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A subtle change in Indiana law is being used by an obscure third political party to try throwing the Democrats and Republicans out of Indiana's presidential sweepstakes.

The New Alliance Party is attempting to force presidential candidates George Bush and Michael Dukakis off the Indiana ballot for missing the deadline for filing names of their electors. The move also would keep GOP vice presidential nominee Dan Quayle off his home state ballot.The party's attorney says he has the legal ammunition to achieve that, but the two major parties immediately termed the charges "frivolous."

Both major parties' state political organizations missed an Aug. 1 deadline for filing the names of the 12 electors who would represent the winning presidential candidate in the Electoral College. Without qualified electors, votes for Dukakis and Bush are meaningless, said Gary Sinawski, legal counsel for New Alliance presidential candidate Lenora B. Feloni. The New Alliance Party filed their electors on time.

Don't laugh.

In Missouri, a third party presidential candidate has been kept off the ballot this year for similar reasons.

"What makes it a strong case is that this very reasoning, the meaningless vote theory, caused a major court in Missouri to uphold the state in withholding (Libertarian) Ron Paul's name from the ballot," Sinawski said in a telephone interview from Feloni's campaign in New York City.

Sinawski said he plans to file suit in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis arguing that if the state doesn't remove Bush and Dukakis and their running mates from the Indiana ballot, Feloni's constitutional rights will be violated. He said the goal is not to remove Bush and Dukakis, but to gain inclusion of Feloni in the national election process.

That is an argument that won't hold up in federal court, said John Sullivan, attorney for Indiana's Democratic Party. He said there are provisions in state law for filling vacancies and there is no penalty specified for failing to meet the deadline.

Sullivan also warned Sinawski that federal court judges do not take lightly frivolous lawsuits and have ordered attorneys to pay court costs in past suits found to have been used for political gain.

The dispute stems from the Legislature's rewriting of the state's election code in 1987, which changed the date for submitting the electors from Sept. 1 to Aug 1. However, both parties were still operating under the understanding that the old deadline, which remained the deadline for certifying presidential and vice presidential candidates, was in effect.

Both parties named their electors before Sept. 1.

Republican State Chairman Gordon Durnil dismissed the challenge. He said the New Alliance Party did not follow proper procedures in challenging the right of a candidate to appear on a ballot. Such an action would entail a challenge before the Indiana Election Board, which didn't happen, he said.