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Thursday, October 14, 2004



Ruling keeps Nader
in ballot limbo


Chief U.S. District Judge David Ezra denied yesterday an 11th-hour effort to get Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader on Hawaii's general election ballot.

Ezra also ruled yesterday that the state's methods for putting a candidate on the ballot "are reasonable and ensure that only candidates who can show more than a modicum of support are able to be on the ballot."

The state Office of Elections is still reviewing signatures on a petition to place Nader's name on the Hawaii ballot, even as absentee ballots have been printed and mailed.

It was the second setback for Nader supporters yesterday. In Pennsylvania a state court knocked Nader off the ballot, citing thousands of fraudulent signatures.

Local representatives for Nader and Constitution Party candidate Michael Peroutka and their vice-presidential running mates filed suit Friday in U.S. District Court against Chief Election Officer Dwight Yoshina, alleging that the requirements discriminate against independent candidates and unfairly deprive Hawaii voters of the opportunity to vote for them.

Attorney Eric Seitz, who represents Nader and Peroutka here, argued for a preliminary injunction yesterday to prevent Yoshina from keeping their names off the ballots. He said the requirements imposed upon independent candidates were burdensome and discretionary.

Seitz said Ezra should not have considered the cost of reprinting the ballots if the Nader candidacy were allowed -- about $490,245 -- but should have focused on whether the law discriminated against third-party candidacies.

Nader, Peroutka and their vice-presidential running mates who petitioned to be placed on the Hawaii ballot were required to submit 3,711 signatures -- 1 percent of the votes cast in the last general election.

Yoshina has already ruled that Peroutka is not eligible to be on the ballot based on the insufficient amount of valid signatures.

Nader supporters were told on Sept. 20 that they were only 39 signatures short of the requirement, but that figure was later revised to 587.

The state Office of Elections said 1,500 signatures on Nader's petitions were not of registered voters, and Yoshina is reviewing the invalid signatures. Yoshina said he will issue a decision in the next few days.

Seitz said that if Yoshina rejects the petitions, the Nader campaign will go to state Circuit Court and ask a judge to review the accounting process to decide whether it was fair.

"I think Yoshina made up his mind when the petition was turned in and did everything he could do to get them off the ballot. We don't think we got a fair shot from day one," Seitz said.

David Porter, who represents the Peroutka campaign, said it is considering seeking relief from the state courts, but time is running out. "We have the signatures, period, no question, and I intend to do what is necessary to prove that and I intend to be on the ballot."

State attorneys had argued that the requirements were reasonable and were designed to preserve the integrity of the election process, require candidates to show they have support in the community and to avoid ballot clutter and confusion.

Reprinting the ballots to include the candidates' names would impose a hardship on the state because absentee ballots have already been sent out, and it would result in voter confusion and disruption to the election process, Deputy Attorney General Russell Suzuki argued.

Rex Quidilla, spokesman for the Office of Elections, said they were pleased with the ruling.

Elections officials began mailing absentee ballots beginning Sept. 28, with some sent to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some ballots have already been voted on and returned.

Quidilla said the Elections Office has been fair and impartial in all its dealings with the parties in this matter.

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