Situation hopeless? Call in Florida's secretary of state

Katherine Harris is gone, but there's still a Bush supporter there in the Republicans' time of need.

Published October 5, 2006 1:47PM (EDT)

Katherine Harris may not work there anymore, but the Florida Secretary of State's Office still seems determined to do what it can to come to the aid of Republican candidates.

Because Mark Foley dropped out of his race for reelection after the certification of primary results, Florida law requires that his name remain on the ballots voters will see on Nov. 7. Under the same law, however, votes cast for Foley will be deemed votes for Joe Negron, the man the Republicans have chosen to run in Foley's stead. But even that's a problem for the GOP. As Florida state Rep. Marco Rubio told the Miami Herald the other day, "You're basically asking people to vote for the name of someone who is an alleged sexual predator. All you can hope for, from a political perspective, is that people will know enough to overlook that."

Well, that's not all you can hope for. What you can hope for is that Florida Secretary of State Sue Cobb, a major Republican contributor named to her post by Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, will do something to make it easier for Republican voters to understand that a vote for Foley isn't a vote for Foley at all.

And as the Associated Press reports, Cobb's office is coming through. Although the law does not require it, the state's Division of Elections is giving county officials in Foley's former district the freedom to post signs at the polls explaining that a vote for Foley is actually a vote for Negron. The division has gone so far as drafting language for a sign -- just so it will be consistent, the spokesman says.

Democrats are objecting. "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," says Florida Democratic Party spokesman Mark Bubriski. Republicans say they're simply interested in having an informed electorate. Negron tells the Herald that it's "very fair to make sure voters are fully informed about the candidates before they vote."

We couldn't agree more, so we're sure that Negron won't mind if the Secretary of State's Office adds a few more things to its sign -- like, say, the fact that House Republicans knew about Foley's problems but didn't do much to stop him, that the Republican Congress has joined George W. Bush in turning a budget surplus into a massive federal deficit, that Saddam Hussein didn't really have any WMD and that Iraq didn't have anything to do with 9/11. As state GOP spokesman Jeff Sadosky says, "A more educated voter is a better voter."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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