September 3, 2004
Nader supporters won't quit efforts
His last chance to make state ballot might be in court
The Associated Press
PORTLAND — Ralph Nader supporters said Thursday that they won't abandon their efforts to put the independent candidate on the presidential ballot in Oregon and joined Republicans in accusing Democrats of trying to sabotage the Nader campaign.
The last chance for Nader in Oregon, however, might be going to a state court to argue a lawsuit that already has found little support in federal court.
Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, a Democrat, ruled Wednesday that Nader supporters didn't turn in enough valid signatures — because of flaws on petition sheets — to add Nader to the state ballot.
Bradbury's decision has further inflamed a major political brawl involving Nader supporters, Democrats and Republicans as the election draws near.
"It's total bad faith," said Greg Kafoury, the Portland attorney who is leading the Nader campaign in Oregon.
He promised a lawsuit by today seeking to force Bradbury to accept the signatures.
Oregon Democratic Party Chairman Jim Edmunson said that any lawsuit filed in state court at this point would be frivolous after a federal judge ruled that Bradbury had authority to decide the validity of signatures in an earlier lawsuit filed by Nader supporters.
The First Amendment protects access to the ballot by a candidate or an initiative petition, said Charles Hinkle, a Portland attorney and constitutional-law expert.
"There have been a number of cases over the years in which the U.S. Supreme Court and other courts have struck down ballot access conditions the courts have found to be too restrictive," Hinkle said.
The legal question is whether any restrictions a state sets are a serious burden to candidates or petition campaigns. Severe restrictions such as literacy tests once used in Southern states to bar black voters were struck down. Lesser restrictions, such as a Colorado law requiring petition circulators to be state residents, also have been rejected by courts.
If Kafoury follows through as expected, with a lawsuit challenging Bradbury on First Amendment grounds, a judge may have to decide whether the disputed signatures should be counted.
Kevin Mannix, the Oregon Republican Party chairman, said Nader supporters could be angered by Bradbury and decide to add Nader's name to the ballot as a write-in candidate on Election Day.