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Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Nader's Ballot Access Efforts in PA

Posted by Fester

I took some time last week going through signatures on the petitions submitted by Nader's ballot access team. I, along with a bunch of other volunteers, found plenty of errors, and we were wondering if the Democrats would file suit to challenge the petitions. Well they are, and the odds look pretty good to knock Nader off the ballot.

The Post Gazette is reporting that Nader's coordinators submitted, 45,000 signatures, less than the 50,000 which I had thought. The private verification effort believes that only 10,000 signatures are without dispute. Nader needs slightly more than 25,000 signatures in order to qualify, and if 35,000 signatures are in dispute, he needs to win 45% of the disputed signatures in order to qualify. This could take a while, and I think he'll make it by the skin of his teeth because I know that quite a few signatures violate the letter of the law, but were honestly and reasonably signed by people with their full knowledge of their actions. It will depend on the judge if Nader makes it, and if the judge goes for intent and spirit of the law, Nader will be on the ballot in November.

This AP article via the Pittsburgh Tribune Review seems to make the case a slam dunk as it says:

Pittsburgh lawyer Efrem M. Grail, who challenged Nader's petitions on behalf of seven western Pennsylvania voters, said in his filing that more than 30,000 signatures were invalid because the signers were not registered voters.

If that is the case, there is no way for Nader to make the ballot. This would leave roughly 17,000 signatures of registered voters of whom some percentage will have other problems. I am interpreting this story as a little too much good news, and I believe the quote may refer to 30,000 challengable signatures for all causes, including non-registered voters signing their names.

Posted at 03:21 PM in Pennsylvania | Technorati


Whatever you may think of the wisdom of Nader's run (and I'm not voting for him), the efforts to keep him off the ballot are sleazy and anti-democratic. Restrictive ballot access laws serve the interests of the already powerful by making it all the more difficult to challenge them. The disqualification of petition signatures on a myriad of technicalities is nothing more nor less than the effective disenfranchisement of the signatories. These technicalities are written into the law for the same reason that felony disenfranchisement and all the other mechanisms used to rob the poor and the powerless of their political voices are written into the law -- because the law is written by and for the rich and powerful. I understand fully the desire to defeat Bush by whatever means neccesary, but these methods only further ensure that his successor will be just as beholden to the anti-democratic power of the corporate elite as Bush is.

Posted by: Christopher Day at August 10, 2004 04:38 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I agree with Christopher.

Plus, at this point, if anyone plans to vote for Ralph Nader, he's not going to let a little issue like ballot access stop him from writing in Nader's name or voting for a third-party candidate.

In some ways, I actually think it's good that Nader continues to run his campaign. Both he and George Bush have helped to unite Democrats more than ever. If Kerry can't win in this environment, the Democratic Party will have to seriously regroup and come up with a new direction (or just give it up completely).

Posted by: Mark at August 10, 2004 05:45 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

True, the ballot access laws are a sleazy way to keep the political process under control. But, a strong 3rd party like the Libertarians never have trouble getting on nearly all 50 ballots, so it can't be that hard. If there's enough support, you can get on a ballot in America. Nader's support is flagging.

Posted by: Rock_nj at August 10, 2004 06:21 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I have to agree with Christopher. I very badly want Kerry to win, I think Nader is a moron, but it leaves a really bad taste in your mouth to block ballot access like this.

What makes it even more hypocritical is that we have Democrats, who were saying in 2000 that all votes should be counted, who wanted Lautenberg on the ticken in NJ, now trying to block another candidate.

Posted by: erg at August 10, 2004 06:56 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Well, let's face it--both parties have very dirty hands. Politics is very simple--those who have power want to keep it, and those who don't, covet it. It's always been that way.

Posted by: Pepe at August 10, 2004 07:26 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

We could have the ballot access laws debate forever, naturally. I personally am of the opinion that third parties are so weak in this country simply because our elections run on a "winner-take-all" system, rather than proportional representation. Countries which use proportional representation tend to have a multiplicity of parties; countries which use winner-take-all tend to have fewer parties.

So yes, while ballot access laws certainly favor the two big parties in this country, it's really only at the fringes. Even if every state adopted the most permissive possible laws (and some already have), I don't think it would make much of a difference. The only way you will see meaningful third parties in America is if we switch to proportional representation, and I am pretty convinced that that will never happen. (I also don't particularly think it would be a good thing if we did, but that's a different debate.)

