The Daily Northwestern
Ralph Nader’s presidential campaign will battle in Pennsylvania’s courts today to keep its candidate on the swing state’s ballot — a feat made more difficult by the work of a Northwestern student.
Weinberg junior Lauren Lowenstein organized more than 100 volunteers in Pittsburgh this summer to sort through about 50,000 signatures collected, verify the signees correctly filled in the petition and enter their information into a database.
Lowenstein worked for Reed Smith, the law firm leading the effort to remove Nader from the election ballot. She helped design a computer program for the firm that cross-referenced the signees names with a database of Pennsylvania’s registered voters because only those registered to vote can count toward the required number on the petition to nominate the candidate.
This database will help the lawyers manage and understand the data as they challenge the petitions line by line to prove Nader does not have the required 25,697 signatures to secure a place on the ballot, said Dan Booker, a partner at Reed Smith.
Booker said his law firm and volunteers found that nearly 35,000 signatures were invalid.
“The number of forged signatures was pretty nauseating,” Lowenstein said. “As soon as I was in Harrisburg and saw the first batch (of petitions), there was no question I was going to go through it.”
The lawyers planned to first strike signatures of unregistered voters before they move on to proving forgeries on the petition.
Nader was removed from the ballot by the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court in August because of a legal technicality with the candidate’s party affiliation — he couldn’t claim to be an Independent if he were running on the Reform Party ticket in other states. After the state’s Supreme Court granted Nader an appeal last Monday — putting him back on the ballot — Reed Smith decided to challenge Nader’s nomination line by line.
Lowenstein said she was ecstatic when Nader was removed from the ballot. But she was a bit disappointed when it wasn’t due to the 16 hours worth of work she did every day for three weeks straight.
“When the first judgement came through, the people that worked on the system and the review itself were disappointed that the overwhelming evidence we compiled wasn’t going to even be looked at,” Lowenstein said.
She said she is proud that all her effort will be put to good use this week as Reed Smith, because she is confident Nader will be removed permanently from the ballot.
But Nader spokesman Kevin Zeese said Reed Smith is doing nothing but undermining Nader’s integrity.
Zeese said Nader already admitted nearly 7,000 signatures were forged. He said the rest of the signatures are valid, and these proceedings are an undemocratic attempt by the Democrats to waste the campaign’s limited resources.
The attorney who was to represent Nader in the Pennsylvania proceedings quit Thursday because he said the presidential candidate couldn’t pay his wages. Including the proceedings in Pennsylvania, Zeese said Nader is involved in litigation in 15 states across the country — fighting to get back on the ballot in eight states and fighting to not get removed in seven states.
Nader is not currently on the ballot in Illinois for the November election, after the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago overturned his appeal Wednesday, the Chicago Tribune reported
Zeese said he anticipates Nader will be on the ballot of 40 states by election day.
Reach Jordana Mishory at [email protected]
INFOBOX: Nader nomination petitions being called into question in Pennsylvania
The presidential candidate needs 25,697 valid signatures to be on the election ballot in November
Reed Smith, a Pittsburgh law firm working to remove Nader from the ballot, is going to try striking signatures from the petition line by line. Partners at the firm claimed many signatures didn’t belong to registered voters, and others, like on the right, were forged.
The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled on Aug. 30 that Nader could not be on the election ballot because he filed as an Independent even though he was running on the Reform Party ticket in other states. The state’s Supreme Court overturned this decision last Monday.