Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Nader booted off Ohio ballot over petitions


Thousands of his signatures are invalid, Blackwell rules

By Jim Siegel
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

COLUMBUS - Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader will not appear on the Ohio ballot in November.

Secretary of State Ken Blackwell on Tuesday accepted the recommendation of his assistant elections counsel and ordered Nader be removed from the ballot for not collecting enough valid signatures.

A protest filed by the Ohio Democratic Party on Aug. 30 accused the Nader campaign of widespread fraud and mistakes in its efforts to gather the 5,000 signatures he needed to qualify for the ballot.

Assistant state elections counsel Gretchen Quinn, the hearing officer who presided over the complaint, recommended that 2,756 signatures be invalidated, leaving Nader with 3,708 valid signatures.

"Many parts of the Nader petition did not comply with the laws of Ohio, and that the conduct of several paid circulators and non-circulators violated state law," Quinn wrote.

Dan Trevas, spokesman for the Ohio Democratic Party, called Blackwell's decision a "victory for the citizens of Ohio."

Democrats were concerned Nader could take away votes from Sen. John Kerry. The latest Ohio Poll had Nader getting about 2 percent of the vote.

A multiday hearing last week uncovered widespread fraud in the collection of signatures for the Nader campaign, which did not return a message seeking comment Tuesday.

Several people, including two from Cincinnati, testified that they falsely signed petitions stating they gathered signatures for Nader. Other evidence showed signatures were forged, and paid out-of-state collectors gave themselves false addresses.

"You can't attempt massive deception and fraud to make the ballot," Trevas said. "The law is clear on this and they did not follow the law."

Nader is on the ballot in more than 30 states but still faces a handful of court challenges.

E-mail jsiegel@enquirer.com




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