Posted by: DavidNYC at August 10, 2004 08:33 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Well, I think everyone has to confront an awkward question: which is more important, to uphold a princple or to win the election?

Normally, I'd go for the principled stance, but I've just lived under 3+ years of George Bush and my country is in the crapper as a result, big time, so there's really only one answer: in this particular instance if the result of the principle is going to lose the election, then practicality must prevail.

Sure, that makes us all whores, so be it -- welcome to the real world, where results matter.

Posted by: Ed Fitzgerald (unfutz) at August 10, 2004 11:43 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I don't think it's principle vs. whorishness. I think it's principle vs. principle. One principle says, let's have wide-open ballots. The other says, let's help the poor and under-privileged by ensuring we defeat George Bush. Right now, the latter principle motivates me far more.

Posted by: DavidNYC at August 11, 2004 12:14 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

If the Pittsburgh folks were as successful as that, Nader's off the ballot. I volunteered in Philadelphia checking Nader's Philadelphia petition sheets. I understand that about 60% of Nader's petitions were from Philly, and we seemed to be getting 80-100% challengeable rates on the sheets that we had time to check against the voter registration database (which might have been all of them). Of the ones we just did a visual scan on, we could probably challenge about half the signatures. There were many, many obvious flaws (including some whole petition sheets that seemed to have been filled out by a few guys sitting around with a phone book at the homeless shelter), which is what you get when you offer beggars $.75-1/signature. So if there is a glut of challenged ballots in Western Pennsylvania, we're in a great position.

Posted by: Ben Schak at August 11, 2004 12:40 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Also, you can talk about the spirit and intent of the law all you want, but Pennsylvania court precedent makes it easy to challenge a signature on some pretty minor technical grounds, and it's not uncommon for Pennsylvania politicians to be kicked off the ballot.

Posted by: Ben Schak at August 11, 2004 12:43 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

This is a depressing thread because there is an undemocratic undercurrent running through it. I wish we had more than a two party system--the way it is, the Dems and the GOP don't have to work enough to earn our votes, nor do they speak to their entire "base." I think our democracy would be much more vibrant f we had three viable parties. As it is now, the Dems and GOP have nearly all of us in their respective pockets, which is never a good thing. We have an overwhelming degree of choice on just about everything else in this country (cereal, soda, shampoo, deodorant. . .you name it!) why only have two political parties? I am sure it's because the GOP and the Dems like it that way--why would they want to give up any of their power, after all?

Posted by: Pepe at August 11, 2004 01:13 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

why only have two political parties?

There are two political parties because systemic pressures engendered by the way our government was organized at the beginning made it that way.

In a parliamentary-type system, small parties can survive by being available to be vitally needed coaltion partners when bigger parties fail to take a majority of seats in the legislature, but we have nothing similar to that here, no safe harbor where small parties can go until they have a chance to grow. Here, third parties can eke out an existence, or can occasionally become important for a single election cycle, but they cannot get into the big time on a full time basis unless one of the big parties implodes and leaves room for it.

The necessity for a candidate for President to get a majority of the electoral college requires broad support across all areas of the country, and that means that the pressure is on parties to be (effectively) internally constructed coaltions of what in other countries would be completely seperate parties, since that's the only real way to appeal to enough people in regions (or circumstances) with somewhat different needs and outlooks.

Since that's the case, both parties have to cover a lot of ideological ground, which naturally leads to only two major parties at any one time, a center-left party and a center-right party.

(I suppose it would be possible to have three parties, a right-wing party, a centrist party, and a left-wing party, but only if there were as many on the right or left as there are in the center, and I don't think that's going to ever be the case, given a normal bell-curve distribution of ideologies.)

The argument could be made that drifting too far to the left in the late 60's or early 70's alienated enough of the Democratic coalition to fracture it, which allowed the Republicans to refashion their (at that point fairly weak)coalition, and to keep it together while moving to the right and (effectively) redefining where the center was. I think with Bush we are seeing the historical zenith of that rightward movement, and something similar to what happened to the Democrats is likely to happen to them as well -- they're going to lose their appeal for moderate centrists, and the coalition will fracture and need to be drastically refashioned.

When that happens, the Democrats had better be careful, because the tendency is going to be to move leftward again as they see less need to cater to their centrist element. I think there is a way (a "third way" -- or, maybe, considering the failure of the DLC's method of operation, a "fourth way") of staying true to progressive and liberal ideals without introducing so much of a leftist element that centrists are alienated.

