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Reform Party May Relax Nomination Requirements if Candidates Come Close

July 9, 1996

DALLAS (AP) _ Ross Perot’s Reform Party may relax its ground rules for putting people on the party’s presidential nominating ballot if candidates fall just short of meeting the requirements, officials said Monday.

The party initially said would-be candidates would have to show they were supported by 10 percent of Reform Party members to be considered for the nomination.

But Russell Verney, national political coordinator for the fledgling third party, said Monday, ``If someone just misses by a little bit, I don’t think we should just cut them out.″

The party is mailing out a survey this week to determine which candidates have enough supporters to be on the nominating ballot.

The only potential candidates named in the survey packet are former Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm and Reform Party founder Ross Perot, but members can write in anyone.

The raw survey results will be kept secret, as will the identity of the companies that tally the results and audit the process, Verney said.

``It has more integrity this way,″ Verney said.

He added that keeping the information secret means that every would-be nominee will come to the Reform Party’s Aug. 11 convention on equal footing.

``We’re not looking to embarrass anybody in this process. We’re not looking to set up a clear favorite or a dark horse,″ he said at a Dallas news conference.

Verney said that if auditors report that there are candidates near the 10 percent threshold, they may be considered for the nomination ballot. That decision will be made by ``reasonable people,″ he said.

The survey being mailed this week is expected to reach between 950,000 and 1 million of the 1.3 million people who have signed petitions to get the Reform Party on state ballots this November. To be on the nominating ballot, candidates will have be named on about 10 percent of the responses.

Keeping the raw survey results a secret seems to be at odds with the Reform Party’s idea of reforming government, said Larry Hugick, director of political and media polls for Princeton Survey Research.

``I can’t see that people are going to blindly trust someone to do this,″ he said. ``It’ll be a hard sell.″

The Reform Party or a designated candidate so far has been certified for ballots in 21 states.

On Monday, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that the party did not submit a valid petition in time to get on that state’s ballot. The party still has a chance to certify an independent candidate for the state’s November ballot.

Also Monday, the party submitted more than 60,000 signatures to the Georgia secretary of state, seeking to win access to Georgia’s November ballot. The party needs 31,771 valid signatures to secure a ballot slot.

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