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The Presidential Campaign

Did Bush camp err on ballot papers?

Democrats say the president may have missed Florida's filing deadline, but say they don't plan a challenge.

By STEVE BOUSQUET
Published September 11, 2004

TALLAHASSEE - After the Florida election fiasco of 2000, the most obscure parts of state election law keep attracting attention.

The latest effort to disqualify Ralph Nader as a presidential candidate in Florida has led to renewed scrutiny of papers filed by other candidates - including President Bush.

State law sets a Sept. 1 deadline for the governor to certify a list of presidential electors for each party's candidates.

But Sept. 1 was also the day President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were being nominated at their party' convention in New York. Consequently, some of their paperwork did not arrive at state elections headquarters until Sept. 2, a day after Gov. Jeb Bush certified the candidates for president.

Paperwork problem?

No, says Secretary of State Glenda Hood's office.

Spokeswoman Jenny Nash said Friday the law is clear: The deadline applies to the governor and the list of presidential electors, not to the candidates themselves. The list of Republican electors released by Hood's office does not show a time stamp indicating when the document was received by the state.

Democrats said they aren't so sure, but they won't challenge the Bush campaign's papers.

Florida Democratic Party chairman Scott Maddox said he knew the president's certificate of nomination did not reach the state until Sept. 2, but he said he decided not to make an issue of it.

"To keep an incumbent president off the ballot in a swing state the size of Florida because of a technicality, I just don't think would be right," Maddox said.

Nader's Reform Party candidacy in Florida is much different, Maddox said.

"There is no Reform Party. It is a sham. And Ralph Nader was using a hoax party to gain access to the ballot," Maddox said.

But Julia Aires, a Green Party activist from Sarasota who has watched Democrats and others battle to keep Nader's name off the ballot, said a minor party probably could not have gotten away with the same thing.

"If the Green Party or the Reform Party had not gotten their names in by Sept. 1 and they said, "You missed the deadline,' I don't think we'd have a leg to stand on," she said. "They would have kept us off the ballot on a technicality if they could have."

Circuit Judge P. Kevin Davey in Tallahassee agreed with the Democrats and others who had filed suit seeking to keep Nader off the ballot. Davey ordered the state to keep Nader's name off the ballot, though his order applies only to about 50,000 overseas absentee ballots set to go in the mail next week.

The judge ruled that the Reform Party "fails in almost every conceivable criteria of what constitutes a national party."

Nader, running mate Peter Camejo and the Reform Party filed an appeal of that decision Friday, asking the First District Court of Appeal to suspend Davey's order pending a full review of the case.

In their complaint, they said neither Nader nor Camejo had an attorney present in court during a six-hour hearing Wednesday.

Democratic candidate John Kerry's paperwork was time-stamped at the state elections office on Aug. 2, days after his party's convention and nearly a month before the Sept. 1 deadline.

[Last modified September 11, 2004, 01:53:28]