Video: Foley scandal

updated 10/5/2006 8:57:06 AM ET 2006-10-05T12:57:06

The state that gave the world butterfly ballots and the hanging chad is headed for a new battle over whether and how voters should be told that disgraced former Rep. Mark Foley has dropped out of the Florida congressional race.

Foley, a six-term Republican congressman, resigned his office and checked into an alcohol rehab center last week after copies of his overly friendly messages to teen-age male congressional pages set off a scandal that could threaten his party’s majority in Congress.

Rules prohibit taking Foley’s name off the ballot so close to the Nov. 7 election. So the Republicans’ replacement nominee, Joe Negron, asked election supervisors to post signs at the polls telling voters that ballots cast for Foley will actually go to Negron.

Democrats cried foul, contending that such a notice is tantamount to posting a partisan political advertisement inside voting stations, which is not allowed.

“What they’re attempting to do is electioneering communications, which is illegal because you can’t do that within 100 feet of a polling place,” said Florida Democratic Party spokesman Mark Bubriski.

Florida, whose election procedures were ridiculed during the chaotic 2000 presidential election won by President Bush, has no rules governing such notices.

“There’s nothing in statute that requires a notice to be posted in the polling place and there’s nothing in statute that precludes a supervisor from posting a notice in the polling place,” said Sterling Ivey, a spokesman for the Florida Division of Elections. Florida’s state government is currently in the hands of Republicans.

Eight counties
There are eight counties in Foley’s district and election supervisors in each county are free to handle it as they see fit, Ivey said. Two of the supervisors are Republicans and six are Democrats.

2006 key racesSeveral supervisors have asked the state Division of Elections for guidance, Ivey said. The division drafted suggested language in hopes that any notices would at least be uniform, but can’t compel them to use that wording, he said.

The suggested language has been used in other such cases, and reads:

“Due to a withdrawal of a candidate after the Primary Election which resulted in the substitution of a new candidate by the respective party: In the race for Representative In Congress, District 16, any vote cast for Mark Foley (REP) shall be counted as a vote for Joe Negron (REP).”

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The Democrats, whose candidate for Foley’s district is Tim Mahoney, sent a letter to state elections Director Dawn Roberts on Wednesday saying such a notice would violate a law banning supervisors from favoring a particular party.

They asked Roberts to immediately send a letter instructing supervisors not to post any notices or include them in mailings with absentee ballots.

Florida Republican Party spokesman Jeff Sadosky countered that the proposed notices were meant to inform, not advocate.

“It seems like that would be a good course of action, to help educate the voters,” Sadosky said. “A more educated voter is a better voter.”

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