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Nader Still Unsure of Ballot Spot in Many States

Two new challenges were made yesterday to Nader's petitions. In Maine, where he filed just 128 more than the requisite 4,000 signatures, anti-Nader activists are hoping to disqualify him. In West Virginia, state Attorney General Darrell V. McGraw Jr. (D) filed a lawsuit alleging that people collecting signatures for the candidate employed tactics -- including concealing the fact that the petition was for Nader -- that violated state election laws.

Challenges are also underway in several other states, including New Hampshire and Iowa.

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In Michigan, Nader was forced to sue for recognition as the Reform Party candidate, after state officials ruled in July that the party's 2000 schism into two wings made it impossible to determine which branch could choose a nominee.

In a separate attempt to get on the ballot there, he submitted a petition to run as an independent, but it emerged that 45,040 of the 50,503 signatures submitted on his behalf were gathered by Republicans. The state requires candidates to collect 30,000 signatures to be placed on the ballot.

A brief filed by state Democrats with the Michigan Board of Canvassers contends that petitions circulated by Republicans were stamped "paid for by Nader for President 2004," which the brief calls "false and misleading," and that many of the people listed are not registered voters, and their signatures are therefore invalid.

The Nader campaign did not send a representative to the hearing, in which the four-member board was evenly split on whether to accept the petition. That meant Nader must make his case in court to run as an independent.

Zeese said the campaign is focused on making Nader the Reform Party candidate in the state.

Nader, whose support in some national polls has fallen as low as 2 to 4 percent, has raised just over $1.5 million as of June 30, leaving him with less cash on hand than accumulated debts, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Nader has yet to run a television ad, but at least two Democratic-leaning anti-Nader groups -- the Nader Factor and Stop Nader -- have waged media efforts against him. The Nader Factor will launch a television ad today in New Mexico and Wisconsin, where Nader is gathering signatures, in which a voice-over states that "Ralph Nader is taking help from the right wing" as a bumper sticker reading "Bush-Nader '04" emerges on the screen.

While Republicans do not deny offering logistical support to Nader's petition efforts in several states, direct financial contributions from those who have also donated to Bush so far amount to $54,300, or 4 percent of the $1.5 million Nader has raised.

Others who have taken to Nader's cause include those who believe that attempts to block him undermine democratic principles.

"It is unprecedented, as far as I know to have a major party campaigning to prevent a candidate from simply being able to run, because it might hurt them in the election," said Harry Kresky, an attorney for the Committee for a Unified Independent Party, a think tank that has filed its own FEC complaint, accusing Democrats of improperly using public funds to try to stop Nader in several states.

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