Posted: March 17, 2008 7:47 PM
Florida Democrats Abandon Plan to Re-vote
The Florida Democratic Party announced Monday afternoon that it was abandoning a proposal to have voters redo the presidential primary through the mail, leaving the national party to decide what will be done with its 210 delegates.
“Last week, the Florida Democratic Party laid out the only existing way that we can comply with DNC Rules - a statewide revote run by the Party - and asked for input,” state party Chairwoman Karen L. Thurman wrote in an open letter to Sunshine State Democrats. “Thousands of people responded. We spent the weekend reviewing your messages, and while your reasons vary widely, the consensus is clear: Florida doesn’t want to vote again. So we won’t.”
Florida’s congressional delegation unanimously opposed the plan, and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama expressed concern about the security of a mail-in vote organized so quickly.
“This is a real setback for Hillary [Clinton], who could have gotten both delegates, momentum, and — crucially — a stronger chance to claim a popular vote lead out of the revote,” Politico’s Ben Smith wrote.
No Democrat officially campaigned in Florida, nor ran any ads, but in the Jan. 29 balloting Clinton handily won the state, garnering 50 percent of the vote compared to Obama’s 33 percent.
“Thurman says they’re not giving up, with the other options, in theory, being to recognize the earlier vote, to agree on a 50-50 split, or some compromise in between,” Smith added, additionally quoting Thurman as writing, “I’m not sure a process issue like this one — getting shut out of the primary process — will move Democratic voters in November, but I suspect John McCain’s pollsters will find out.”
MSNBC political bloggers hypothesized that one of three things will happen: Florida’s delegates won’t be seated; they will get seated thanks to the party credentials committee; or there will be a compromise such as halving the state’s delegates.
Democratic National Committeeman Jon Ausman told the Tallahassee Democrat that he’s optimistic about his appeal to the DNC to seat at least 115 of the state’s delegates.
According to Ausman, the state’s 23 super delegates are party officeholders and officials who “shall” — not “may” — be seated under the party’s rules.
“He said the state could get another 92 delegates under a rule that requires the DNC to penalize the state by stripping only half of its 185 pledged delegates, not all of them,” the newspaper reported. “If he prevails in getting 115 delegates seated on appeal, Ausman said Florida will then ask the DNC to toss in the rest of them.”
Things appear to be shaping up differently in Michigan. Democrats in the Great Lakes State inched closer to holding another contest on June 3 on Monday. Legislative leaders reviewed a measure Monday that would set up a privately funded, state-administered do-over primary, the Associated Press reported.
The national party punished Michigan and Florida for moving up their primaries before Feb. 5, stripping them of all their delegates to the party’s national convention this summer in Denver. All the Democratic candidates agreed not to campaign in the two states. Hillary Clinton finished first in both primaries but Obama was not even on the Michigan ballot.
As her race with Obama has tightened, Clinton has argued the delegates should be seated or new primaries held.
On Monday in Atlanta, federal appeals judges skeptically questioned a lawyer who argued that the national party’s decision to strip Florida of its delegates was unconstitutional.
Michael Steinberg, a lawyer for Victor DiMaio, a Democratic Party activist from Tampa, said Florida’s Democratic voters are being disenfranchised by not being permitted to have their say in the selection of their party’s nominee. The action violates DiMaio’s constitutional right to equal protection, he argued.
“The citizens of the state of Florida are not being treated equally,” Steinberg told the judges.
But Joe Sandler, a lawyer for the Democratic National Committee, said the party has the right to set its own the rules and not seat delegates who refuse to follow them.
“It goes to the heart of the constitutional right of the DNC to determine the best means of selecting delegates to the convention,” Sandler said, according to the AP.
Sounding skeptical of Steinberg’s equal protection argument, the judges noted in their questions that states select their presidential picks in different ways — some use caucuses and others primaries — and on different days.
There was no indication when the court would rule.