Boston — John Anderson-for-president activists are not about to count votes before they are cast. But they are greatly encouraged by citizen response to efforts at getting the Illinois congressman's name on November ballots.
While thus far assured of making it in only five states -- Kansas, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Utah -- signature quotas have been met in a dozen others.
And anderson nomination papers are being circulated, or soon will be, in most of the remaining states.
What could be an important milestone in the independent presidential candidacy of the 10th-term Republican congressman was reached July 9 in Georgia, when more than the required 57,539 voter signatures were filed in his behalf.
Although Mr. Anderson's prospects for carrying Georgia appear less than slim -- since it is the home base of re-election-bent President Carter -- Anderson campaign leaders maintain their candidate has substantial strength there.
"We turned in over 70,000 good signatures, which is more than is needed," says Michael Marinelli, Georgia coordinator for the independent candidate for president. This was accomplished despite what he calls "harassment and attempts to block us, by private security personnel at shopping malls, which made things difficult for us."
Georgia was the third state this week where nomination papers for Mr. Anderson were filed. On July 7 more than the required signatures also were submitted in Minnesota and Maryland.
In Maryland, however, the effort is in jeopardy, since state law specifies that at least one-third of the 55,517 needed signatures be filed by March 3 even though the deadline is not until Aug. 4.
Maryland is among five states where the dates for turning in some, or all, nomination papers had passed by April 24 when Mr. Anderson abandoned his quest for the Republican presidential nomination and launched his White House drive as an independent.
Acceptance of the Maryland signatures and those filed late in Kentucky, Maine , New Mexico, and Ohio hinge on court challenges initiated in all five states in behalf of the congressman.
Getting on the Ohio ballot is considered, within the Anderson campaign, as especially important for two reasons: It is one of the places where he is considered to stand a good chance, and it offers the sixth largest bloc of electoral votes.
Having cleared the Georgia signature hurdle, the Anderson forces now are concentrating major attention on the next two, and potentially crucial, deadlines -- July 14 in Texas, where the quota is 40,719 and July 15 in Oklahoma , with 32,768 signatures needed.
Campaign insiders in both states are optimistic they will make it.
Except for Montana, where the nomination paper support requirement is 9,771 by July 30, there will be no further signature deadlines until next month. Then the ballot-qualification push must end in California, Illinois, New York, and Pennsylvania -- four of the nation's five largest states.
To fail to collect sufficient signatures in any of these would be a major setback to the Anderson candidacy, especially if the independent is to make a strong bid for the presidency.
Mr. Anderson's greatest legal victory so far was in Massachusetts, where the State Ballot Law Commission on June 27 rejected a challenge to his candidacy on a variety of technical grounds, including the fact that he was a registered Republican and not an "unenrolled voter."
Involved at least indirectly in the Challenge were officials of the Democratic National Committee.
As in Ohio, it was especially important to Mr. Anderson to get on the Massachusetts ballot. This is the state where he made his strongest showing prior to abandoning his GOP presidential candidacy, in the primaries -- polling support not only from fellow Republicans but also from independents and Democrats.
It is generally agreed that Mr. Anderson might stand a good chance of carrying politically liberal Massachusetts unless native son Sen. Edward M. Kennedy were the Democratic presidential nominee.
Observers generally think Mr. Anderson's candidacy would take more votes away from President Carter than Ronald Reagan, the likely Republican standard bearer.