Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Nader v. Blackwell

Ralph Nader on Wednesday won a battle but lost a war, or maybe it's vice versa, when the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected his effort to sue former Ohio secretary of state Kenneth Blackwell. The case arose out of Nader's frustrated efforts to secure a place on the 2004 ballot, an effort blocked when he couldn't produce 5,000 valid signatures. Nader challenged Blackwell, personally, over enforcement of the Ohio law that requires petition-circulators to reside and be registered to vote in Ohio.

It's an intriguing opinion, packed with anecdotes about oddball behavior by Nader's petition-circulators, including the saga of Ronald Waller. Mr. Waller submitted 366 signatures on Nader's behalf, but the court noted that "Waller’s mother swore in an affidavit that he had not lived at the given address since March 2004. One individual whose name was on the petition swore that he signed a petition circulated by a white man and a white woman. Waller is a black man."

The appellate panel, moreover, determined Blackwell enjoys some of that sweet, sweet sovereign immunity that protects him Nader's lawsuit. For Blackwell, that may be the bottom line. Bye bye, lawsuit.

But then, in what may prove to be the longer-lasting part of the ruling,, the three-member appellate panel also concluded that Ohio's ban on out-of-state petition circulators violated the First Amendment. Saeth the court:
it is undisputable that Blackwell’s conduct sharply limited Nader’s ability to convey his message to Ohio voters and thereby curtailed Nader’s core political speech..

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