WASHINGTON — Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader on Monday failed to qualify for the November ballot in Texas, but he immediately filed a lawsuit against the state, challenging its petition requirements.
Unless the federal courts rule in his favor, Nader apparently will not appear on the ballot in the nation's second-largest state.
His Texas bid is probably more important for its symbolism than any practical political effect; Texas is President Bush's home state, and he should carry it easily. Still, the ballot setback was Nader's second in recent weeks and raised questions about the depth of his grass-roots support.
In early April, he failed to get on the ballot in Oregon through an expedited process. He has said he will try again to qualify there through other means.
Nader, whose campaign is stressing his opposition to the war in Iraq, has yet to gain a ballot spot in any state. But access rules vary widely; for instance, some states require only a minimal fee to qualify.
Nader said he had collected more than 50,000 signatures in his Texas drive — a total not yet verified by state authorities. That was short of the roughly 64,000 valid signatures needed to place his name on the ballot as an independent.
Under state law, candidates for third parties — such as the Green Party — are only required to submit a little more than 45,500 signatures to obtain a ballot line. Such parties are also given 15 more days than independents to gather the signatures.
Nader alleged in his lawsuit that the differing standards amounted to discrimination against independent candidates.
"Democracy is under assault in Texas," Nader said. Texas Secretary of State Geoffrey S. Connor said the state's ballot-access laws had been "upheld by the courts on a number of occasions over the years."
Nader was the Green Part nominee in 2000 and qualified for the ballot in 43 states, including Texas, as well as the District of Columbia. He drew 2.7% of the popular vote and was blamed by many Democrats for tipping the electoral votes of Florida and New Hampshire, and thus the White House, to Bush.
Democrats are worried that Nader this year could spoil the chances of their presumptive nominee, Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts.
© Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times