AUSTIN, Texas – Ralph Nader's (search) independent campaign for president is still fighting to get him on the Texas ballot for the November general election.
A federal lawsuit filed by the consumer activist says Texas ballot access laws for independent candidates are unconstitutional. It was set for a hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel on Thursday.
Nader was scheduled to be in Alaska and would not attend, a campaign spokeswoman said.
Nader's campaign tried to get him on the ballot by collecting voter signatures but turned them in two weeks after the state deadline in May.
Texas has one of the earliest deadlines to qualify for the presidential ballot and requires independent candidates to collect about 20,000 more signatures than required for third-party contenders.
Nader was required to collect at least 64,076 signatures by May 10 from registered voters who did not vote in the Democratic or Republican primaries (search). That equals 1 percent of all votes cast for president in the last election in Texas.
In contrast, third-party candidates needed to collect only 45,540 signatures by May 24, the day Nader's campaign turned in its signatures.
Of the 80,000 signatures Nader's campaign filed in May, a random sample by the state showed that between 56,215 and 63,374 were valid.
Those numbers would qualify Nader under the third-party access rules but not as an independent candidate.
"The challenged ballot access laws are an unjustified and unnecessary discrimination," said Nader campaign attorney James C. Linger of Oklahoma City.
The Texas ballot requirements for independent candidates have been in place for 20 years. Secretary of State Geoff Connor has noted that Reform Party candidates Ross Perot (search) in 1992 and 1996 and Pat Buchanan (search) in 2000 managed to get on the Texas ballot as independents.
Nader ran for president in 2000 as a Green Party (search) candidate and won 2.7 percent of the vote nationally. Some Democrats blamed him for pulling enough votes away from Democrat Al Gore to cause him to lose the election to Republican George W. Bush.
Nader got on the ballot in 43 states, including Texas, and the District of Columbia in 2000. He filed eight lawsuits to challenge ballot access rules around the country.
The Nader campaign has accused Democrats of trying to keep him off the ballot in several states this year, fearing he will draw voters away from presumptive Democratic nominee John Kerry.
Mike Lavigne, spokesman for the Texas Democratic Party, said Texas Democrats have not conducted any coordinated effort against Nader.
"We'd prefer not to have him on the ballot," Lavigne said. "A vote for Nader is a vote for Bush."