By John Kiesewetter
Enquirer staff writer
HAMILTON - Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader ran into a roadblock here Wednesday in the effort to get his name on the Ohio ballot.
The Butler County Board of Elections ruled that only 24 of Nader's 633 petition signatures - less than 4 percent - were valid in the county.
Butler was the first major Ohio county to verify its share of petitions carrying a total 14,473 signatures submitted by Nader backers to Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell Aug. 18, said Dan Trevas of the Ohio Democratic Party, which has asked election boards to scrutinize Nader petitions.
Nader needs at least 5,000 valid signatures from voters anywhere in the state to appear on the ballot in Ohio, a presidential battleground state. Nader drew 2.5 percent of the Ohio vote in 2000, when George W. Bush beat Democrat Al Gore by 3.6 percentage points in the state.
"Boy, they sure don't want anyone to have a choice, do they?" Kevin Zeese, national spokesman for the Nader campaign, said Wednesday. He called the Butler County ruling "disgusting."
Carlo LoParo, spokesman for Blackwell, said that "a 95 percent error rate is extremely high, and perhaps unprecedented."
Verifications from other counties are expected by the end of the month, at which time Blackwell's office will know if Nader has the necessary 5,000 valid signatures, LoParo said.
Four states - Illinois, Maryland, Missouri and Virginia - denied Nader access to state ballots last week because his supporters did not submit enough valid signatures or failed to follow procedures.
Bob Mosketti, Butler County Board of Elections director, said numerous problems were found with the Nader petitions. Among them:
228 signatures collected by Daryl Oberg of Cuyahoga County were rejected because he listed his address as the Candlewood Suites hotel in Blue Ash. A hotel is not a legal address for a registered Ohio voter, said Betty McGary, the Butler County deputy elections director.
220 signatures gathered by Steven Laws Aug. 14-15 in Butler County were thrown out because Laws also collected signatures those days in Lorain and Cuyahoga counties in northern Ohio.
"We felt it was physically impossible for one person to get signatures in all of those places in one day," McGary said. "Now it's up to the Nader camp to provide evidence that they are valid."
120 signatures collected by three campaign workers were ruled out because the circulators were not Ohio registered voters, as required by law, Mosketti said.
At least 16 signatures were discounted because the circulators' signatures did not match other samples of their own handwriting.
"We're not handwriting experts, but the signatures did not appear genuine to us," McGary said.
County elections boards Monday received the petitions from Blackwell's office. On the same day, the Butler County board and other elections offices received a fax from Columbus attorney Donald McTigue, representing the Ohio Democratic Party, asking each county to have two employees - a Republican and Democrat - inspect the signatures.
Democrats are "closely observing" the Nader petitions because "other states are finding fraud and removing him," Trevas said.
If not placed on the ballot, the Nader campaign could go to court, Zeese said.
"We'll see how it goes statewide," he said. "We'll file suit to get on the ballot, if we have to."
Names appearing on the Nov. 2 ballot must be certified by Sept. 8, LoParo said.
TOP LOCAL HEADLINES
Allen admits to affair with employee
Kmart victim's family baffled by shooting
Smoking ban debate begins
Lawsuit: Public Defender's Office fails
Iraqi girl's open-heart surgery called a success
Pain-control treatment found in need of reform
Middletown Guard unit may be heading home
Gay marriage poll a surprise
Baby starved to death; mother sent to prison
Death sentence upheld by Ohio Supreme Court
Dentists aid victims of domestic violence
T-shirt slogan 'cruel,' W.Va. governor says
Officials link casings to suspect
Kenmore man dies after police scuffle
Food's ready; there's no need to stop driving
Judge extends timber sales ban
Cleves man, 24, dies in single-car crash
Local news briefs
Sewer plant a step closer
Owls culprits in cat deaths
Florence Y'all fest on hiatus, but not parade
Free Levee lunch parking begins in Sept.
Jockeys want fees paid for ad patch lawsuits
New Spanish classes help officers relate
State holds hearing on overtime rules
Tobacco buyout forum's focus
Suspect in killing hunting a skunk
Jobless rate declines, but manufacturing weak
Ky. election fraud trial starts
Worker hit in head by 400-pound weight
Cuts force students to find rides or walk
Charter schools suit reinstated
Lakota support staff gets 35-cent-an-hour raise
Medical expansion starts
A Fest for Tobacco?
W. Chester OKs $1.4M ballfields complex
Butler Co. tries to embarrass its child-support scofflaws
Loveland eases gun law
Nader campaign set back
Warren auditor guilty of DUI
GOOD THINGS HAPPENING
Hawaiian ride helps with AIDS
N.M. Hodapp, district manager
Nellie Smith never let child go hungry