If Florida’s delegates to the Democratic National Convention aren’t seated, about 1.7 million voters who participated in the state’s primary wil
March 17, 2008

If Florida’s delegates to the Democratic National Convention aren’t seated, about 1.7 million voters who participated in the state’s primary will, in a way, be disenfranchised. If Florida’s delegates are seated, millions of Democrats who would have voted but didn’t because they’d been told in advance that their vote wouldn’t count, would also effectively be disenfranchised. (As the estimable Carl Hiaasen put it, “It’s like Major League Baseball waiting until midseason and then declaring that spring training games will count in the final standings.”) Either way, Democratic voters in one of the nation’s biggest states would be screwed.

Florida Dems could have another primary, but there are some major legal and financial restrictions. They could try some re-vote-by-mail process, but no one is confident in the integrity of the system. Everyone has been trying to think of something, but to no avail.

So, yesterday, Floridians gave up.

Setting the stage for a contentious fight well into the summer, Florida Democrats gave up Monday on redoing their Jan. 29 presidential primary, leaving it to the national party or rivals Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to hammer out a solution to make the state’s delegates count.

Florida Democrats, who had already closed the door on holding a full-scale conventional election or a caucus, scrapped the controversial vote-by-mail primary they had proposed less than a week ago as their best option, saying it just isn’t possible.

“While your reasons vary widely, the consensus is clear: Florida doesn’t want to vote again. So we won’t,” Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Karen Thurman said late Monday in a letter to Florida Democrats.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) is still pushing a proposal to have the DNC simply cut the state’s delegate totals in half (instead of eliminating them altogether), but the Clinton campaign is reportedly opposed to the idea.

Obama supporters are offering an alternative, but it also seems a little too controversial.

[Allan Katz, of Tallahassee, who supports Obama] is recommending that the [Democratic National Committee’s rules and bylaws committee] give Florida its delegates back — but award half to Clinton and half to Obama. Florida activists would be allowed to participate in the convention, but the ground rules for the primaries wouldn’t be changed after the fact.

“Fifty-fifty is the way to do it, and I don’t think there’s any other fair conclusion,” Katz said. “Everyone agreed — Hillary Clinton agreed, Barack Obama agreed — that we weren’t selecting delegates in the Jan. 29 election, so how can we do that now?”

That has some advantages — Florida’s delegates would at least be seated and recognized — but there’s no way on Earth that the Clinton campaign would approve of a solution that erased her margin from the primary that wasn’t supposed to count.

And what about Michigan?

Michigan Democratic party leaders on Monday proposed legislation to conduct a new primary on June 3 to allocate the state’s 156 delegates. The election would be run by the state but be privately financed.

Mrs. Clinton, of New York, has agreed to the plan; aides to Mr. Obama, of Illinois, have refused to commit to it. It is more uncertain than ever that he will: The party’s rules may disqualify anyone who voted in Michigan’s Republican primary from voting in the Democratic primary — including those who may be Obama supporters who voted Republican because his name was not on the Democratic ballot.

Michigan Democratic officials said the plan for a revote could not move forward unless both campaigns agreed to the proposal in the next day or so.

The Michigan Legislature then must approve any plan to conduct a statewide election, and state lawmakers are scheduled to begin a two-week recess on Thursday. Even if the Obama and Clinton campaigns endorse the proposal, it still must win two-thirds support in both the State House, controlled by Democrats, and the Senate, which has a Republican majority. The plan is also dependent on state party officials raising an estimated $10 million to pay for the new election.

I’d just add that top Clinton strategist Harold Ickes blasted the Obama campaign for its hesitation to support the Michigan re-vote, insisting that the “right to vote is the foundation of our democracy,” and Michigan voters “deserve to have a voice and a vote in the Democratic Party’s nominating process.”

Ickes, of course, is one of the DNC members who decided to strip Michigan of its delegates in the first place.

Get the sense that the campaigns, while touting principles, are really looking at this from purely self-serving interests? I do.

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