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Perot Supporters Try to Gain Voters to Place Party on Ballot

By William Claiborne
The Washington Post

Four days before the deadline, Ross Perot's new Reform Party has registered only slightly more than a tenth of the voters needed to win a spot on California's 1996 presidential ballot. But Perot officials contend they have more than enough registrations to qualify.

California Secretary of State Bill Jones said the Reform Party has registered 10,217 of the 87,007 voters it needs to get on the ballot -- far more than the Rock and Roll Party, which has signed up only 70 people, but well behind the Natural Law Party, which advocates, among other things, Transcendental Meditation programs and has already registered 69,438 people.

Jones said that although Tuesday is the deadline for new parties to turn in registrations, he still is unable to say whether any of them will qualify because of the lag time in processing the forms. He noted that the Reform Party had "picked up steam" from a week ago, when only 448 voters had been registered, and that the party had been given 1.2 million blank registration cards.

Russ Verney, national executive director of Perot's United We Stand America political organization, said the group has submitted more than 50,000 completed registration forms and has mailed another "couple hundred thousand" to voters who requested them for mailing directly to Jones's office in Sacramento. In addition, Verney said, clip-out forms were published in newspapers in Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego.

"We're confident we'll be well over the minimum," said Verney, who estimated 1,000 volunteers were signing up registrants on weekdays and 2,500 on the weekend. Perot announced his plan to create a new national party on Sept. 28, but the registration drive did not get into high gear until last week. California was targeted first because it has the earliest deadline.

At a downtown shopping mall this week, the new party was attracting a broad cross section of Republicans, Democrats and independents who say they are dissatisfied with the choices offered by the major parties.

But just in case, the Reform Party volunteers were reminding voters that they could change back to their old registrations as soon as the party was assured of its ballot placement.

"I like the idea of having additional choices and more candidates to listen to," said Douglas Wilson, 32, a video production company employee from Santa Monica who said he has been a supporter of the Green Party. "Right now, I'll withhold judgment on Perot until I see his platform. But we need more discussion on the really important issues than the Democrats and Republicans are offering."

Wilson filled out an official registration form that will be sent to Sacramento and then to his county election registrar. But he also took a blank form after being told by a Perot volunteer that if he wants to he can revert to his original party affiliation once the Reform Party qualifies for the ballot.

Ann Quebodeaux, a United We Stand America worker in charge of the canvassing effort at the Third Street promenade here, said that about 150 to 250 voters register daily and that her analysis of the completed forms indicated about 48 percent of the registrants have been Democrats, 38 to 40 percent Republicans, and the rest independents or supporters of other minor parties.