Foley signs at polls win okay
Elections supervisors in eight counties can post signs at polling places that say a vote for the disgraced former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley is really a vote for his Republican replacement, as long as they name the Democrat, too, the 1st District Court of Appeal said Friday.
By JENNIFER LIBERTO
Published October 28, 2006
TALLAHASSEE - Elections supervisors in eight counties can post signs at polling places that say a vote for the disgraced former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley is really a vote for his Republican replacement, as long as they name the Democrat, too, the 1st District Court of Appeal said Friday.
Despite Foley's resignation nearly a month ago amid accusations that he sent lurid e-mails to congressional pages, his name is stuck on the ballot.
While more than 11,000 voters in 16th Congressional District have already cast votes without signs during early voting, the signs will go up and stay up, because the Florida Democratic Party said it will not appeal the ruling.
The appellate court both overturned and kept parts of a circuit court injunction that blocked the use of signs at polling places.
The appellate panel said that elections supervisors can use neutral signs drawn up by their association that inform voters that state Rep. Joe Negron of Stuart is the Republican candidate and also that Tim Mahoney of Palm Beach Gardens is the Democratic candidate. The signs also say that Emmie Ross is running with no party affiliation.
The panel kept in place the part of the injunction that would ban signs drawn up by the office of Secretary of State Sue Cobb, which only mentioned Negron. Those signs "suggest favoritism on behalf of the Republican candidate," the judges wrote.
During debate Friday morning, judges asked attorneys pointed questions, especially about a concern raised by Circuit Court Judge Janet Ferris. She wrote that allowing signs creates a "slippery slope" that might lead to other intrusions at polling places.
"What are we opening ourselves up to if we let this information be put in the polling places?" asked Judge James Wolf.
In their opinion issued later in the day, the panel wrote that they were concerned about bias and partisanship, and it's important to balance the "desire for an informed electorate with strict enforcement of impartiality mandated by the Legislature."
The counties that make up the 16th District are Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Okeechobee, Glades, Hendry, Highlands and Charlotte.
Democrats declared a truce on Friday and said they would not appeal to the Florida Supreme Court.
"The Florida Democratic Party accepts the courts ruling, which distinguishes between the wrongful partisanship of the Secretary of State and the nonpartisan recommendation of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections," said chairwoman Karen Thurman in a statement.
Meanwhile, the Republicans and the Joe Negron campaign declared victory.
"Thankfully, the Democrats' intentional and malicious attempts at disenfranchisement have been thwarted by the law, and the voters of the 16th Congressional District are better off for it," said Jeff Sadosky of the Republican Party of Florida.