Oregon Daily Emerald
September 27, 2004
The Oregon Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that independent candidate Ralph Nader cannot be listed on the Oregon presidential ballot, invalidating nearly 10,000 ballots with Nader's name that had already been mailed to members of the military and other Oregonians living overseas.
"Statutorily, we had to get them out," Secretary of State spokeswoman Anne Martens said, referring to the state law requiring ballots be mailed overseas at least 45 days prior to the election in order to ensure all voters have adequate time to complete them.
Supplemental ballots that only feature the presidential candidates and instructions will be mailed to those who received the now-illegitimate ballots, Martens said.
The state court decision reversed a Sept. 9 ruling by a Marion County Circuit Court judge, which found Secretary of State Bill Bradbury's decision to throw out 718 of the more than 18,000 signatures on Nader's petition for a spot on the ballot illegal.
Bradbury declared 2,300 signatures invalid because of unnumbered petition pages and 718 signatures invalid because those collecting the signatures failed to sign their full names where needed. The circuit court ruling validated the 718 signatures but was overruled by the state court, leaving Nader a few hundred signatures short of the approximately 15,000 required.
Martens said the signatures collected by the Nader campaign had "a variety of things" wrong with them and clearly violated measures the elections board had in place to prevent fraudulent behavior.
"The secretary of state has the responsibility for ensuring that the system operates without fraud," Martens said.
The Nader campaign team, however, told a different story.
Citing a "democracy of fraud" that has taken over the country, Kevin Zeese, spokesman for the Nader campaign, said the decision is an example of the extreme measures state legislatures and the Democratic Party will take to control the outcome of an election. "They have no qualms about disenfranchising voters and forcing them to vote for a candidate," Zeese said.
The Nader campaign filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court Friday, arguing that the state court violated the rights of voters by declaring the signatures invalid.
Zeese said petitioners had been in close contact with Bradbury and the elections board to ensure that this type of thing would not happen.
"We relied on the secretary of state to tell us how to do it," Zeese said, referring to the design of the petitions and the instructions for collecting signatures. "We followed their rules and got screwed for it."
Oregon Republican Party Communications Director Dawn Phillips also voiced concern regarding the decision, citing a lack of documentation of the rules Bradbury used to invalidate the signatures.
"You can just stick your finger in the wind and decide what your rule of the day is according to the Supreme Court," Phillips said.
Martens defended the decision, saying that although some may disagree with it, "when the Supreme Court weighs in on an important issue like this, we have to take a step back and have respect."
Kevin Curtin, co-chair of the College Democrats, praised the decision, citing the nonpartisanship of the court system as evidence that Bradbury was not acting in a partisan manner when he invalidated the signatures.
"The Supreme Court case confirms Bradbury was being nonpartisan when he made the decision," Curtin said.
According to Web site www.naderoregon.org, Nader is already on the ballot in 3O states. Aside from Oregon, his name will not be on the ballot in six other states, and court decisions are pending on whether to include him on the ballot in 13 states.