Not Nader: Don't waste your vote
The Reformation Resources
May 14, 2004

Early in May, the biggest news story coming from the Nader campaign was that he was not officially on the ballot in any state. His attempt to use a mass-meeting provision of the Oregon election law to collect 1000 signatures at a single event had failed when only 741 supporters appeared. The campaign is now trying to find 15,000 signatures in Oregon over the next three months to qualify.

In Texas the Nader campaign failed to collect the required 60,000 signatures by the May 10 deadline. Nader spokesman Kevin Zeese blamed local ordinances that banned the gathering of signatures at public events. "... [P]etitioners are being blocked by universities and cities," Zeese complained to the Washington Times. "There are a lot of restrictions that did not exist in 2000." Once the deadline passed without enough signatures having been gathered, the Nader campaign immediately sued the state of Texas, challenging the petition requirements for an independent candidate. "Democracy is under assault in Texas," Nader huffed.

A few days later the Nader campaign's sputtering efforts to gain ballot access received something of a boost when the Reform Party announced that Nader would be their presidential nominee. While providing access to the ballot in seven states, Nader's endorsement by the Reform Party, whose platform has little in common with Nader's positions on many issues, called into question Nader's claim of ideological purity.

No Solicitors

The campaign acknowledged to the Washington Times that the Democratic Party had not interfered with their efforts to gain ballot access. Rather the problem was simply Texas state law, which imposes stringent requirements on independent candidates; new ordinances made progress all the more difficult.

"We have been threatened with arrest and chased away from places," Nader organizer Scott Crow complained. In Fort Worth, where the campaign had gathered signatures successfully in 2000, Nader workers were banned from the annual Main Street Arts Festival. A change in city law classified the gathering of signatures for a petition as "soliciting," allowing the practice to be prohibited from public events. Protesting that "we were not selling anything," Crow explained, "In 2000, we were able to send people out there. They bring in 500,000 people in a three-day period. In 2000, we got 3,000 signatures there. This year, we got 1,200. We had to stay outside the festival itself."

"A lot of people are saying they have already signed," Nader supporter Greg Kafoury told the Dallas Morning News as he gathered signatures in Austin. Kafoury reported being ejected from a local library and the University of Texas campus. "We find ourselves on street corners," he said. "It's been a nightmare getting signatures in Texas public places," Jason Kafoury added. "Dallas is the worst place. That's where we get the biggest hassle."

Pretend Votes?

The Nader campaign apparently regarded access to the Texas ballot symbolically, since most observers expect Bush to carry his home state. Yet, as political analyst Stuart Rothenberg observed, failure to gain ballot access in Texas could fuel the impression that Nader is "yesterday's news."

Richard Winger of Ballot Access News questioned Nader's strategy, noting that several states had much less stringent requirements than Oregon or Texas. Colorado, for instance, requires only a $500 filing fee and a list of electors who are pledged to him if he wins the state. New Jersey requires a petition with 800 signatures; Tennessee requires 275. Winger was particularly critical of the Oregon fiasco. "He should be picking these off right now so the media doesn't keep mentioning that he has no ballot access yet," Winger said. Winger was particularly critical of Nader's Oregon fiasco. "That was his biggest blunder so far. He should never have called that meeting until he had a list of 1,000 people who could be counted on to show up."

Texas is the only state that permits only registered voters who did not vote in the presidential primary to sign an independent candidate's petition. The state's election law gives an independent candidate for president 60 days to collect signatures equal to one percent of the votes cast in the 2000 presidential election, or 64,076. By the May 10 deadline, Nader had collected only about 50,000 names. His lawsuit against the state of Texas charges that the provision is unconstitutional in three respects:

  1. Texas has the earliest due date of any state, May 10. Forty-six states have deadlines of July, August, September or later. The early due date is not needed to regulate ballot access.
  2. Texas requires Independent candidates to collect 64,076 signatures, nearly 20,000 more valid signatures than Third Party candidates, which must collect 45,540.
  3. Texas requires Independent candidates to collect signatures in 60 days, two weeks less time than Third Party candidates, who have 75 days.

In an official statement, Texas Secretary of State Geoff Connor noted that the ballot requirement had been on the Texas books for 20 years, and that other independent candidates -- including Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996 and Pat Buchanan in 2000 -- had qualified. "Further, the Texas process for independent or minor party candidate ballot access has been upheld by the courts on a number of occasions over the years," he added.

The Party of Perot and ... Buchanan

On May 12, 28 of 37 leaders of the Reform Party voted by conference call to nominate Nader as their presidential candidate. The party's 2000 presidential candidate was arch-conservative Pat Buchanan. Nader spokesman Kevin Zeese cited this as evidence that "Ralph draws from across the political spectrum." As has noted previously, a more likely explanation may be that some members of the Reform Party hope the Nader endorsement will bring renewed attention to the party.

Reform Party candidacy means that Nader could appear on presidential ballots in Colorado, Florida, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana and South Carolina. The states hold a combined total of 53 electoral votes.

