From the Miami Herald:
Ralph Nader is back. At least for now.
In a dizzying turn of events, Florida Secretary of State Glenda Hood returned the consumer crusader to the state’s presidential ballot on Monday as lawyers for the Democratic Party, the state and Nader sought emergency court hearings to settle a dispute over whether the independent candidate can appear there.
A state judge booted Nader off the ballot last week, but Hood, in effect, reversed the ruling — telling election supervisors now preparing absentee ballots to be mailed overseas that Nader is a candidate.
The move infuriated Democrats, who accused Hood, an appointee of Gov. Jeb Bush, of partisan politicking. Democrats have vowed to scrutinize Nader’s bid for a spot on the ballot in the largest of the swing states, and the judge last week agreed with Democrats that the Reform Party now backing Nader is no longer a legitimate entity.
“Jeb Bush has turned the elections office into a campaign and legal arm of the Republican Party and unabashedly so,” said Florida Democratic Party Chairman Scott Maddox, who immediately appealed Hood’s action. “They’re defying the wishes of a circuit court judge and putting Ralph Nader on the ballot.”
The Republican governor and Hood brushed off the suggestions of partisanship on behalf of the man that many Democrats blame for putting President Bush in the White House.
Hood criticized the judge for not issuing a faster final order — a hearing is scheduled for Wednesday — and said her move will speed up matters and provide election supervisors with some finality.
“We were being inundated with phone calls,” Hood said of panicked county election supervisors. “The only politicking has been between the parties involved. We were acting as an honest broker.”
A spokesman for Miami-Dade County Elections Supervisor Constance Kaplan said her department is under no time crunch to print the ballots, but Hood said that’s not the case in counties with large numbers of military voters who are overseas.
And Bush said that if the court’s ruling is ultimately upheld, it’s easier for the state to remove Nader’s name from the general election ballot, even if it’s included on the overseas ballots that federal law requires be postmarked by Saturday.
One thing was certain Monday: Florida’s highest court will enter the fray. The Supreme Court said in an order Monday night that the case involves “matters of great public importance.”
Lawsuits filed by Democrats charged that the Reform Party — which endorsed Nader in the spring — no longer qualifies as a legitimate political party. The party had $18.18 in its bank account and didn’t qualify for federal matching funds with the Federal Election Commission, Maddox said.
One report says that Hood made the move because of the uncertainty of Hurricane Ivan and how it might affect the state’s ability to hold a hearing on the case. Oh, sure.