Ralph Nader's presidential campaign turned in more than 11,000 signatures Thursday in efforts to get on the Nevada ballot - more than double the number of names of registered voters required from independent candidates.
Nader spokesman Kevin Zeese said the signatures were turned in a day ahead of a Friday deadline. All the names were collected in Clark County, encompassing Las Vegas, and election officials there must now start a verification process and advise the secretary of state of the results.
Steve George, spokesman for Secretary of State Dean Heller, said the verification process should take about two weeks, and if Nader ends up with at least 5,000 valid names he's assured of a spot on the November ballot.
The Democrats' national party chief, Terry McAuliffe, has urged Nader to quit rather than face the prospect of being the man who gave the nation another four years of President Bush.
But Nader's name on the ballot in Nevada won't be a negative for Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry, Kerry-Nevada spokesman Sean Smith said.
Smith said Kerry and Nader have worked together on issues such as health care and consumer protection, adding Kerry respects Nader but "we believe voters are going to want to vote for somebody in Nevada who can beat George Bush - and that's John Kerry."
Nevada-based GOP consultant Mike Slanker said Bush "probably" benefits from having Nader's name on the Nevada ballot. "Everything matters in a race that will be as close as this," he added.
Slanker also said splinter-party and independent candidates seeking high offices in Nevada tend to have less of an impact than in other states because there are so many of them on the state's ballots and "voters are a little more conditioned to it."
Bush got 49.5 percent of the Nevada vote in 2000, while Democrat Al Gore got 46 percent and Nader got 2.5 percent - so even if Gore had received all of Nader's votes he still wouldn't have won here. This year, five electoral votes are at stake.
A new AP-Ipsos national poll has found Bush slightly leading Kerry 49 percent to 45 percent with Nader at 3 percent. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. A month ago, the Bush-Kerry matchup was tied and Nader had 6 percent.
Nader said Sunday that Democrats who see his independent campaign as a threat to Kerry's candidacy are afraid of the democratic process. He also said the Democratic-Republican party lock on the electoral system hurts the country.