updated 7/22/2004 2:09:56 PM ET 2004-07-22T18:09:56

Ralph Nader’s presidential campaign contended in federal court Thursday that Texas ballot access requirements for independent candidates are unconstitutional, noting that they are more stringent than those faced by third-party candidates.

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U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel suggested it would be a matter of days before he issued a ruling.

Nader attorney James C. Linger argued that the state has no legitimate reason to have different requirements for independent and third-party candidates. However, Deputy Attorney General Ed Burbach said the signature and time requirements were not unreasonable and could have been met with a better effort by Nader’s group.

“This involves First Amendment rights and fundamental freedoms,” Linger told the court.

The Nader campaign tried to get the consumer activist on the Texas ballot by collecting voter signatures but turned them in two weeks after the state deadline in May.

Texas has one of the earliest deadlines to qualify for the presidential ballot and requires independent candidates to collect about 20,000 more signatures than required for third-party contenders.

Nader, who is running as an independent, was required to collect at least 64,076 signatures by May 10 from registered voters who did not vote in the Democratic or Republican primaries. That equals 1 percent of all votes cast for president in the last election in Texas.

In contrast, third-party candidates needed to collect only 45,540 signatures by May 24, the day Nader’s campaign turned in its signatures. Earlier this week, the Libertarian Party was certified for the Texas ballot.

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