Virginia Democrats lodged several complaints Wednesday with the State Board of Elections over the board's decision to review petitions that could allow Ralph Nader on the state's presidential ballot in November.
Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore (R) on Monday advised the board to consider Nader's petitions even though election officials had rejected them, citing rules that required signatures to be grouped by congressional district. Kilgore (R) said the rule was invalid because the board never formerly voted on it.
In a five-page letter to board members, Kerry J. Donley, chairman of the state Democratic committee, said that because other candidates had been required to organize their petitions by district, Nader should be held to the same standard. Donley also said several other board rules were violated.
"We have significant concerns regarding the lack of uniformity in the application of state filing requirements and legality of the apparent 'acceptance' of petitions," Donley wrote.
Donley also reiterated his concerns about whether Nader's campaign workers properly notarized the petitions as the deadline approached late Friday afternoon and whether elections board officials followed proper procedure in allowing some of the petitions to be considered.
Board of Elections Secretary Jean R. Jensen said she had not seen the letter and could not comment. A spokesman for Kilgore said that there was never any formal rule to follow.
"Rules that govern elections should be guided by appropriate procedures," press secretary Tim Murtaugh said. "In this case, those rules were never adopted."
The challenge is part of a nationwide effort by Democratic Party officials to keep Nader off the ballot in contested states. In Virginia, where President Bush beat Al Gore by eight percentage points in 2000, Democrats believe their presidential ticket has a chance of winning for the first time in 40 years. They see Nader as a potential threat if he makes it onto the ballot.
Ten thousand valid signatures are necessary for Nader to be on the ballot -- at least 400 from each of the state's 11 congressional districts. As of Wednesday, Nader had submitted 12,923 signatures that will be reviewed by local elections boards to check for authenticity, Jensen said. By comparison, 21,000 signatures were submitted by the Constitution Party this month, and 13,708 were submitted by the Libertarian Party, whose candidate has been placed on the ballot.
Nader campaign officials said they hoped that the nearly 13,000 under review would be enough, even though many signatures are often thrown out because they are invalid.
"We believe that we have the necessary signatures," said Jim Polk, chair of Nader's campaign in Virginia, in an interview Monday.
In 2000, Nader, working under the banner of the Green Party, submitted about 24,000 signatures and won 2 percent of the vote.