Ballot problems in Florida's 16th Congressional district race

There is an odd sense of deja vu here — another federal election, and another instance of problems with ballot design in Florida …

The current problem in Florida’s 16th Congressional district race is that former representative Mark Foley’s name, according to Florida law, has to remain on the ballot — despite the fact that he has resigned from office and is no longer running for reelection. That has left Joe Negron, who has taken Foley’s spot on the ballot, scrambling to inform voters that a vote for Foley is really a vote for Negron.

Here’s some information from a Los Angeles Times story about the race:

A vote for Mark Foley is a vote to elect Joe Negron,” explained Negron, who took over the GOP spot on the ballot when Foley resigned after explicit messages he sent to teenage male pages were made public.

The Nov. 7 ballot had already been approved and some absentee forms mailed out when Foley resigned. Florida law forbids variation in the voting materials within any district, so Foley’s name had to stay.

A new squabble over the unchangeable ballot arose Friday, when the Florida Democratic Party filed a court motion to prevent “illegal electioneering” at polling places — which is how it sees district election officials’ plan to post notices telling voters that they should mark their ballots for Foley if they want to vote for Negron.

“Plain and simple, posting candidates’ names is considered electioneering, and electioneering within 100 feet of a polling place is illegal,” said Karen Thurman, state Democratic party chairwoman. “It’s not the state’s job to inform voters about the Republican candidate.”

Politics aside, no question that this situation is likely to confuse voters in the 16th district when they cast their ballots, now and through Election Day. It’ll be interesting to see what the vote turns out to be, and this presents an interesting situation for those who might be interested in studying ballot design and voter information efforts: in situations like these (which we have seen in other states recently), how can voters be informed about their choices, and how can ballots be designed so that voters are no confused?