In the editorial on Ralph Nader's effort to get on the ballot in Virginia ["A Sorted Affair," Aug. 31], The Post unfortunately stated that common sense is on the side of counting Mr. Nader's petition signatures, even as it noted that other minor parties, including the Libertarian and Constitution parties, had no problem meeting the long-standing sorting requirements.

These requirements, while not codified in Virginia law, are made abundantly clear in the material the State Board of Elections has published for campaigns.

If a Libertarian candidate had arrived at the election board's office with mere minutes before the deadline and an unsorted stack of petitions, it's near certain that no Republican state attorney general would have made a special exception to the rules for that candidate's sake. Concurrently, there is no legitimate case to make a special exception for Mr. Nader simply because Virginia's top law enforcement official happens to work for a campaign that may benefit from Mr. Nader's presence on the ballot.

Ballot access is a process that should be eased for all parties, but in a civil society, misguided rules must be changed, not merely broken when they become inconvenient to those in power. Mr. Nader should be held to the same standards of ballot access as his opponents -- even if that means denying him access this year.

STEVEN J. DAMERELL

Fairfax

The writer is chairman of the Libertarian Party of Virginia.

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The logic of the editorial about Ralph Nader's attempt to get on the Virginia ballot escapes me. The Post said Mr. Nader "ought to be given a reasonable chance to appear on state ballots if he follows the rules." But The Post admits that he didn't follow the rules: "In this case," the editorial continued, "it seems clear the Nader campaign was in substantial compliance with the requirement that he get his signatures in on time." It was just the "clerical" sorting part that held him up. He was, by your account, about 45 minutes late.

Suppose he got them delivered and sorted on time but it turned out that he had only 99 percent of the required number of signatures. That would be substantial compliance, too, but it would not meet requirements -- just as 45 minutes late does not meet the requirements.

If the Libertarian Party and the Constitution Party met the requirements, not to mention the Republicans and Democrats, why does common sense tell you that Mr. Nader should be given a pass?

JIM RICHARDSON

Springfield