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States draw lots to choose candidate for Reform Party

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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A bitter split in the Reform Party has left state election officials scrambling to decide whether Pat Buchanan or John Hagelin will get a spot on the November ballot, and they are using widely varying approaches to figure it out.

Iowa officials, faced with competing claims for ballot space, resorted to drawing lots from a specially purchased glass bowl. Buchanan's name was pulled but only after a raucous exchange between the competing factions.

Election officials in Montana did the same, pulling Hagelin's name from a ballot box imported for the occasion. Meanwhile, Buchanan's name was jerked from the ballot in California and party leaders there "continue to meet to resolve the problem."

It's a split that was supposed to have been resolved a couple of weeks ago when the Reform Party held its convention and picked former Republican Buchanan as its nominee.

Dissenters labeled that selection as rigged and instead nominated Hagelin, who previously has sought the presidency with the Natural Law Party.

Both camps claim to be the legitimate nominee, and that's causing trouble for state election officials who are facing deadlines for printing the November ballot. Most of those deadlines are late August or early September, so time is pressing.

Some states are putting both candidates on the ballot, some are allowing neither and others are putting the two on the ballot in different spots.

"Right now we consider that party over-nominated, so pending any withdrawal by one of the nominees or a court order, neither set of names will appear on the ballot," observed Larry Perosino, a spokesman for Connecticut's secretary of state.

Given the passion between the two factions, court fights are expected in a number of states.

In Iowa and Montana, election officials threw up their arms and held a lottery, with Iowa Secretary of State Chet Culver drawing Buchanan's name.

As a result of the drawing, Buchanan will be listed as the Reform Party candidate and Hagelin will be on the ballot as "nominated by petition."

"We're not taking anyone off the ballot," said Culver.

In Montana, Secretary of State Mike Cooney pulled Hagelin's name from a ballot box, giving him the Reform Party designation. Both sides opposed the drawing and a lawsuit is expected.

In Oklahoma, Kentucky, South Carolina and Michigan, officials are pondering the issue, and considering asking the Federal Election Commission for guidance.

"We're trying to get clarification who is the real candidate," said Michigan Board of Elections spokesman Chris Thomas.

Others simply shrugged. "There is no decision at this time as to which candidate will appear on Wyoming's ballot," said Deputy Secretary of State Pat Arp.

In Pennsylvania, Buchanan is considered the candidate, though Hagelin could challenge that status. No challenge was filed by a Thursday afternoon deadline, though a court battle could still come.

In Alabama, both will be listed as independents, and in Minnesota the Reform Party is considered a minor party, though Gov. Jesse Ventura was once a member.

"There is no protection for the minor parties," said Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer. "This is a very unique circumstance." Both men will be listed, she said.

Hagelin started the year as the Natural Law Party candidate, and West Virginia election officials say that's how he will be listed on the ballot.

That's the case in Ohio, too, where Buchanan also submitted enough petition signatures to get on the ballot as an independent.

In New York, Buchanan backers had submitted petitions with more than 30,000 signatures, double the number needed to be listed under the Reform party banner.

Hagelin was first to file in North Carolina, but the State Board of Elections voted 3-1 Thursday to list Buchanan as the Reform candidate, despite arguments by party stalwarts that he is not their choice. State Reform officials had certified Hagelin as their candidate last week.

In Utah, a supporter submitted Buchanan's name as the party's nominee, and that's how he'll be listed.

Hawaii officials are seeking a legal opinion on handling filings from a split party, but so far only Buchanan has filed petitions.

Most polls have shown Buchanan with just 1 percent or 2 percent support nationally. Hagelin has less than that. Reform Party founder Ross Perot won 19 percent of the vote in the 1992 election and 8 percent in 1996. He declined to run this year.