In any case, I don't think it's accidental that we have two parties, or that the thirst to retain power on the part of those parties is the only, or even the primary, reason for our having only two major parties (although I'm sure the latter is true as well).

Posted by: Ed Fitzgerald (unfutz) at August 11, 2004 04:04 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

One principle says, let's have wide-open ballots. The other says, let's help the poor and under-privileged by ensuring we defeat George Bush. Right now, the latter principle motivates me far more.

There's that, of course -- but, then, you've basically got the problem of the "just war." If a war is just, what are you allowed to do in fighting it? How far can you go, and what activities which, in peacetime, would normally be considered to be egregious crimes, are morally justifiable in the context of fighting a just war?

Same thing here, although writ small. Upholding a principle is ethically demanded of us, yet we let that standard down in the service of a higher principle. (And I agree with you that that can indeed be argued to be the case.) How far does that go, then? What are we allowed to do in order to suppress Nader, knowing that to a first approximation, 2 out of every 3 Nader votes are coming from Kerry (and, what makes it worse, the 3rd one isn't coming from Bush)?

So, you've just pushed the question back to another order, and a different principle.

My take is clear, I think. As I wrote elsewhere tonight,

There are two, and only two, possible futures that lie in front of us. In one, George W. Bush continues as the resident of the Oval Office, in control of the Executive Branch of the richest, most powerful and influential country on the face of the earth. In the other, he doesn't. There are no other alternatives, and if that sticks in anyone's craw, well it's just too bad -- get over it, and fast, because from here on out, everyone in this country who doesn't want the first option had better be doing everything possible to bring about the second option, and that means helping John Kerry and doing nothing whatsoever to assist George Bush.

That's not quite a principled stance, but it is a clear operational directive, one that Nader has certainly fallen afoul off, and because of which all of these efforts to keep him off the ballot are, in my view, perfectly justifiable.

Posted by: Ed Fitzgerald (unfutz) at August 11, 2004 04:18 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I would argue that its undemocratic to rescind your say in the final two horse race in order to vote for your preferred candidate.

In other words, plurality voting sucks.

Posted by: anon at August 11, 2004 06:44 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

It was suggested that the Democrat's majority fractured because they went "too far to the left" in the 60s and 70s. What really happened was that they committed the crime of extending the franchise to Black people and they have been paying for it ever since. LBJ understood that by pushing through the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts he was ensuring that the Republicans would grab the (racist) white vote in the South (and elsewhere). This is exactly what happened. Of course along the way the culture changed so that out and out racism was less tolerated. So the White Citizens Councils morphed into outfits like the Christian Coalition. The only way to beat this logic is to dramatically increase electoral participation by Black folks and other people of color -- which requires a political program unacceptable to the corporate elite who dominate the Democrats. Proportional representation would be great, but we have to also address the fundamental question of racial inequality that gave rise to our winner take all system in the first place.

Posted by: Christopher Day at August 11, 2004 09:02 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

It was suggested that the Democrat's majority fractured because they went "too far to the left" in the 60s and 70s. What really happened was that they committed the crime of extending the franchise to Black people and they have been paying for it ever since.

OK, sure, the Democrats were vulnerable in the South to Nixon's Southern strategy after the passage of civil rights legislation and the revolt of the Dixiecrats, but the party didn't fall apart then, did it? It fell apart only after McCarthy, McGovern, the '68 convention and the rise of the anti-war movement had all happened. These events had the effect of moving the party to the left and this, combined with the alienation of the white southern vote, left the party vulnerable to attack from the right, which the Republicans took advantage of.

It's also worth noting that passage of major civil rights legislation by Johnson would not have been possible if a significant portion of the Republican party hadn't supported it. It was the Southern wing of the *Democratic* party that adamantly opposed it, so to somehow give the credit to Democratic party alone is pretty ahistorical, in my opinion.

Posted by: Ed Fitzgerald (unfutz) at August 11, 2004 09:45 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I worry about the way the Democrats have coddled such blatantly anti-Semitic leaders of the African-American community like Sharpton and Jackson. Both have made hateful, racist comments about the Jews and about Israel. It's no wonder our party has lost the respect of Israel and Israeli Jews. Party Democrats are willing to tolerate this kind of hatred because they don't want to offend any of the African-American community--a community they have almost entirely in their pocket. This is an example of how our two-party system cannot possibly be all things to all of its members. Many American Jews are Democrats, but many of us aren't comfortable being in the same party that also embraces men like Sharpton and Jackson. I, like many Democrats, realize that the Democratic party is not anti-Semitic (though many Israelis disagree with me on this), yet our two-party system makes for many strange bed fellows on both sides of the fence. I am sure you all know who our friends in Israel are pulling for in this election.

