Bradbury says Nader fails to get on ballot
The independent's Oregon chief is outraged, saying the Democratic official's decision is political.
September 2, 2004
Ralph Nader did not qualify for Oregon's presidential ballot, Secretary of State Bill Bradbury said Wednesday, providing a mild boost to Democrats who feared the consumer advocate would draw votes from their nominee, Sen. John Kerry.
Bradbury said more than 1,000 sheets of signatures of registered voters that Nader supporters submitted could not be counted because rules about numbering the sheets were not followed or because the sheets were improperly signed or dated.
That disqualified 3,082 signatures that had been validated by county elections officials, leaving Nader 218 short of the 15,306 valid signatures needed to qualify for the Nov. 2 ballot.
The announcement was greeted by howls of outrage from Nader's Oregon campaign leaders, who said they would challenge the ruling in court this week and try to force Nader's name onto the ballot. Bradbury's office faces a Sept. 8 deadline to provide county elections offices with an official list of presidential candidates so that the counties can begin printing ballots.
"I think the secretary of state should be ashamed of himself," said Greg Kafoury, co-director of Nader's Oregon campaign. "This is a completely political decision."
Bradbury, a Democrat, defended the ruling, saying, "It's my duty to uphold the law, and it is clear that signatures on sheets that do not comply with the law cannot be counted."
In contrast, Nader won a spot Wednesday on Washington state's ballot, but he suffered additional setbacks with courtroom defeats in Texas and Michigan. In Washington, Nader supporters submitted 1,983 signatures, almost double the 1,000 needed. He has now qualified in 14 states and Washington, D.C.
For all the uproar in Oregon, it is not clear whether Nader's absence from -- or presence on -- the ballot would make much difference. Nader won 5 percent of the Oregon vote in 2000, but public opinion polls and his struggles to qualify for the ballot this year suggest his support has greatly diminished as voters concentrate on the choice between Kerry and President Bush.
"I don't think he's going to have much impact on the race," Tim Hibbitts, an independent Portland pollster, said before Wednesday's announcement.
Nader's petition drive in Oregon fell short not because of alleged signature fraud, as his critics claimed, but because of technical provisions governing how such petition drives are to be conducted. The key issue centers on numbers on the pages signed by Nader supporters.
John Lindback, director of the state Elections Division, said the rules require that campaigns number the signature sheets before they are submitted to county elections officials for validation. He said a review by his office found 1,062 Nader signature sheets, containing 2,354 signatures that county officials had deemed valid, did not comply with the rule, resulting in their disqualification.
"The statue and the (elections) manual are very clear to us," Lindback said. "We were facing a lawsuit no matter which way we turned, and I would rather go to court where we said we followed the rules and the statute rather than we were selective about the rules. I know Greg Kafoury feels this is trivial. We don't regard any of these rules as trivial."
Kafoury said the Nader campaign was concerned that gaps had developed in the numerical sequence of the petition sheets in some counties when sheets were pulled out of the sequence for various reasons. He said Lindback's office advised campaign workers that they could solve the problem by submitting unnumbered sheets to county officials, then numbering the sheets in the proper sequence when they got them back from the counties.
Lindback said that no one in his office recalls giving such advice and that Nader's campaign lost control of the petition drive process.
"Their problem was that they were doing a lot of stuff in a hurry at the last minute, and they lost this organizationally," he said.
Kevin Mannix, the Oregon Republican Party chairman, accused Bradbury of playing politics in blocking Nader's access to the ballot. "I think Mr. Bradbury's partisan slip is showing," he said.
But Jim Edmunson, the state Democratic Party chairman, said that while Nader would be a "distraction" in the fall campaign, "it is doubtful that he would have had an impact on the election." In 2000, Nader easily qualified for the ballot when his supporters, who paid $7 a ticket, filled Portland's Memorial Coliseum for a nominating convention. Under state law, such a convention that is attended by at least 1,000 registered voters who sign a petition automatically qualifies the candidate for the November ballot.
But when Nader tried the same approach this year, he failed twice to attract the necessary support. It was only after the second convention failure in late June, relatively late in the process, that Nader's Oregon campaign leaders started a statewide drive to collect 15,306 voter signatures, the alternative method to gain ballot access.
The result was a sometimes madcap race to the secretary of state's office before the Aug. 24 deadline for submitting signatures. Along the way, charges and countercharges flew between the Nader camp and state Democrats and their allies, who were determined to keep Nader off the ballot and make the Nov. 2 election a strictly Bush versus Kerry showdown.
Edward Walsh: 503-294-4153; firstname.lastname@example.org
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