.

But the judge said that while the county-by-county requirement may be unnecessary, it is not the role of the courts to change it.

Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Philip Caroom ruled that Nader's supporters should ask their legislators to update the law, because "the court's function is not to second guess the legislature or to criticize the option selected as less than the most efficient possible solution."

"It is sad that the state of Maryland puts technical issues ahead of the wishes of voters," said Kevin Zeese, a spokesman for the Nader campaign. "It is sad that they put the form of the law before the substance."

Zeese said the campaign would appeal Caroom's ruling.

"The judge acknowledged that more than enough voters signed a petition to put Ralph Nader on the ballot, but they will be ignored and he won't be on the ballot," Zeese said.

A spokesman for the attorney general's office declined to comment on the ruling.

Zeese said Nader is on the ballot in 33 states, but that his appearance on 12 of those ballots is being challenged in court.

Florida election officials ruled on Monday that Nader's name could appear on that state's ballot, according to published reports, despite a court order that denied him access.

Nader received 98,000 Florida votes as a Green Party candidate in 2000. Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore ultimately lost Florida by 537 votes, and many Democrats blame Nader for pulling votes from Gore and throwing the election to President Bush. 

Copyright 2004 University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism


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