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Lawyers from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh spent vacation days and weekend hours last week poring over scribbled signatures on petitions and leading the charge to block Ralph Nader’s name from appearing on the ballot in this fall’s presidential election. On behalf of eight registered voters, the attorneys filed a formal “objection” Monday in Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg, Pa., to petitions that the campaign turned over to the state, alleging that about 85 percent of the signatures were defective or fraudulently obtained. On the same day in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, a Philadelphia attorney filed a potential class action lawsuit on behalf of workers hired by the Nader campaign to circulate the petitions and who claim they weren’t paid what they were promised. The campaign has declined to identify the lawyer it hired to defend these legal actions. One of the attorneys involved in the ballot objection, Brian A. Gordon, said it isn’t illegal to pay people to collect signatures for the petitions, but when you offer to pay them based on how many voters’ names they are able to gather, “you’re giving people an incentive to lie.” Lying, or forgery, was one of the misdeeds that Gordon and other volunteers — law students, grandmothers and often Democrats — searched for as they went line-by-line over 47,000 signatures the campaign submitted Aug. 2 in its quest to have Nader and his running mate, Peter Miguel Camejo, listed on the November ballot as Independent candidates for president and vice president. The objection asserts that the petitions contain patterns of forgery and incomplete data. It accuses petition circulators of making up voters’ names and addresses, listing them multiple times, or signing names in “round-robin” style with individuals entering a name on every 10 lines for entire petitions. Kevin Zeese, spokesman for the Nader campaign, said he has doubts about the challenges brought by the Pennsylvania voters. “The Democrats went into this thing looking for errors,” Zeese said. “They said they would find some, so it’s not surprising.” Zeese said campaign workers looked over a lot of the signatures and removed at least 10,000 they suspected were forged or defective before turning the petitions in to the state. “It’s all a part of the attack on Nader’s integrity,” he said of the challenges. Nader and Camejo are already on the ballot in Nevada and New Jersey and plan to be on the ballot in more than 40 states come November, Zeese said. The 125-page objection claims to identify signatures from people whose voter registrations have expired and includes affidavits from people who claim they were misled into signing the petition. One voter reports she was told that signing the petition would “confirm your voter registration.” Nader needed at least 25,697 valid signatures of registered Pennsylvania voters to qualify for ballot placement. His campaign turned in more than 47,000. The state election code requires an Independent political candidate seeking ballot placement to obtain a certain number of registered voters to sign a petition and list his or her name, address and the date, explained Gregory M. Harvey, an election law attorney at Montgomery, McCracken, Walker & Rhoads who represents the Philadelphia voters with Gordon. So if a campaign worker or petition circulator completed the line for the voter — even to fill in the date — that line on the petition is defective, Harvey said. “No one else can correct or add to that information,” he said. The number of signatures required for ballot placement equals at least 2 percent of the largest entire vote cast for any elected candidate in the last statewide election, which was in November, Harvey said. That distinction goes to Max Baer, now a justice on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, who received the largest number of votes in November — 1,284,864. Two percent of 1,284,864 is about 25,697 voters. The Philadelphia and Pittsburgh lawyers and volunteers worked from different voter registry lists. Gordon and Harvey focused on the petitions filed in Philadelphia, where they compared signatures on the petitions to voters’ signatures that are on file at the city Board of Elections. Those voter records were updated at the end of July. The Pittsburgh volunteers worked from slightly older lists of county voter registries that were accurate as of the April primary, said Efrem Grail, a white-collar criminal defense attorney at Reed Smith in Pittsburgh who worked with two other Reed Smith attorneys to coordinate the investigation of petitions generated outside of Philadelphia. There are 30,000 challenges generated by the Pittsburgh project on the lack of voter registration alone. “We know as a matter of provable fact that our challenges on a basis of voter registration are right,” said Grail, who is representing the non-Philadelphia voters in the objection with Daniel I. Booker and Cynthia E. Kernick, also of Reed Smith’s Pittsburgh office. “The only ones we’re going to be wrong on is when we made a typographical error in putting it into our database, or when we misread handwriting.” Grail estimated the project’s error rate to be between 3 percent and 8 percent. The volunteers “had some logistic support” from the state House Democratic campaign committee, but “by and large the volunteers were here because they were motivated by their beliefs,” Grail said. “They were offended by the improprieties of the Nader campaign in getting the petitions signed.” The voters who filed the objection have the burden of proving the bases for the objection, Harvey said. “We will have handwriting and other experts in court,” he said. Harvey predicted a Commonwealth Court judge would rule on the matter before the end of the month. An employee at the court clerk’s office said Tuesday that the objection has not yet been assigned to a judge. “This isn’t about people not liking Ralph Nader,” said Gordon, who insisted that he supports an individual’s right to run for office. “It’s about keeping George W. Bush out of the presidency.” WORKERS DEMAND PAY Louis Agre, a solo practitioner, is representing Ralph Dade in Dade v. Nader for President with another Philadelphia lawyer, Thomas Martin. Dade claims he is owed more than $200 for work he did collecting signatures for the Nader campaign over three days last month, according to his complaint. Petition circulators were promised 75 cents a signature for up to 100 signatures and then $1 for each signature over 100, Agre said. “These are poor people who need to be paid,” Agre said. “Ralph Nader of all people should pay working people their hard-earned money.”

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