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THE RACE TO THE WHITE HOUSE

Florida Official Orders Nader to Be Put on Ballot

The state steps into the candidate's legal battle. Democrats call the move 'partisan maneuvering.'

September 14, 2004|From Reuters

MIAMI — Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader's name can appear on Florida ballots for the general election, despite a court order to the contrary, Florida's elections chief told officials Monday in a move that could help President Bush in the key swing state.

The Florida Democratic Party reacted with outrage, calling the move "blatant partisan maneuvering" by Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's younger brother, and promised to fight it.

In a memo to Florida's 67 county election supervisors, state election director Dawn Roberts said uncertainty caused by Hurricane Ivan, which could hit parts of the state this week, forced her to act.

The action came in an ongoing legal battle over whether Nader, an independent endorsed by the Reform Party, should be allowed on the Florida ballot as that party's candidate.

Nader was the Green Party's presidential nominee in 2000 when Bush won Florida, and the White House, by 537 votes over Democrat Al Gore. Analysts said most of the nearly 98,000 votes Nader got in Florida would have gone to Gore had Nader not been on the ballot.

Florida Circuit Court Judge Kevin Davey issued a temporary injunction last week preventing the state from putting Nader on the 2004 ballot, agreeing with a Democratic challenge arguing that the Reform Party was not a legitimate national party and that Nader did not follow state law dictating the nomination process for minor candidates.

A hearing on a permanent injunction is scheduled for Wednesday. But Roberts said Hurricane Ivan, which may be headed for Florida's Gulf Coast, had raised "a substantial question as to when such a hearing" would be held. Florida's Department of State filed an appeal against the temporary injunction, automatically lifting it.

Also on Monday, the Florida Supreme Court said it would review Nader's candidacy after Davey's ruling on Wednesday.

Elections supervisors face a Saturday deadline to mail absentee ballots and first must get them printed, officials said.

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