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In Pa., Fake Signatures Keep Nader Off Ballot

Times Staff Writer

A Pennsylvania court struck a blow to Ralph Nader’s presidential campaign Wednesday, blocking his name from appearing on ballots in that state because of fraudulent signatures.

The campaign’s 51,000 submitted signatures included names such as Mickey Mouse and Fred Flintstone, according to Commonwealth Court President Judge James Gardner Colins’ 15-page ruling.

Nader needed 25,697 valid names to qualify for Pennsylvania’s ballot; Colins ruled that fewer than 19,000 of the signatures were legitimate.

“I am compelled to emphasize that this signature gathering process was the most deceitful and fraudulent exercise ever perpetrated upon this Court,” Colins wrote in a ruling produced after at least 11 judges in four courtrooms pored over the signatures for about two weeks.

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The Nader campaign, which has gone to court in 21 states over ballot access, dismissed the decision as “partisan.”

“Obviously, he doesn’t care very much for voter intent,” Nader spokesman Kevin Zeese said of Colins. “This is a partisan judge trying to undermine a guy who has a history of credibility.”

Zeese complained that the judge discounted more than 7,000 signatures of registered voters who had changed addresses or individuals who had registered to vote after they signed a petition, which would have given the campaign enough authorized signatures.

The campaign plans to file an appeal today to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

The Bush and Kerry campaigns said the court’s decision would have little strategic effect on their battle for Pennsylvania’s 21 electoral votes.

“Very little will change,” said Bush-Cheney campaign spokesman Kevin Madden.

A Nader-less ballot will allow voters to focus on the major candidates and avoid “any sideshow,” said Tony Podesta, Sen. John F. Kerry’s campaign manager in Pennsylvania.

Although Democrats nationwide have sought to keep Nader off the ballot in other states, fearing he would subtract votes from Kerry, Podesta said he didn’t think Nader “ever had that much traction here in Pennsylvania.”

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Pennsylvania delayed sending out many absentee ballots until the Nader issue had been decided, but some ballots include his name.

As a result, the Department of Justice filed suit this week, saying the state must mail corrected ballots without Nader’s name, and extend the voting deadline to Nov. 17 because overseas voters won’t have enough time to cast ballots by Nov. 2.

State officials plan to challenge the lawsuit, and say they will allow voters abroad to fax ballots or mail them overnight.


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