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Pa. board prepares to black out Nader

October 22, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - Ballots, felt-tipped markers and pizza will be supplied to volunteer county employees if the Board of Elections goes ahead with plans to certify ballots by blacking out Ralph Nader's name.

On Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld an Oct. 13 Commonwealth Court ruling to keep Nader and Independent Party running mate Peter Miguel Camejo off the Nov. 2 ballot.

"County boards of elections are not authorized by law to deliver or send any ballot to any elector that includes the names of Ralph Nader and Peter Miguel Camejo as candidates for President or Vice-President," according to a memorandum from the Pennsylvania Department of State sent to counties after Tuesday's ruling.

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Faced with an election calendar that required them to begin mailing out absentee ballots by Tuesday, Oct. 19, Franklin and other counties had printed ballots listing Nader and Camejo, according to Jean Byers, the county's deputy chief clerk.

"Our absentee ballots were mailed out on time so that no voter would be disenfranchised by a decision made by the county," Commissioner Cheryl Plummer said.

"The staff was in a position where they had to make a decision," Plummer said.

Franklin County has approximately 85,000 ballots printed and the board of elections, made up of the three county commissioners, Thursday authorized a work session next Wednesday, and possibly Thursday, to cross out Nader's and Camejo's names. An oval where voters would fill in to vote for the Independent Party also must be crossed out, Byers said.

The county received approximately 3,000 absentee ballot applications, including several hundred from military personnel and people overseas. Those military and overseas ballots had to be sent out in late August and had Nader's name on them, Byers said.

If Nader's name is not put back on the ballot by the U.S. Supreme Court, the state has instructed county boards of elections to count the votes Nader receives on absentee ballots as write-in votes. Voters may still put Nader and Camejo's names on their ballots in the space provided for write-ins when they go to the polls on election day, Byers said.

Byers said notices will be posted in each polling booth to explain the situation to voters.

At some point next week, the county has to get Nader's name off the already printed ballots, but an appeal by the candidate to the U.S. Supreme Court could change all that, according to Commissioner G. Warren Elliott.

"What will all these counties have to do if the Supreme Court rules Nader should be put back on the ballot?" he asked. Certified ballots have to be delivered to the 75 polling places in the county by Monday, Nov. 1, he said.

There are several "ifs" in that scenario, according to Plummer. Nader's camp first has to file an appeal, and the high court has to agree to hear it and then issue a ruling, she said.

Until that is cleared up, the ballot-marking session is scheduled to begin Wednesday at the Administrative Annex on North Second Street at the close of business at 4:30 p.m. Byers said she will send out an announcement asking county employees to be paid volunteers.

Commissioner Bob Thomas figured that, if a person can mark three ballots in a minute, it will take 472 man hours to change all 85,000. The county will have to pay for that time as well as pizza and other refreshments supplied for volunteers.

Byers said she has 200 markers ready to go.

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