Judge Prohibits GOP Posting Negron Poll Signs on Foley Switch

A Florida judge ruled that Republicans can’t violate state election law to clear up confusion over the fact that Mark Foley’s name is on the ballot in Florida-16 even though Joe Negron is the candidate.

The Republican Party’s hopes of holding on to the Florida 16th District seat of resigned Florida Republican Rep. Mark Foley are greatly hindered by the fact that Foley’s name, under state law, must stay on the ballot — even though votes cast for him will be counted for state Rep. Joe Negron, the replacement candidate picked by GOP officials.

And the GOP endured another hit Wednesday when a state judge, ruling on a lawsuit brought by Democratic activists, barred state election officials from posting signs at voting locations and delivering notices about the ballot situation to 16th District voters.

Second Judicial Circuit Judge Janet E. Ferris ruled that a state-run information campaign to inform voters about what critics argue was an internal Republican Party foulup would do “irreparable injury” to Democratic nominee Tim Mahoney and his supporters.

Ferris wrote that elections supervisors are “ordered not to post the proposed notice, and may not deliver the notice to individual voters posing questions about the race in question.” Negron’s campaign and the secretary of state’s office, headed by Republican appointee Sue M. Cobb, have told local news outlets they will appeal the decision.

This one seems like a no brainer. (Which explains why I find myself in the rare position of agreeing with Kos.) OF COURSE electioneering signs placed at polling places are impermissible. OF COURSE the taxpayer shouldn’t have to pay for the GOP to undo the damage caused by their original nominee.

It’s not as if the Republican Party is flat broke. Spend some money on advertising. Send some mailings out on your own dime. How hard is that?

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2006, Law and the Courts, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. For allowing politics and misinformation to rule over precedence, Leon County Circuit Court Judge Janet Ferris is today’s Knucklehead of the day. Also blogging on the decision by Judge Ferris- Captain’s Quarters, James Joyner at OTB Linked to- Clash of Civilizations, Third World County, Blue Star, Stuck on Stupid, TMH’s Bacon Bits, Cao’s Blog, Basil’s Blog, Bright & Early, Right Wing Nation, Jo’s Cafe, Random Yak,

  2. Michael says:

    It’s not as if the Republican Party is flat broke. Spend some money on advertising. Send some mailings out on your own dime. How hard is that?

    Harder this year than in past elections. They are already pulling funding from campaigns that aren’t looking so hot, and Foley’s seat is about as cold an incumbent as they’re gonna get this year. They’ve taken up the old DNC strategy of dumping all their money into the few seats they think they can win (hold) and leaving the rest to the proverbial wolves.

  3. I don’t think the question is the money. If that was the only bar, I am sure that the GOP could find the funds as a good investment in retaining a seat. But if the GOP did pay for the signs, it would bring the signs a step closer to being political advertisement. And I think you could agree that a single sign at the polling place would be much more effective at informing voters what is going on than a dozen fliers or signs away from the polling place.

    What I find interesting is that the democratic position is that informing voters about the impact of election laws on their votes would be considered “irreparable injury” to the democratic candidate. I guess the truth represents an “irreparable injury” to the democratic party.

  4. bruhaha says:

    “OF COURSE electioneering signs placed at polling places are impermissible.”

    Sure, IF what is posted is “ELECTIONEERING” signs! But does ANY notice about a matter that clearly could cause confusions constitute “electioneering”??!

    Ferris wrote that elections supervisors are “ordered not to post the proposed notice, and may not deliver the notice to individual voters posing questions about the race in question.”

    Did you catch that? They can’t even tell voters who, presumably in their (very understandable) confusion, ASK the question?! (I really hope I misread that one.)

    Ferris ruled that a state-run information campaign to inform voters . . . would do “irreparable injury” to Democratic nominee Tim Mahoney and his supporters.

    “irreparable harm” to Mahoney??! How?! Again, that assumes that ANY sort of public notice is somehow “electioneering”. How absurd!

    You write:
    “Spend some money on advertising. Send some mailings out on your own dime. How hard is that?”

    I imagine they ARE doing just that. But you completely miss the point. This is NOT about trying to get someone else to PAY for something for them. It is about making a reasonable effort to help confused voters who show up at the polls –essentially to explain how the BALLOT is set up. You surely know that NO amount of advertising will overcome that kind of confusion.

    I don’t know whether the judge is reading the law correctly or not. It may indeed be a necessary application of the law as it stands. But to suggest that the JUST outcome of such a case (that is, fair to the voters) is to allow if not PROMOTE confusion, is absurd. And there’s no question that the Democratic activists who brought the case don’t care one whit about removing obstructions to informed voting. (Well, nothing new in that!)

  5. Michael says:

    bruhaha,
    If you don’t understand why this shouldn’t be allowed, consider this. Should the CT democratic party be allowed to post signs in every voting place proclaiming that “Joe Lieberman is no longer a Democrat”? Afterall, it may be a point of confusion for some CT voters who still think he is a democrat. They may also want to post similar signs saying “Joe Lieberman is not and has never been a Republican”, as there seems to be confusion on that too.

