The committee said the Sunshine State would be stripped of its delegation at the party’s National Convention in 2008 if the state does not reschedule its primary in the next 30 days.
As the nation’s fourth-most-populous state, Florida has 210 delegates and has played a major role in recent presidential elections. Florida’s decision to advance its primary follows the increasing trend of states pushing up their contests in order to gain relevance in the election.
“Rules are rules. California abided by them, and Florida should, as well. To ignore them would open the door to chaos,” said Garry Shays, a DNC member from California. California — with its 441 delegates — moved its primary to Feb. 5, along with more than a dozen other states.
Democratic leaders in Florida said that the Republican-controlled state legislature was the driving force behind the Jan. 29 date and that they could not challenge that selection.
Florida voted to move its date forward in May to give the swing state more of a voice in the nominating process. DNC rules allow four states: Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina to vote before Feb. 5.
The swelling number of states holding their primaries or caucuses on Feb. 5 means the parties’ nominees may be decided by an unusually early date.
The DNC’s move may have repercussions beyond Florida as other state legislatures consider disregarding the Feb. 5 cutoff. Last week, Michigan’s state Senate voted to hold its primary on Jan. 15. The state’s House is expected to approve the earlier date as well.
The DNC gave Florida the option of holding a Jan. 29 contest but with nonbinding results, and the delegates would be awarded at a later official date.
Florida Democratic Committee Chairwoman Karen Thurman said this option would be expensive — as much as $8 million — and potentially undoable. Another option would be to challenge the ruling in court.
“We do represent, standing here, a lot of Democrats in the state of Florida — over 4 million,” Thurman said, according to the New York Times. “This is emotional for Florida. And it should be.”