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The Socialist Workers Party says county clerks in Utah are rejecting three out of every five signatures on petitions to put its presidential candidate on the ballot so many that the results are "simply not credible."
Alyson Kennedy, the party's nominee, called a news conference Friday at the state Capitol to complain. She would not directly accuse any officials of wrongdoing but is asking Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, the state's top election official, to review all those rejections.
"We ran up against the same thing in Washington state," she said. "When we made an issue of this and pointed out the discrepancies to the state, we were put on the ballot. We think the same thing is going to happen here in the state of Utah."
Utah law requires 1,000 signatures from registered voters (verified by Aug. 15) to qualify a presidential candidate for the ballot. The party says it collected 1,700 signatures in door-to-door visits in several counties and submitted them to local county clerks for verification.
John Studer, Kennedy's campaign director, said county clerks are verifying only about 40 percent of the signatures collected. "This is simply not credible that so few of those who signed for us are eligible."
Mark Thomas, state elections director for Cox, said because of the party's concerns, his office talked to county clerks.
"They all said the signers were just not registered. It was just that simple," Thomas added. "They said, 'We have double- and triple-checked.' "
But Thomas said his office has offered "to double-check the work and make sure it is being done appropriately" if the party will deliver its petitions there.
Groups that collect signatures often will ask people to register to vote at the same time, and turn in those forms along with petitions to ensure signatures are valid, Thomas said, adding the Socialist Workers Party did not do that.
Studer said his small party ran into ballot-qualification problems similar to those in Utah in Washington and Vermont, where local officials also were claiming about a 40 percent verification rate.
Washington state officials found 200 extra valid signatures to qualify Kennedy for the ballot there, he said, and Vermont officials so far have said it discovered a "10 percent higher rate so far" in their review.
"We've been on the ballot before in the state of Utah. Why is it in this election year that we're having such a problem?" Kennedy asked. "I think it has to do with the [positive] response we are getting" from working-class voters that could threaten other parties.
Kennedy, 65, lived in Utah from 2002 to 2006 and was a coal miner at Emery County's Co-Op Mine, owned by the polygamous Kingston family. She was among workers who went on strike and were fired, but were later reinstated by the National Labor Relations Board.
She now works at a Wal-Mart in Chicago and is part of the movement seeking a $15 per hour minimum wage. "Workers need a revolutionary party to lead the fight for working-class political power," she said.
Kennedy is seeking to be on the ballot in Utah and about eight other states.