Naked City

Nader Sues Texas

Ralph Nader speaking to supporters in Austin earlier this year. Nader's campaign – which failed to gather enough signatures to place the independent candidate  on the November ballot – is suing the state of Texas.
Ralph Nader speaking to supporters in Austin earlier this year. Nader's campaign – which failed to gather enough signatures to place the independent candidate on the November ballot – is suing the state of Texas. (Photo By John Anderson)

Today (Thursday) at 9am, the Ralph Nader campaign is scheduled to appear in federal court (200 W. Eighth) in a lawsuit (Nader et al. v. Connor) charging that the Texas ballot access law is unconstitutional on three grounds:

The May 10 deadline for signatures, earlier than any other state, is unnecessary and discriminatory;

The requirement that independent candidates collect more than 64,000 signatures – nearly 20,000 more than the requirement for third party candidates – is also discriminatory; and

The accelerated schedule for independent candidates (60 days to collect signatures vs. 75 days for third parties) has the same effect.

The Nader campaign charged that it was often hindered in gathering signatures in public places. Said Nader, "Democracy is under assault in Texas. Through unconstitutional laws and denial of access to public places, Texas voters are being denied more voices and more choices. One of the goals of this campaign is to open up the ballot in Texas not only for this campaign but for future campaigns by other candidates."

Notwithstanding the absurdities of the Texas law, Nader should receive a good hearing from Bush-appointed U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel, judging from the recent success Nader's had elsewhere in gathering GOP support. This week he accepted 43,000 signatures collected on his behalf by the Michigan GOP, where his campaign is hoping for a Reform Party ballot line (requiring an endorsement from the squabbling Michigan reformists) but keeping its options open. The Nader campaign had submitted about 5,400 signatures on its own behalf.

The Michigan Democratic Party has responded by questioning the legitimacy of every signature and also charging that the GOP petition campaign amounted to a violation of the $5,000 maximum that a state party can donate to a candidate. Nader campaign spokesman Kevin Zeese said that the candidate had no choice but to do whatever is necessary to secure a ballot spot, adding, "[The Democrats] are afraid many of their members will agree with Ralph Nader, that we should pull out of Iraq, that we should repeal the PATRIOT Act, that we should make up our own minds about Israel, that people should be paid a livable wage."

A GOP party spokesman acknowledged that they had collected the signatures when it looked likely that the Nader campaign could not do so on its own, but added that the GOP "wants to make certain Michigan voters are not disenfranchised." GOP officials and conservative groups like the Citizens for a Sound Economy attempted a similar service in Oregon when the Nader campaign couldn't gather enough supporters at a petition rally, but thus far that effort has fallen short. Nader hopes to be on the ballot in 40 states, including the so-called "battleground" states where polls show him drawing support primarily from Democratic candidate John Kerry, tightening the races there.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Election 2004, Ralph Nader, Lee Yeakel, ballot access, Reform Party, Kevin Zeese

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