WASHINGTON - Third-party presidential candidate Ralph Nader will campaign
Friday in Maryland, just days after the state's highest court ordered
elections officials to put his name on the November ballot.
The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled Monday that state officials wrongly
invalidated 542 petition signatures and ordered the signatures be accepted,
pushing Nader over the 10,000 required by state law to qualify a third-party
Nader campaign officials hailed "common-sense" decision.
But few political observers expect Nader's presence on the ballot will
affect the race in Maryland, a traditionally Democratic state where recent
polls give Democratic nominee John Kerry a significant lead over President
"The only way his (Nader's) presence is going to make a difference is if
this state tightens up significantly," said pollster Patrick Gonzales,
president of Maryland-based Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies.
But that will not deter Nader, who will appear Friday evening at the
University of Maryland, College Park, with his vice presidential candidate,
activist Peter M. Camejo.
In August, Nader's supporters in Maryland gathered more than 15,000
signatures to put the two men on the state ballot under the banner of the
Populist Party, well over the 10,000 needed. But the State Board of
Elections rejected more than 5,000 signatures, including some that were
thrown out because voters were listed as residents of counties in which they
did not reside.
Nader's campaign challenged the election board's decision in court,
arguing that requiring signatures to be gathered on a county-by-county basis
State elections officials argued in court that the voter-residency
requirement was important because it made it easier for local elections
boards to check the authenticity of signatures against voter rolls and
prevent elections fraud. But Nader's campaign said that technological
advances have made certification easier.
Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Philip Caroom sided with the board, saying on
Sept. 14 that it is not the role of the court to decide how the state
administers elections rules.
But the Court of Appeals disagreed, saying that the county-by-county
provision was "invalid as applied in this case," and overturning Caroom's
"It's good that the court put the voters' interest before the
administrative process," said Kevin Zeese, a spokesman for the Nader
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court also ordered Nader on that state's ballot
Monday, overturning a lower court ruling that denied him access because he
was running on multiple party lines in different states.
Zeese said Nader is now on the ballot in 37 states, after the victories
in Maryland and Pennsylvania, even though litigation is still pending in
seven of those states. Nader is challenging his exclusion from the ballot in
an additional seven states.
Nader's candidacy concerns Democrats, who worry that he could drain votes
"We still believe that a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush," said Josh
White, executive director of the Maryland Democratic Party.
White added that he is not worried about Nader's impact in Maryland,
where the latest Gonzales poll gave Kerry 53 percent of the vote to Bush's
Gonzales noted that the last time a Republican presidential candidate won
Maryland was in 1988, when Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis suffered a
nationwide drop in the polls at the end of the campaign.
"The election would have to turn dramatically across the country for
Nader to have an impact on Maryland," Gonzales said. "And if that happens,
Maryland won't really matter."
2004 University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of