In the 2000 election, states with Reform Party ballot lines voted as follows:

  Electoral Votes Bush Gore Nader Other
Colorado 9 50.8% 42.4% 5.3% 1.5%
Florida 27 48.9% 48.8% 1.6% 0.7%
Kansas 6 58.0% 37.2% 3.4% 1.4%
Michigan 17 46.1% 51.3% 2.0% 0.6%
Mississippi 6 57.6% 40.7% 0.8% 0.9%
Montana 3 58.4% 33.4% 6.0% 2.2%
South Carolina 8 56.8% 40.9% 1.5% 0.8%

Ballot Access News's Winger warned that the Reform Party endorsement might not ensure a spot on the ballot in Florida, because of a quirk in Florida election law. Florida requires parties nominating presidential candidates to have a national convention, so the Reform Party's conference call might not qualify.

As to whether to use the Reform Party ballot line, "We'll decide state by state," Nader spokesman Kevin Zeese told the New York Times. "It depends on the local politics of the state and whether in some states we prefer the independent party line."

The nomination appeared to undercut Nader's posturing as a candidate of ideology rather than pragmatism. As we've noted previously at, national Reform Party chair Shawn O'Hara prevailed upon the party to add pro-environment and anti-corporate planks to the platform as he wooed Nader over the past year. Nonetheless, issues statements from the Nader campaign and the Reform Party seem to have little in common. "... [I]t will be important for people to understand that we don't agree on every issue," Texas Reform Party chair Charles Foster told the Dallas Morning News.

  • Budget. A balanced budget is one of the founding principles of the Reform Party. Platform planks ratified in 2002 called for the abolition of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, replacing social service block grants with community aid, and limiting National Endowment for the Arts funding to infrastructure. Nader's issue statement says nothing about balancing the budget, but rather seeks funding for a wide variety of public works projects.
  • Immigration. A 1999 update to the Reform Party platform calls on the federal government to "reduce and control the rate of admission of legal permanent immigrants into the U.S" The Nader issues statement addresses immigration only in the context of opposing the racial profiling of Muslim visitors.
  • Foreign Policy. The Reform Party platform calls for a foreign policy "whose primary purpose is to enhance our country's national security," while Nader calls for "global security, peace, arms control, an end to nuclear weapons," and "major initiatives against global infectious diseases."
  • Social Programs. The 2002 Reform Party platform calls for phasing out the current social security system in favor of private investment accounts. It advocates "market-based reforms" in health care including medical savings accounts. Nader calls for getting "insurance companies out of administering health care" and advocates a single-payer program.

Antiwar or Pro-Bush?

In its "Resolution on the Irag [sic] War" the Reform Party calls on the Bush administration to develop and publicize an exit strategy. Nader has gone somewhat further, calling for withdrawal of US troops, replacing them with UN peacekeepers. In doing so Nader has sought to cast himself as the "antiwar candidate," with mixed success. Republican operative Grover Norquist has taken to referring to Nader as "The peace candidate," but authentic pacifists are not so sure. "There is disagreement within groups now," Jim Haber of the venerable War Resisters League told The Hill. "There's no consensus. Some may support Kerry, but some people won't," he said.

There's evidence that, even within the antiwar movement, Bush's ouster is more important than specific issues. Peace Action PAC, which is the lobbying arm of Peace Action, and whose endorsement would mean something in terms of contributions and support, has not endorsed a candidate. Instead, the group as "disendorsed" Bush. Peace Action claims to have 91,000 members, making it the largest peace organization in the country.

"There's nothing like war to focus the mind," observed UCLA political science professor Matthew Baum. "If it's a close election, people on the left [who are] sufficiently hostile to the Bush administration would support anybody to get rid of Bush....How many of these folks are going to make a protest vote for Nader knowing that it's likely to put Bush back in the White House? Most folks who are Nader's natural constituency are not going to be there for him at the end of the day."

Reform Party

War Resisters League

Peace Action

Anderson, Nick "Nader Won't Be on Ballot in Texas" LA Times 11 May 2004
Miller, Steve "Nader facing ballot-access hurdles" Washington Times 4 May 2004
"Nader Misses Texas Ballot Requirement, Sues" Reuters. 10 May 2004
"Statement from Secretary of State Geoff Connor regarding Independent Presidential candidate Ralph Nader's application for ballot access in Texas:" Press Release. Texas Secretary of State. 10 May 2004.
"Ralph Nader to sue state of Texas for ballot access " The Hill 11 May 2004
Anderson, Nick "Reform Party Endorsement of Nader Could Land Him on Key State Ballots" LA Times 13 May 2004
Nader, Ralph "Withdraw U.S. troops" USA Today 22 Apr. 2004
Govindarajan, Shweta "The doves don't flock to Nader" The Hill 12 May 2004
Jeffers, Gromer Jr. "Getting Nader on ballot no easy task" Dallas Morning News 9 May 2004
Seelye, Katharine Q. "Reform Party Backs Nader, Offering Line on Ballots" New York Times 13 May 2004
Jeffers, Gromer Jr. "Nader has new suitor: Reform Party" Dallas Morning News 13 Mar. 2004


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