AUGUSTA – Democrats resumed their efforts Wednesday to find flaws in petitions supporting independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader’s appearance on Maine’s Nov. 2 ballot.

But no decision was expected before Thursday on whether the party would formally challenge the petitions, Maine Democratic Chairwoman Dottie Melanson said.

About 10 representatives of the state Democratic Party focused their review on municipalities where voters who signed in support of Nader live, looking for duplicate signatures and other improprieties that might invalidate some of the names, Melanson said.

On Monday, the secretary of state’s office certified 4,128 voters’ signatures for Nader, 128 more than he needed to get on the ballot. Election officials’ certification opened a five-day window for challenging those petitions.

“If he’s followed the rules and these signatures are great, of course he’s on the ballot,” Melanson said. “We just want to make sure that every I is dotted and every T is crossed.”

Melanson said similar reviews are going on in other states, notably Oregon, where union supporters of Democratic nominee John Kerry said their analysis of signatures suggest that two-thirds are invalid. Nader supporters had set out to collect 15,000 signatures to get the consumer advocate’s name on Oregon’s ballot.

Democrats see Nader as a potential spoiler in this fall’s presidential election. Running as a Green Independent in Maine four years ago, Nader took nearly 6 percent of the vote. Democrat Al Gore carried the state with 49 percent, while George W. Bush took 44 percent.

Melanson said the Democrats have found instances in which Republican activists have aided the Nader petition effort, although nothing in state law bars a member of any party from assisting in the petition-gathering efforts of a member of a different party.

A Web site devoted to thwarting Nader’s presidential drive, www.stopnader.com, cited published reports that say Nader’s campaign has received $50,000 from donors who have also given to President Bush’s re-election campaign.

It also says Republicans and conservative groups in other so-called battleground states, including Oregon, Florida, Wisconsin and Michigan, are assisting in efforts to get Nader on those states’ November ballots.

A Maine GOP official said his party has done nothing to support Nader’s ballot efforts in the state.

“Contrary to Democrats’ charges, the Maine Republican Party has not been involved in the collection of signatures (for Nader) or assisting in the effort,” said Dwayne Bickford, executive director of the Maine GOP.

Maine’s ballot, meanwhile, is shaping up as a multiple-choice question for voters.

Nader’s eligibility may face a review, but the names of Kerry and Green Independent nominee David Cobb are due to appear on the ballot. Bush’s name will also be on the ballot, but a filing on his behalf can’t be made until after the Republican convention ends in two weeks.

A sufficient number of petitions also have been submitted to secure positions on the ballot for the Constitution Party’s Michael Peroutka and Libertarian Party candidate Michael Badnarik.


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