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Tuesday, October 26, 2004  

Politics: Nader off Ohio ballot

Sources sent me information alleging there were signature gathering and other problems with Ralph Nader's campaign last week. I had written an entry criticising Nader for accepting donations from the nefarious Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Readers said there were other alleged irregularities. Among them were claims persons gathering signatures to place Nader on ballots did not meet the requirements of state law. It was also said that many of the signatures presented were false. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Nader. He has been permanently removed from the ballet in Ohio.

The Associated Press has the story.

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to put independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader on the ballot in the battleground state of Ohio.

On Friday, Nader asked the high court to review Ohio's decision to remove him, arguing that a state law that requires people who collect signatures on candidates' petitions be registered voters violated free speech rights.

Nader's request for a review went to Justice John Paul Stevens, who referred the matter to the full court. The justices denied the request without comment Tuesday.

. . .Democrats, fearful that Nader could cost them votes if his name is on the ballot, had presented evidence to Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell that petition collectors registered at fraudulent addresses or places they didn't live.

The campaign is responsible for making sure its signature collectors meet the requirements of the various states they solicit in. That can be difficult since the rules in regard to signature gatherers vary from state to state. And, the companies providing labor sometimes send workers who are not citizens of a state to gather signatures there. Still, the basic requirements of due process were met in this situation. The Nader campaign was aware of the laws requiring that signature gatherers in Ohio be residents and registered voters.

The Toledo Blade describes the circumstances that resulted in Nader's removal.

Michael Cassidy, a suburban Cleveland attorney representing Mr. Nader's campaign, said Ohio law requiring petition circulators to be Ohio residents and registered voters violates the First Amendment. The reason: The signatures of registered voters were invalidated because the state said circulators weren't Ohio residents.

In ordering Mr. Nader off the ballot, Secretary of State Ken Blackwell accepted the conclusion of an assistant elections counsel who ruled that 2,756 of the Nader petition signatures should be invalidated.

Of that total, 1,956 were invalidated because the petition circulator falsely identified himself or herself as an Ohio resident and/or didn't witness people signing the petition.

Whether it matters if a temporary employee is a registered voter is a more difficult issue. On its face, the requirement seems arbitrary. Seasonal and/or temporary workers in other fields are free of such interference. The constitutional test for deciding if a law which effects a protected right is unduly burdensome is whether it is reasonably related to an objective of the government. The importance of preventing fraud in voter registration may justify a law that would otherwise be onerous. SCOTUS has been inconclusive regard to the legality of such requirements.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 1999 ruled that a Colorado law requiring petition circulators to be registered voters was unconstitutional. A court majority, however, declined to address whether the Colorado law requiring circulators to be state residents is unconstitutional.

"In view of the [1999 decision], it appears clear that the requirement of Ohio law that circulators be registered is unconstitutional," [U.S. District ] Judge [Edmund ] Sargus wrote.

The trial court did not reach the issue of the legality of the residency requirement because the finding of fraud rendered the petitions invalid.

It is reasonable to believe that residents of a state are less likely to perceive signature gathering as only a means of making money. Furthermore, they will not be moving on and will have to deal with any consequences that arise from their signature gathering. The requirement may create a disincentive for falsifying information on petitions. Therefore, the high court may uphold it in a later case.

The persons most likely to benefit from the outcome of this case are the Democratic candidates. Nader attracts votes away from other liberal and progressive candidates. If he is not on the ballot in Ohio, some of the 2.5 percent of the vote he received there in 2000 will likely migrate to the Democrats. That, of course, assumes potential Nader voters don't resent the party for forcing Nader off the ballot.

Nader is still on the ballots of 35 states. He has been rejected after challenges in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

4:30 PM