AUGUSTA (AP) – Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader was set to appear on Maine’s November ballot after the Secretary of State’s office on Monday certified petitions in support of the consumer advocate.

Election officials certified as authentic 4,128 signatures on petitions submitted by Nader’s supporters, said Doug Dunbar of the Maine Secretary of State’s office. Nader is running in Maine as a candidate of the Better Life Party.

Officials also certified 4,282 signatures on petitions submitted in support of Libertarian Party candidate Michael Badnarik.

Candidates need at least 4,000 valid voter signatures to appear on Maine’s ballot. Campaigners have five days to review or challenge signatures.

As of last week, Nader had qualified for the presidential ballot in fewer than a dozen states.

Running as a Green Independent in Maine four years ago, Nader took 5.7 percent of the vote. Democrat Al Gore carried Maine with 49.1 percent, while George W. Bush took 44 percent. Other minor-party candidates took a total of 1.3 percent.

Democrat John Kerry and the Green Party’s David Cobb already have been cleared for the Maine ballot; President Bush is expected to receive routine certification after the Republican convention ends Sept. 2.

Petitions do not have to be submitted on behalf of candidates representing those three parties, which are officially recognized in Maine.

The Constitution Party is not recognized in Maine, but its nominee Michael Peroutka has been cleared to appear on the ballot because enough signatures of his supporters have been certified, the Secretary of State’s Office said.

Democrats blame Nader for Gore’s loss to Bush four years ago, but Nader says Gore is to blame for the defeat. Hoping to prevent Nader from siphoning votes from Kerry this time around, Democrats have mounted legal challenges in some states to keep Nader off the ballot.

Some Republican groups have tried to help Nader win ballot placements in some states, including New Hampshire, where petitions were turned over to municipal officials for review last week.

In Maine, party affiliation is not a prerequisite for collecting signatures for a candidate, Dunbar said.

AP-ES-08-16-04 2027EDT

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