Monday, October 18, 2004
Ninth Circuit Panel Declines to Order Nader Onto Arizona Ballot
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer/Appellate Courts
A federal district judge in Arizona did not abuse his discretion in denying a preliminary injunction that would have placed Ralph Nader on the state’s presidential ballot, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday.
With the election three weeks away, the appellate panel—Senior Judge A. Wallace Tashima and Judges Andrew Kleinfeld and Ronald Gould—sided with officials who said the hardships of placing Nader on the ballot would outweigh any potential violation of the constitutional rights of the candidate and his supporters.
U.S. District Judge Frederick J. Martone had previously ruled that Nader was unlikely to prevail in his challenge to various aspects of the state election laws, and that even if he could show such a likelihood, a balance-of-harms analysis favored the state.
In their suit filed in August, Nader, running mate Peter Camejo, and two Arizonans contended that the state’s July 9 filing deadline for third parties—one of the earliest in the nation, and weeks before the major parties held their national conventions—as well as requirements that petitions be circulated by registered Arizona voters.
They asked that the court either order Nader on to the ballot or allow him more time to collect signatures.
The Nader-Camejo campaign turned in more than 15,000 signatures—state law requires that 14,469 valid signatures be obtained—but a number of signatures were found invalid by election officials or challenged by Democrats hoping to keep him off the ballot, and a Superior Court judge in Phoenix ruled in a suit brought by the state Democratic Party that Nader could not qualify.
Democrats said they were prepared to challenge thousands more signatures if the ruling had gone the other way.
The panel yesterday noted that Arizona’s early voting had begun on Sept. 30. It cited last year’s ruling allowing the California gubernatorial recall to go forward, contrary to the decision of a three-judge panel that expressed fears that problems with punch-card ballots would disenfranchise voters in some counties.
Tashima, Kleinfeld and Gould were all on the limited en banc court in Southwest Voter Registration Education Project v. Shelley (9th Cir. 2003) 344 F.3d 914, which said judicial intervention after voting has begun was “unprecedented.”
In affirming Martone’s decision, the panel Friday never reached the merits of the constitutional challenge.
“We need not decide whether the district court was correct on the probability of success on the merits,” the judges said. “Regardless of Appellants’ probability of success on the merits, Appellants’ delay in bringing this action and the balance of hardships in favor of the Appellees were so great that the district court did not abuse its discretion in deciding that the Appellants are not entitled to relief.”
An attorney for Nader, Robert Barnes, told the Associated Press that the campaign was unlikely to seek Supreme Court review of Friday’s decision. The high court had previously declined to review a ruling of Oregon’s highest court blocking Nader from that state’s ballot based on what the secretary of state there found to be irregularities in the candidate’s petitions.
The ruling leaves open the possibility that Nader could win on the constitutional issues if he pursues the case in the district court after the election.
The case is Nader v. Brewer, 04-16880.
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company