Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Florida Rules

Florida played a big role in the election in 2000, so it’s only fitting that we should bookend the Bush administration by having a hand in choosing his successor… and in the same Charlie Foxtrot* manner.

If Florida had not moved up its primary to Jan. 29, voters would be heading to the polls Tuesday, positioned to help decide the Democratic nominee.

Instead, party officials are exploring ways to ensure that Florida’s voters are counted. The leading option: a mail-in vote. Estimated cost: $6 million, with the tab picked up by contributions to the state party.

State Rep. Dan Gelber, a Miami Beach Democrat who floated the idea months ago as a way of resolving the state’s outsider status, said party officials are looking at running a vote-by-mail election ”in an efficient and manageable way. They’re deep into the weeds right now, learning how a mail-in would work and whether it makes sense.”

Gelber said one obstacle has been the divisions among the two presidential campaigns.

”The problem is everyone sees the issue through the filter of what’s good for their candidate, and that’s a very hard way to fashion a remedy,” he said. ”You’re never going to make everybody happy, but you can find a way that’s fair, that’s most participatory. It’s just that the supporters are so entrenched in what is good for their particular candidate.”

All of the candidates last summer signed a pledge not to campaign in the early primary states, and Clinton was the only candidate to remain on Michigan’s ballot. She won both contests and has pushed for the results of the January primaries to count. Obama’s campaign has accused her of trying to change the rules after the fact.

Sen. Bill Nelson, a Clinton supporter who reversed course last week and called for a revote, said on CNN Monday that ”it would be a tragedy if the people in Florida, the people of Michigan, do not have a say in picking the Democratic presidential nomination…. It would be a tragedy for America and especially Florida.”

Nelson said in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece Monday that in order to conduct an election by June 10 — the national party’s deadline for selecting delegates — the state would need to set things up fairly soon.

”Overseas ballots would have to go out by the third week in April,” he wrote. ”Voters in Florida would have to get their ballots the first part of May. And we would need to set early June deadlines for ballots to be returned and tallied.”

But opponents of a do-over, including Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Clinton supporter, said that the state lacks experience in running such elections and that some voters would be disenfranchised. She has suggested a ”weighted formula” to assign delegates to each candidate based on a number of factors, including the Jan. 29 results and results in other states.

And Wexler said in meetings Monday with constituents that he has heard ”no appetite for another election.”

A spokesman at the Democratic National Committee could not confirm the meeting with Dean. The party chairman on Sunday suggested that the dilemma is the state parties’ to resolve and that he would approach the two presidential campaigns when the Florida party delivered a proposal to the national party.

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), a former presidential candidate and Obama supporter suggests the two candidates split the difference between Michigan and Florida.

Sen. Christopher Dodd said Monday there’s a simple way to end the wrangling between Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama over Florida and Michigan delegates: divide them evenly between the two Democratic presidential candidates.

“Split up the delegations, let ’em each have 50 percent of it and move on,” said Dodd. “You don’t have to go back over and re-do these things.”

Added Dodd: “My view is make this as simple as you can.”


Obama currently has more delegates than Clinton, but that could change if Clinton were to win a large enough portion of Florida and Michigan’s delegates. Dodd’s proposal to split the delegates would keep Obama in the delegate lead.

Some in the party have proposed having major Democratic donors pay for the do-over primaries instead of taxpayers. Dodd rejected that approach.

“The idea that a bunch of fat cats are gonna finance it, I don’t like that idea at all,” Dodd said.

Dodd said he had not talked with Obama or any party officials about the idea of evenly splitting the Florida and Michigan delegates.

One thought occurs to me: if Florida and Michigan have do-overs, is there any guarantee that the results will be the same? In Michigan, Barack Obama wasn’t even on the ballot, and it’s been over a month since the first primary was held. That’s a long time in a primary race and a lot of sentiment shifts. Hillary Clinton may have won in Florida the first time around, but what’s the guarantee that she’ll win here again? Both candidates should be careful what they wish for; they might actually get it.

*Charlie Foxtrot is phonetic alphabet for CF, or clusterfuck.