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Published: Thursday, 10/7/2004

Federal court lawsuit aims to restore Nader as candidate in Ohio

BY JAMES DREW
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS - Two days after asking the Ohio Supreme Court to put him back on the state's Nov. 2 ballot, Ralph Nader turned to federal court in the same pursuit.

An attorney representing Mr. Nader, who is running for president as an independent, filed a lawsuit yesterday in U.S. District Court in Columbus against Secretary of State Ken Blackwell.

The lawsuit argues that Ohio law requiring circulators of petitions to be Ohio residents violates the U.S. Constitution.

Thousands of valid signatures were invalidated because nominating petition circulators were not Ohio residents - depriving registered voters of their constitutional freedoms of "political speech and free association," said Michael Cassidy, a suburban Cleveland attorney representing Mr. Nader's campaign.

Mr. Nader is asking the judge assigned to the lawsuit, Edmund Sargus, to order the Secretary of State's office to count thousands of signatures of registered voters that were invalidated because the circulators were not Ohio residents.

On Sept. 28, Mr. Blackwell ordered Mr. Nader off the ballot. He sided with his elections counsel, who ruled that 2,756 of the Nader petition signatures should be invalidated because the person who signed the petition did not circulate it, the circulator was not an Ohio resident, or several other irregularities occurred.

That meant Mr. Nader was 1,292 signatures short of the total needed to be on the Ohio ballot as an independent presidential candidate.

Reached for comment on Mr. Nader's latest lawsuit, Carlo LoParo, a spokesman for the Secretary of State's office, said the residency requirement for petition circulators is long-standing.

"It's clear in statute and abided by every other candidate who has qualified in Ohio for the ballot," Mr. LoParo said.



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