- The Washington Times - Monday, May 3, 2004

Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader’s campaign workers say they have been prevented by city ordinances from gathering signatures to get their candidate on the presidential ballot in Texas and other states.

The impediment comes on the heels of a failed effort to use a simple ballot-access procedure in Oregon and highlights the difficulties that Mr. Nader, who announced his independent candidacy in February, is having getting his name on state ballots.

He is not officially on the presidential ballot in any state yet, though Nader campaign officials say the process is still in its early stages.

“None of the states has had its deadline for ballot access yet,” said Nader campaign spokesman Kevin Zeese.

But Mr. Zeese said local ordinances have cropped up around the country banning signature collecting at public events, and that will hamper the campaign’s effort to get Mr. Nader on some ballots.

“These petitioners are being blocked by universities and cities,” Mr. Zeese said. “There are a lot of restrictions that did not exist in 2000.”

Although many Democrats have criticized Mr. Nader’s run for the presidency, fearing he will take the votes of liberal and left-wing voters away from Sen. John Kerry, the Nader campaign said yesterday that Democrats have not interfered with its ballot-access efforts.

But Texas, with its difficult state laws regarding independent candidates, is proving particularly formidable, with its May 10 deadline and 60,000-signature requirement.

Getting those signatures “is a very, very steep uphill battle this time,” said petition drive organizer Scott Crow, adding that several new city ordinances have made matters tougher for the Nader team.

“We have been threatened with arrest and chased away from places,” said Mr. Crow, who heads the Nader campaign’s effort to gather signatures in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Mr. Crow said he and his workers were banned last month from entering Fort Worth’s annual Main Street Arts Festival, where they had gathered signatures in 2000. But since then, the nonpartisan Fort Worth City Council has changed city codes.

“In 2000, we were able to send people out there,” Mr. Crow said. “They bring in 500,000 people in a three-day period. In 2000, we got 3,000 signatures there. This year, we got 1,200. We had to stay outside the festival itself. They said that we were solicitors, although we were not selling anything.”

Early in April, Mr. Nader attempted to gain ballot access in Oregon, where he earned 5 percent of the vote in 2000, compared to 2.7 percent nationally.

Mr. Nader had banked on that support at a petition-signing rally, where he needed 1,000 people to show up and sign under a state law that permitted a one-shot chance to gain access. But only 741 signers arrived, forcing the campaign to gather 15,000 signatures over a three-month period.

“That was his biggest blunder so far,” said Richard Winger, publisher of Ballot Access News, considered the national authority on the issue. “He should never have called that meeting until he had a list of 1,000 people who could be counted on to show up.”

Mr. Nader will gain ballot access more easily in other states, Mr. Winger said. He cited as an example Colorado, which only requires $500 and a list of presidential electors who are pledged to him in the Electoral College if he wins the state.

New Jersey requires just 800 signatures, Mr. Winger said, and Tennessee a mere 275.

“He should be picking these off right now so the media doesn’t keep mentioning that he has no ballot access yet,” he said.

Mr. Winger still believes that Mr. Nader will make the ballot in at least 45 states, “and he should make all 50 states if he’s smart.”

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