Posted by: Pepe at August 11, 2004 10:06 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

These two posts reveal the other fundamental problem with viewing the Democratic Party as the voice of the poor and the powerless: its commitment to a foreign policy of U.S. global domination.

The revolt against the war in Viet Nam among the rank and file of the Democratic Party reflected the views of the majority of the American people in the face of two parties hell-bent on pursuing an vicious unwinnable imperial war. The ascendancy of genuine anti-war forces in the Democratic Party was quite short-lived and really corresponded with the recognition among a significant section of the corporate elite that the war was a dead-end. Blaming the anti-war movement for the subsequent decline of the Dems is common wisdom but that doesn't make it true.

John Kerry's proclaimed commitment to "stay the course" in Iraq is not an electoral feint, but rather a reflection of the the interests he really represents. Its going to take another massive anti-war movement to force Kerry to recognize that Iraq is also a dead-end.

Calling Sharpton and Jackson "blatantly anti-Semitic" is a combination of hyperbole and guilt by association (as both have to contend with the real authority of Farrakhan in the Black community). They are almost certainly no more or less so than your average white Christian of either party. Their rare tepid criticisms of Israel hardly justify this characterization. The real problem with them is that they are so beholden to a party apparatus that is basically contemptuous of the interests of their communities. I trust that everybody here was struck by the scene in Fahrenheit 911 where the all-white Democratic Senatorial caucus (including John Kerry) refused to consider the protests of one Black congressperson after another over the massive disenfranchisement of Black voters the resulted in the "election" of George W. Bush. No other single moment so starkly revealed where teh real loyalties of the leadership of the Democratic Party lies. Al Sharpton's convention speech about the loyal service of the Democratic Party to the interests of the Black community didn't mention THAT.

Finally, I'd like to object to the suggestion that opposition to the state of Israel is tantamount to anti-Semitism. And the fact that most Israelis are probably pulling for Bush in this election has precious little to do with Al Sharpton and everything to do with the disastrous pro-Israeli foreign policy pursued by Bush. In any event anybody who is "pulling for Bush" isn't MY friends.

Please don't get me wrong. Vote for Kerry, but do so without illusions.

Posted by: Christopher Day at August 11, 2004 12:19 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I agree, opposition to support for Israel is not the same as anti-semitism. There are many reasons why we need to reconsider our support for Israel, at least until they get their house in order with the Palestinians. One of the main reasons we were attacked on 9/11/01 was because we supported Israel for all these years. For our own internal security purposes, and for world peace, we should try to put pressure on Israel to settle their differences with the Palestinians, possibly by withholding some of our support. It would be good for Israel in the long run as well, as they could start living in peaceful co-existence, and would lessen the threat of terrorism. So, I don't see how opposing support for Israel is particularily anti-semetic if Israel and the U.S. would benefit in the long run.

Posted by: Rock_nj at August 11, 2004 01:00 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Cry me a river, Ralph.

The Nader campaign has clearly been cutting corners to get on the ballot. If their Pennsylvania effort is as half-assed as their Arizona effort was, they won't deserve to get on the ballot.

These ballot access laws exist for a reason. Me and 12 friends could spend a weekend signing petitions to put me on the ballot. Denying me a spot on the ballot on the basis of fraudulent petitions would hardly be an anti-democratic act.

In Arizona, the Nader folks used felons to gather petitions, in violation of state law. In PA it seems they paid homeless people to submit petitions - a group that destitute would have a clear incentive to commit fraud. Nader mostly has himself to blame for rejecting the Green Party and then trying to boss them into endorsing him (and trying to hijack their CA branch). If his campaign turns in valid, complete petitions, they won't have any trouble making the ballot. If they go about it in a half-assed way, they can count on no end of challenges. It seems they have neither the resources nor the strategic wisdom to do the former, so count on a lot of the latter.

Posted by: Tom at August 11, 2004 01:09 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Not Pennsy, but:

Latest MI poll: Wolverine howls for Kerry intensify

Posted by: joseph at August 11, 2004 01:36 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Calling Sharpton and Jackson "blatantly anti-Semitic" is a combination of hyperbole and guilt by association (as both have to contend with the real authority of Farrakhan in the Black community).

