- The Washington Times - Monday, February 23, 2004

Presidential candidate Ralph Nader yesterday vowed to be on the ballot in every state, a monumental task his fledgling campaign estimates will take 1.5 million signatures nationwide and possible litigation.

The independent candidate, who announced his bid Sunday, already is dispatching volunteers to gather the requisite number of signatures to be placed on the ballot in several states, all of which have different criteria.

“It won’t be easy,” Mr. Nader said, referring to the 60,000 signatures he needs in a 60-day period to get on the Texas ballot. The signees there cannot be participating in the Democratic or Republican primaries.

“We have to pursue our independent course of action, elicit many volunteers — young, middle-aged, older people — who will learn if they don’t know now how to get signatures that are verifiable on their clipboards in shopping centers and street corners in order to meet the deadline … ,” said Mr. Nader, who turns 70 Friday.

Gaining ballot access from scratch is a “huge undertaking,” said Doug Friedline, who led the “Draft Nader” effort last year.

“It is essentially a full-time job in every state,” said Mr. Friedline, a veteran third-party consultant who was the campaign manager for Jesse Ventura’s successful bid for Minnesota governor in 1998. “I know that he is talking to the Independence Party in New York so that saves him some signatures if he can get that. And there are other states where he can also do the same thing.”

“But right now, I think a reasonable number is to have access to between 25 and 35 states,” he said.

As an independent, Mr. Nader won’t be eligible for up to about $18.6 million in government funding for the primary season, said Federal Election Commission spokesman Bob Biersack. And his failure to capture 5 percent of the vote in 2000 — he got 2.7 percent as the Green Party’s candidate — also prevents him from receiving taxpayer funding in the general election.

After running on the Green Party ticket in 1996 and 2000, Mr. Nader announced in January that he would not run as a Green. Going to the Greens, an established party, would have gotten him on the ballot in about 18 states.

“The problem is one of timing,” Mr. Nader said. “The Green Party convention is in June, and the decision as to whether they will have a presidential candidate and under what conditions will be made then. And that is too late for meeting the ballot-access deadlines of many states.”

Already, Mr. Nader is speaking with other alternative parties in several states, where he could become their candidate and forgo the need for signature collecting.

“He can also be on multiple party lines,” said Richard Winger, editor of the monthly Ballot Access News, which studies the issue nationally. “So in California, for example, he can be the candidate for the Green Party, the Peace and Freedom Party and the Natural Law Party.”

Mr. Nader also said that places where the law is particularly onerous with regard to third-party access, he is willing to litigate to achieve ballot access.

Mr. Nader’s entry into the race at this late date matches his 2000 announcement almost to the day. On Feb. 21, 2000, he announced himself as the Green Party candidate and made the ballot in 44 states.

Mr. Nader yesterday also urged the “liberal establishment” to “relax and rejoice,” saying that his target is President Bush, not the Democratic challenger.

“This is a campaign that strives to displace the present corporate regime of the Bush administration,” said Mr. Nader, whom Democrats blame for Al Gore’s loss to Mr. Bush in 2000. “This is a campaign that will have many purposes and many functions in a political system that’s rigged from beginning to end.”

This report is based in part on wire service dispatches.

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