(Sep. 1) -- A judge ruled Wednesday that Ralph Nader's name will stay on Nevada's November ballot despite problems such as people he compared to "carnival workers" involved in the signature-collecting process used to qualify Nader.
District Judge Bill Maddox said that even after disqualifying more than 3,000 signatures on Nader's ballot petition, about 7,000 remained. The Nader proponents needed only about 5,000 signatures to qualify.
Attorney Paul Larsen, representing the state Democratic Party and three women who complained of trickery involving signature-gatherers, said an appeal to the state Supreme Court was likely but he wanted to first discuss the court ruling with his clients.
Attorney Keith Loomis, representing Nader, said the judge reached the right decision. Loomis argued that the Democrats were "trying to gum up the works with technicalities."
Nader would have been disqualified if Maddox had agreed with Larsen and dropped the names of about 3,500 people whose signatures were witnessed by name-gatherers from out of state who listed hotels where they were staying rather than their actual residences.
But Maddox said state law doesn't require an address of the actual residence, and the secretary of state's regulations aren't clear on that issue. He added the names should be counted because "these people wanted Ralph Nader to be on the ballot."
The judge was critical of a 1999 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a Colorado case that said signature-collectors for various petitions didn't have to be residents of a state in which they were getting names.
The result has been the expansion of businesses that cross state lines to get names for various ballot causes but hire employees that are "almost like carnival workers," Maddox said, adding, "I get the impression some of these people are not real upstanding people."
Larsen had alleged there were forged names, name-gathers with criminal records and other problems. He wanted a court order directing Secretary of State Dean Heller to revoke his previous certification putting Nader on the ballot.
If the judge deleted all the names that had been questioned, Larsen said only 314 would have been left.
Larsen also questioned whether Republican activists had a hand in funding the signature-gathering effort. But Jennifer Breslin, who hired the signature-gathers, said she was paid by the Nader camp.
Besides Breslin, other witnesses included Joan Ward of Las Vegas who testified that there's "no way" she signed a Nader petition -- and her signature on one of the petitions was a forgery.
Also testifying were Myrna McKinley and her granddaughter, Renee McKinley, both of Henderson, who said that in registering to vote they were tricked into backing Nader by a supporter who covered up the top of a signature sheet that showed Nader's name.
Nader spokesman Kevin Zeese has denied any trickery was involved, and said Democrats "just don't trust the voters to make a choice and don't have confidence in their candidate's ability to compete. ... They're grasping at straws."
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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