Monday, September 13, 2004

Hot Wind Blowin' in Florida 

In the latest twist on the ludicrous and yet somehow boring saga of Ralph Nader's quest for ballot access in Florida, Hurricane Ivan has provided a pretext for legally-suspect maneuvering:
MIAMI (Reuters) - Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader's name can appear on Florida ballots for the election, despite a court order to the contrary, Florida's elections chief told officials on Monday in a move that could help President Bush in the key swing state.

The Florida Democratic Party reacted with outrage, calling the move "blatant partisan maneuvering" by Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's younger brother, and vowed to fight it.

In a memo to Florida's 67 county supervisors of elections, Division of Elections director Dawn Roberts said the uncertainty of Hurricane Ivan, which could hit parts of the state by week's end, forced her to act..."I'm in disbelief," said Scott Maddox, chairman of the Florida Democratic Party. "This is blatant partisan maneuvering on the part of Jeb Bush to give his brother a leg up on election day."

"They are trying to get ballots printed with Nader's name on them," said Maddox. "I am astounded that Jeb Bush is willing to defy the judiciary to help his brother."

Gov. Bush said he agreed with Roberts' decision.

"It's up to the judge to determine, based on the law, whether Nader should be on the ballot or not," Bush said. "But while that process goes on, we cannot put ourselves in the position where the ministerial role of the supervisors cannot be fulfilled."

Maddox noted that Tallahassee, the state capital where Davey sits, is not expected to be directly hit by the hurricane. He said the circuit court could hear the case as scheduled on Wednesday and rule immediately.

In addition, the case is before the Florida Supreme Court, which could also rule at any time, he said.
The stakes here are actually fairly high. As I described here, if Nader is not on the ballot Floridians will not be able to vote for him as a write-in candidate. If ballots are printed with his name, yet he is ruled ineligible for the ballot, it's unclear to me whether votes for Nader would be counted. Oy vey.

As I mentioned before, I'm not terribly impressed with the legal argument underlying Judge Davey's ruling keeping Nader off the ballot. As much as I despise the man and disdain those who support him at this late date, I don't think rules should be bent in keeping him off the ballot. On the other hand, this latest tomfoolery smacks of a constitutional crisis, and raises the level of partisan irresponsibility to new heights. Florida Republicans, I salute your upping the ante on shameless, disgraceful partisanship.

UPDATE: Read this. Michael Froomkin, whose credentials for commentary on this vastly surpass mine, thinks that the case for leaving Nader off the ballot is actually quite strong, and also reports that the article cited above may exaggerate the scope of Florida's decision to override the judiciary. He's still plenty steamed though...

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