Florida Supreme Court Says Ralph Nader Can Appear On Ballot

Battle just the latest in complicated nationwide struggle.

The Democratic campaign to keep Ralph Nader off as many state ballots as possible received a setback Friday when the Florida Supreme Court ruled that Nader can appear on this fall's presidential ballot as a candidate of the Reform Party.

The Democratic Party had argued that the Reform Party is not a legitimate national party, and therefore Nader should not appear on the ballot. The ruling comes after a week of partisan back-and-forth reminiscent of the Bush v. Gore recount controversy four years ago.

Last week, a lower court judge, Democrat Kevin Davey, issued a temporary injunction barring Nader and the Reform Party from appearing on the ballot. Days later, Republican Glenda Hood, the Florida Secretary of State, overruled that decision and reinstated Nader, adding that the arrival of Hurricane Ivan might cause the cancellation of Wednesday's hearing on the permanent injunction, which would prevent Nader from appealing the injunction before the Saturday deadline for finalizing the ballot. When Ivan headed west and the hearing went ahead as scheduled, Davey overruled that overruling and Nader was off the ballot once more.

For Nader, the tug of war was business as usual (see "Ralph Nader Faces Uphill Battle Before His Uphill Battle"). Democrats have created a nationwide organization, Ballot Project, designed to challenge Nader's ballot access in every state and have done just that, often scrutinizing every single signature on his ballot petitions. On the other hand, Republicans, who share almost no policy stances with Nader but believe he takes votes away from John Kerry, have become his most vigorous supporters, providing much of the funds as well as signatures for his campaign (see "Nader Draws Tri-Partisan Crowd For All The Wrong Reasons").

Both sides have had mixed success. The latest ballot status of Nader in 10 other important swing states:

  • Pennsylvania (21 electoral votes): Probably won't be on the ballot
    Pennsylvania Democrats challenged the validity of 37,000 of the 47,000 signatures collected by the Nader campaign (25,677 are required), but a Pennsylvania court barred Nader on another ground — a state law that prohibits candidates who have sought nomination by a political party (such as the Reform Party) from appearing on the ballot as independents, as Nader was attempting to do. Nader is appealing but is unlikely to prevail.

  • Ohio (20): In court
    Nader submitted enough signatures to qualify for the ballot (Nader turned in 14,473; 6,464 were judged valid by the Ohio Secretary of State; and only 5,000 are required), but Ohio Democrats have challenged many of those remaining signatures, alleging "the most systematic and widespread fraud the state has ever seen." At issue is a marketing firm hired by the Nader campaign to collect signatures — some of those signature collectors later turned out to be convicted felons.

  • Michigan (17): On the ballot
    Democrats challenged more than 90 percent of the 50,500 signatures submitted on Nader's behalf, claiming they were collected by the Michigan Republican Party. A Michigan court dismissed the challenge and ruled Nader should appear on the ballot as an independent.

  • New Jersey (15): On the ballot
    Nader turned in more than 1,450 signatures; only 800 are required.

  • Missouri (11): Not on the ballot
    The Missouri Secretary of State threw out 3,887 of the 12,893 signatures collected by Nader volunteers, which left Nader 994 short of the number required. Nader threatened a lawsuit but never followed through.

  • Washington (11): On the ballot
    Nader met the signature requirement (1,000 signatures at a convention or series of conventions) and this week a Washington court ruled against a challenge by Democrats.

  • Wisconsin (10): In court
    Nader filed 4,000 signatures, twice as many as he needed to qualify for the state ballot. Wisconsin Democrats have challenged many of those signatures in court.

  • Minnesota (10): Yes
    The Nader campaign submitted 4,781 signatures; 2,000 valid signatures were required.

  • Colorado (9): In court
    Nader is currently on the ballot as the nominee of the Reform Party. Democrats, however, are suing to exclude him, alleging that Nader wasn't a member of the Reform Party for a year prior to his nomination, a requirement under state law.

  • Oregon (7): In court
    Nader's campaign submitted more than 18,000 signatures, but the Democratic Secretary of State invalidated several thousand on a technicality over page-numbering, leaving Nader 218 signatures short of the 15,306 required. Nader sued and won, although this week Oregon's attorney general filed an appeal with the Oregon Supreme Court, asking it to overrule that lower court ruling.

To date, Nader is on 25 ballots, with 19 more tied up in court. He will likely end up on fewer than the 43 ballots he was on as the Green Party candidate in 2000, but still enough to do some damage, as both Democrats and Republicans are well aware.