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THE RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE

Nader Appeals to High Court

September 28, 2004|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Ralph Nader's last-ditch bid to win a spot on Oregon's presidential ballot has taken him to a place frequented by candidates over the years -- the Supreme Court.

The court has been willing to step into state election disputes, most notably the 2000 Bush vs. Gore ruling that ended Florida recounts and effectively called the election for George W. Bush.

An announcement is expected soon on Nader supporters' request for an emergency stay that would require Oregon to stop printing ballots that lack Nader's name.

Richard Hasen, an election law expert at Loyola Law School, said that after 2000 "many people predicted the court would be a little gun-shy, but the court's been remarkably aggressive in the election area."

Over the last year, the court has considered campaign spending restrictions and political map drawing.

In emergency appeals to the high court, often used before elections, one justice is assigned to handle the paperwork and can act alone or ask all nine justices to participate.

In Nader's case, the Oregon Supreme Court sided with state election officials who found flawed petitions left him short of the 15,306 signatures needed to put him on the Nov. 2 ballot.

Nader's lawyer, Daniel Meek of Portland, Ore., said in a Supreme Court filing that the petition rules were unclear.

Oregon residents vote by mail, and counties have already started printing 1.9 million ballots.

Mary Williams, Oregon's solicitor general, said Nader could still get write-in votes.

"Oregon's election process will be severely disrupted if a stay is ordered," she wrote in papers filed with the court last weekend.

The Nader case has been assigned to Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who handles appeals from Western states.

If she grants the stay, the state will have to put Nader on its ballot.

He is on the ballot in more than 30 states and is suing for ballot access in several others.

Four years ago, Nader received 5% of the vote in Oregon as the Green Party nominee. In recent polls he has had the support of fewer than 2% of Oregon voters.

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