arrowSection 2.2 - Getting on the Ballot

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

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Nader on the Ballot in Maine

Ralph Nader and Peter Camejo will be on the presidential ballot in Maine, a unanimous supreme court of that state ruled on October 8th. On Friday afternoon, barely 48 hours after hearing arguments on the appeal, the court upheld a lower court decision that had in turn validated the decision of the secretary of state.

The person behind the appeal, Maine Democratic Party Chairwoman Dorothy Melanson, had claimed that some of the 4,128 certified signatures in favor of a Nader candidacy were improper for several reasons. One contention was that the petition did not comply with a statutory requirement. The statute requires the municipal registrar or clerk to certify, on the petition and not a separate form, that the person seeking nomination as an independent candidate had timely severed affiliation with any political party. The secretary of state had concluded that Nader electors’ use of separate forms entitled "Non-Party Presidential Elector Consent and Certification of Unenrollment" as part of the petition – though not exactly proper – was consistent with the statutory requirement.

The court found that the proper statutes were ambiguous enough on the challenged issues that the secretary of state was well within the bounds of a proper decision: In carrying out the mandate of the statute, the “Secretary of State may establish the form and content of all forms, lists, documents and records required by or necessary to the efficient operation of this Title. Allowing the unenrollment certification forms and the circulating petition forms to be collectively considered ‘the petition’ certainly supports the efficient operation of the nomination process.”

Ultimately the court found that, if there were to be an error of interpretation of the relevant statutes, that error should be on the side of giving more choice to the voters. “The acceptance of the petition comports with the fundamental principle, grounded in the United States Constitution, that " '[n]o right is more precious in a free country than that of having a voice in the election of those who make the laws under which, as good citizens, we must live.'”