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Ralph Nader Denied at Supreme Court

Perennial presidential candidate Ralph Nader has lost once again. This time the consumer advocate and political rabble-rouser failed to muster enough votes from the Supreme Court to pursue his case that Hawaii's ballot access law is unconstitutional.

Voters haven't given Nader's quixotic presidential pursuits much notice over the years--he's run five times-- though some Democrats still blame him for diverting votes in Florida away from Al Gore in 2000.

The appeal turned away by the justices Monday stemmed from Nader's 2004 candidacy and his inability to get on Hawaii's ballot. Nader argued that state laws unfairly make it more difficult for independent candidates to access the ballot that the nominees of small parties.

Nader and another independent candidate each submitted thousands of signatures in accordance with Hawaii's ballot requirements. But state officials determined there weren't enough valid signatures and kept each man off the ballot.

"The regulation of ballot access involves fundamental First Amendment rights," Nader's lawyer Robert Bernhoft argued to the high court. Nader's objection rests not with the state's rejection of the bogus signatures but with the different standards Hawaii uses for independent candidates to make the ballot against those required for minor party standard-bearers.

In 2004, Hawaii's ballot access laws required independent candidates to submit 3,711 valid signatures by early September to find a spot on the ballot. Small party candidates only needed a fraction of that amount by April 1 to gain access.

Nader argued that the later deadline for independents did not provide adequate relief from the higher burden of five times the number of signatures for making the November ballot.

Hawaii Office of Elections lawyer Aaron Schulaner defended the state laws and said the additional five months was more than enough time for independent candidates to collect signatures. He also noted the difficult task of forming a political party and securing the nomination of that party as justification for the difference in requirements.

"As a result of these offsets, the overall burden upon independent candidates, such as [Nader] is not any greater than the burden upon new party candidates," Schulaner told the court. "Indeed, as a result of these offsets, the burden upon independents is arguably less onerous than the burden on political parties."

The justices did not explain why they turned the case away. Nader hasn't ruled out another presidential run in 2012.

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