arrowSection 2.2 - Getting on the Ballot

This topic is monitored by Moritz Law Professor Edward B. Foley

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The Nader Reform Party Irony in Pennsylvania and Michigan

The attempt by the Nader/Camejo campaign to get on the ballot in Pennsylvania for November's presidential election has suffered a major setback. On August 30th, Judge Doris Smith-Ribner of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania released the opinion of a three-judge panel, which ruled that state law prohibits candidates from running simultaneously as both an independent candidate and the nominee of a party. The court looked to the fact Nader and Camejo are running for "the same offices as candidates in Michigan under the Reform Party nomination."

The court wrote that the law of Pennsylvania "must be interpreted in a common sense and rational manner and in such a way as to avoid absurd or unreasonable results." Apparently, the fact that Nader is the Reform candidate in other states and yet filed in Pennsylvania as an independent would be one of these results. In a letter to the presiding judge of the panel, Richard Winger, editor of Ballot Access News, noted that the court's logic would have kept off the ballot Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan in 2000, Ross Perot in 1992, John Anderson in 1980 and George Wallace in 1968. All of these notable third party candidates – and several others, including the current Constitution Party candidate in the state – would have been disqualified.

But what is most striking about the decision is that it several times mentions Michigan specifically as an example of where Nader is the candidate of another party. This must seem confusing to the Nader people who recently heard from U.S. District Court Judge Bernard Friedman of the Eastern District of Michigan that Nader is not the Reform candidate in that state. Part of Judge Friedman's reasoning, in fact, in refusing to make the Michigan Secretary of State recognize Nader is that the Nader campaign also attempted to get him on the ballot in that state as an independent.

This presents a scenario for the Nader campaign that might make Joseph Heller proud: Pennsylvania recognizes Nader as the Michigan Reform candidate and penalizes him for it despite the fact that Michigan refuses to recognize him as their Reform candidate partly because he is seeking the nomination as an independent. From Nader's perspective, it must seem like a Catch-22.