  6. Michael says:

    Ferris wrote that elections supervisors are “ordered not to post the proposed notice, and may not deliver the notice to individual voters posing questions about the race in question.”

    Did you catch that? They can’t even tell voters who, presumably in their (very understandable) confusion, ASK the question?! (I really hope I misread that one.)

    No, you read that correctly, and let me explain to you why. Negron is NOT the Republican candidate for that seat. Mark Foley is still legally the Republican candidate for that seat. A vote for Mark Foley is still legally a vote for Mark Foley. Just because he has resigned and someone else is being put in his place doesn’t change that. Therefore, if an election worker would tell someone that they can vote for Negron by checking off Foley’s name, they would be lying.

  7. Michael,

    I don’t think you have the Florida election law right when you say a vote for Foley is a vote for Foley, not Negron. My understanding is that votes for Foley will count for Negron. That confusion may be why you made the inaccurate comparison of a Lieberman notice. The Lieberman status of not being a democrat is reflected in the ballot when they list the party identification along with the names.

    The bottom line is that democrats have taken the position that telling the voters the truth in an understandably confusing election system represent irreparable harm to their candidate winning. In short, they only feel that they can win if the truth is suppressed. Is that really the kind of government you want?

  8. Michael says:

    No, you read that correctly, and let me explain to you why. Negron is NOT the Republican candidate for that seat. Mark Foley is still legally the Republican candidate for that seat. A vote for Mark Foley is still legally a vote for Mark Foley. Just because he has resigned and someone else is being put in his place doesn’t change that. Therefore, if an election worker would tell someone that they can vote for Negron by checking off Foley’s name, they would be lying.

    After re-reading this post, and trying to find supporting links for my claim, I’ve decided to retract this, because I’m not sure I’m correct now. Sorry, I’ll fact check first next time.

  9. Boyd says:

    I, for one, want to thank you for your intellectual honesty, Michael. There are damn few who will do that.

  10. Three cheers for Michael. It takes a big man to admit when he is wrong. Its easy enough to be wrong, its just hard to admit it.

  11. Wayne says:

    Preventing a Poll worker from clarifying an election procedure question is clearly wrong. It sounds like the intent of the voter is only important if the voters are democrats.

  12. Tano says:

    Lets all be honest here. As politically engaged people we sometimes forget, sometimes willfully forget, the ugly truth about our democracy. The majority of voters are clueless.

    Despite news stories, and advertisements, most voters will not understand that Negron is the one who will go to Congress if the Foley box is checked a plurality of the time. And yes, the Dems have a big incentive to keep that cluelessness going.

    It is also the case that if you shove a flyer into the hand of a voter as they walk into the booth, or expose them to an “official” sign at the polling place, telling them to vote for Foley if they want Negron, then the effect will be to give one last name-recognition boost, this time from a respected source (the polling place itself) to Negron. It may seem odd to a rational person that seeing a name has an influence on a voter, but that is the logic behind billboards, yard signs and so much of political advertising.

    Any campaign would love to have the voters reminded of their candidates name at the last possible moment – hence all polling places are surrounded by signs just outside the limits of the “no electioneering” zone. Republican claims to be intersted in noble issues like “voter education” are laughable of course – they just want the advantage of the last bit of name-exposure.

    I think the proper solution is obvious. Don’t mess with the “sanctity” of the polling place. The Republicans can post all the signs they want, or pass out all the flyers that they want immediatly outside of the “no electioneering” zone. In 34 years of voting, I have never been able to cast a vote without running the gauntlet of these last-moment campaigners, so the “education” of the voters can be accomplished.

  13. Dodd says:

    If the law prevents postings in polling places that correct errors or confusing issues related to ballots, then it’s a stupid law. It is quite common for me to see informational signs about ballots in my local polling place. If a candidate’s name is listed incorrectly (for any reason) the bare minimum election officials should *be required* – not forbidden – to do is inform the voters about it.

  14. bruhaha says:

    It is also the case that if you shove a flyer into the hand of a voter as they walk into the booth, or expose them to an “official” sign at the polling place, telling them to vote for Foley if they want Negron, then the effect will be to give one last name-recognition boost, this time from a respected source (the polling place itself) to Negron.

    Clarification — the decision of the elections’ supervisors themselves (which the Dem activists were also opposing) was to post a notice that included the names of ALL (three) candidates for the office; the explanation would say, for instance, that a vote for Mahoney would could for Mahoney.

    So where is the “name-recognition boost” for Negron in that one?! In fact, if anything MAHONEY gets that boost, since his name would appear TWICE in the notice!!

  15. rael real says:

    NEWSFLASH: (October 28) First District Court of Appeal ruled that the GOP could put signs up at polling places telling voters that a vote for Foley is a vote for Negron, if they also say that a vote for the Democrat Mahoney is a vote for Mahoney. This is good news for the GOP and gives them a little better shot at holding the seat.
    GO NEGRON!