Ralph Nader has been denied a spot on the presidential ballot in Maryland and Virginia, state elections officials and the independent candidate's campaign said yesterday.
Elections officials in Illinois and Missouri also refused to put Nader on their ballots for the Nov. 2 vote. They said Nader campaign workers either did not submit enough valid signatures on ballot petitions or failed to follow proper procedures.
Nader's Maryland supporters, working under the banner of the Populist Party, fell about 500 signatures short of the 10,000 required, according to Donna Duncan, director of the Election Management Division of the state Board of Elections.
Nader workers submitted about 15,000 signatures, but many were invalidated because those who signed were not registered Maryland voters, state officials said.
The Nader campaign could file a court challenge to the Maryland action. Duncan said she had no word on whether it will do so.
In Virginia, Nader supporters said they were told by the state Board of Elections that they had not meet regulations that call for petitions to be grouped strictly by congressional district and then by cities or counties within each of the districts. They said they were also told that they submitted petitions after the noontime deadline and would not be received.
Nader campaign officials in Virginia and Washington said they were told by one electoral official that they could file some of the petitions later than 12 p.m. and were given a room in the board offices to continue to add petitions to their stacks of 14,000 signatures. They said that Elections Board secretary Jean Jensen later told them they would not be allowed to submit the petitions because they had missed the noontime deadline.
"This doesn't make any sense," said Jim Polk, head of the Nader campaign in Virginia. "We were told one thing by one election official and something else by another."
The campaign said it would challenge the rejection in court. Jensen did not return several messages left on her voice mail at work and on her cell phone.
A spokesman for the Virginia attorney general's office, which also informed the Nader campaign that the state would not accept the petitions, said he could not comment on the proceedings.
"We're still trying to sort out the facts," said Tim Murtaugh, spokesman for Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore (R).
Virginia Democrats said they believed that the rejection of Nader's candidacy would help their presidential ticket. Party leaders hope that Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.) will be the first Democrat in 40 years to win Virginia's 13 electoral votes. Sen. John Edwards (N.C.), the party's vice presidential nominee, will campaign in Roanoke today.
"If [Nader's] off the ballot, that helps John Kerry," said Kerry J. Donley, chairman of the state Democratic committee, citing electoral returns from 2000 that indicated that Nader's candidacy cut into Al Gore's totals.
Virginia Republicans scoff at that possibility. In 2000, President Bush won Virginia by 8 percentage points.
Politicians believe Maryland's 10 electoral votes are likely to go to Kerry. Nader is still seeking a spot on the D.C. ballot.