The drive to get US Rep. John B. Anderson's name on Nov. 4 state presidential ballots is well under way. Workers for the Illinois Republican running as an independent say they think he can get onto the ballots of at least 30 states, and perhaps 40.
Thus far the Illinois congressman -- who dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination April 13 and announced his "national unity campaign" -- has been officially certified only in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Utah. But petitions have been submitted to election officials in Kansas, Michigan, North Carolina, and West Virginia, and notice of certification is expected soon.
Anderson-for-president enthusiasts in most other states are either circulating petitions or planning drives to get voter signatures on petitions to place their man on the ballot as an independent.
In five states -- Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, New Mexico, and Ohio -- where filing deadlines had passed before Mr. Anderson decided to go the independent route, legal challenges to election laws, or state officials' interpretations of them, are in process.
Signature requirements for independent presidential aspirants vary sharply from state to state, as do the petition-circulation timetables. In California, Anderson workers have from June 9 to Aug. 8 to get 101,374 registered voters' signatures on their nomination papers. In Washington State the need is for only 159 signatures by Aug. 1.
Jane Fowler, national director of field operations for Mr. Anderson, ran the signature drive in Massachusetts and now is doing the same in Texas. She and others working for the congressman are particularly elated over the response in the Bay State. In two weeks some 3,000 volunteers collected 90,962 signatures, more than twice the 39,273 needed to get their candidate on the November ballot.
Congressman Anderson, who finished second in the March 4 Republican presidential preference primary and polled more than 2,200 Democratic "write-in" votes, is considered a strong contender for the commonwealth's 14 electoral votes if, as it now appears, its native son Edward M. Kennedy does not win the Democratic presidential nomination.
Anderson campaign lieutenants are especially optimistic concerning his appeal to voters in the Northeast -- including New York, which has the nation's second-largest electoral vote.
To get him on the Empire State ballot, Anderson petitions need only 20,000 signatures, collected between Aug. 5 and Sept. 16.
The drive to get Mr. Anderson on other state ballots faces two June deadlines -- the 20th in Kansas, where the needed signatures have been turned in; and the 24th in Idaho, where the quota is 10,322.
July deadlines include President Carter's home state of Georgia, as well as Montana, Oklahoma, Texas, and Wisconsin.
The goal is not merely to meet the minimum requirement for voter signatures, but to go substantially over the top in each state, Anderson campain leaders emphasize.
Once having gotten their candidate on the ballots, the Illinois congressman's volunteers say, they are determined that there will be sufficient funds for the "kind of a national campaign needed to get his message across." They hope to raise at least $15 million.