Uh, excuse me, does that then justify Rev. Jackson publicly referring to NYC as "Hymie Town?" Is that less offensive to you than if someone referred to Detroit as "N***** Town?" I think not! Such racism and hatred have no place in any party, and certainly not in our Democratic Party. I have always found it deeply disturbing that the Democratic Party puts up with this kind of behavior in order to keep African American votes completely in their pockets. I realize the party itself is not anti-Semitic, but do we want people who deep down don't like Jews (or African Americans, or gays, or. . . .) to be embraced by our party? I get sick to my stomach when I see how the Democrats fall all over themselves to be seen embracing and being near Jackson and Sharpton.

Posted by: Pepe at August 11, 2004 02:23 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

We got the point, Pepe. Chill out.

Posted by: Mark at August 11, 2004 03:49 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I try to be careful about speculating about the contents of peoples hearts and look at their actions instead. This is a bigoted society and most of us have been tainted by it in some way and sometimes that comes out in casual comments. That doesn't excuse the Hymietown comment that Jackson made in 1988, which I expected would be the solitary piece of evidence offered that he was "a blatant anti-Semite." But it doesn't add up to any sort of persistent pattern either. And for what its worth Jackson apologized. People often grow and change and learn from stupid and mean things they do, a fact recognized by African-American voters who helped re-elect George Wallace in the 1970s. If you can document a real continuing pattern of anti-Semitism on the part of Jackson or Sharpton, please do so. Otherwise those sorts of accusations serve no other purpose than picking at scabs.

Lets also be real. The Democratic Party, like any big organization of this sort, is full of people who harbor petty hatreds of one sort or another. Its full of white people who are scared of black people. Its full of homophobes and sexists. Its full of some Jews who hate Arabs and some Arabs who hate Jews. And unless the offennses are blatant and egregious and the perpetrators are unapologetic it would be stupid to kick all those people out -- there wouldn't be much left. Of far greater concern to me is the party's fawning loyalty to its corporate sponsors and its inability to straightforwardly oppose the criminal war being waged in Iraq.

Finally, while any ethnic or religious slur should be condemned, I hope you will acknowledge that the n-word occupies a unique place in the American lexicon, so yes I do find the use of the word Hymie LESS offensive if you want to get into that kind of vulgar calculus.

Posted by: Christopher Day at August 11, 2004 04:59 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Mark, Pepe's chilled!

I'm embarrassed though by all my repetitive posts. I was having trouble sending my response, and I didn't think I was successful in getting any of them to go through. I was mortified to discover that all my attempts were successful in the end!

A timely piece of news I just stumbled across: only 18% of Israelis want Kerry to win in November. According to a recent poll in Israel, 49% want Bush to win another four years. This poll reflects the feelings of my friends in Israel, most of whom have deep reservations about Kerry.

Perhaps it's not widely known here in the USA, but most Israelis feel that France is anti-Israel and pro-Palestine. There has been a great deal of friction between France and Israel for some time now. Israelis fear that the Democrats will embrace countries sympathetic to the Arab world, like France, and that this will weaken or even undermine the special relationship between our country and Israel.

The world is a mighty complicated place these days, isn't it?

Posted by: Pepe at August 11, 2004 05:04 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

FOLKS: Let's try to keep things on topic. This blog is about swing state election politics, not policy. While I enjoy a good historical discussion, and I don't want to act as a censor, I also know an inflammatory topic when I see one.

I'd like the fights on this blog to be about things like whether North Carolina is a swing state, not about what direction US foreign policy should take. So let's try to stick with swing states and avoid the obvious flame wars.

Posted by: DavidNYC at August 11, 2004 08:03 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

ANYONE who wants to keep someone from having more choices during an election is NOT AMERICAN IN THEIR IDEALS. PERIOD. The irony is that the majority of those against third party candidates like Nader call themselves "Democrats." Go figure . . .

Posted by: Stephen at October 14, 2004 12:28 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I think in the longer term the real and practical solution is to have instant run-off voting built into the ballots nationwide. That would be fair all around and wouldn't have the risk of in effect supporting the candidate you most oppose (like voting for Nader would this time). I don't think that would be too complicated or confusing if properly designed with the right technology. Many elections do not offer the dramatic choice that this one does. I would never consider voting 3rd party in an election this close or this important, but would in some elections if I knew my vote could go to my second choice. (Besides a Green or NLP representative in Congress for example, would functionally be a Democrat most of the time).

Posted by: oddofme at October 14, 2004 04:29 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

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Posted by: logos at November 3, 2004 01:11 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment