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Published: Saturday, 10/23/2004

Ohio justices reject Nader appeal to be restored to ballot

BY JAMES DREW
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS - The Ohio Supreme Court yesterday declined to order that Ralph Nader be restored as a presidential candidate on the state's Nov. 2 ballot.

In a 6-1 decision, the high court ruled that Mr. Nader, who is running for president as an independent, had waited too long to pursue his claim.

Mr. Nader responded by asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear two of his appeals, from yesterday's Ohio Supreme Court decision and from a federal appeals court ruling earlier this week. Kevin Zeese, Mr. Nader's press secretary, didn't return messages seeking comment.

On Oct. 4, Mr. Nader asked the Ohio Supreme Court to order Secretary of State Ken Blackwell to compel county boards of election to re-examine signatures on Mr. Nader's nominating petition and check signatures that never were reviewed.

Yesterday, the Ohio Supreme Court said Mr. Nader filed for the court order 31 days after county boards of elections invalidated 8,009 of his signatures. The Nader campaign waited four months to challenge Ohio's law requiring petition circulators to be Ohio residents and registered voters, the court said.

Also, the court said approving Mr. Nader's request "would endanger Ohio's election preparations."

Quoting a federal court decision on a Nader ballot access case in Illinois, the court noted that absentee ballots already have been mailed to voters.

The sole dissenter was Republican Justice Paul Pfeifer, who noted that Mr. Nader's hadn't pursued his legal claims until Mr. Blackwell removed him from the ballot on Sept. 28.

"Nader's supporters were properly on the way to the next aspect of their campaign - their job was to be planting yard signs, not planting premature motions in Ohio's courthouse," Justice Pfeifer wrote.

In ordering Mr. Nader off the ballot in response to a challenge from Democrats, Mr. Blackwell sided with his assistant 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 had 3,708 valid signatures of registered voters, or 1,292 signatures short of the 5,000 needed to be on the ballot as an independent presidential candidate.

But the Nader campaign estimated that as many as 100,000 voter registration applications had not been processed when election boards reviewed the signatures on Mr. Nader's petition.

Andrew Clubok, an attorney representing Democrats who challenged Mr. Nader's petition to get on the ballot, has questioned that estimate and said many signatures were thrown out because of fraud by circulators hired by a company that Mr. Nader's campaign chose.

Contact James Drew at:

jdrew@theblade.com

or 614-221-0496.



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