The DNC’s Florida and Michigan Delegate Problem

Democrats have a problem looming on the horizon.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) punished Michigan and Florida for holding their primaries earlier than allowed by refusing to award any delegates for those contests.  They were right in doing so. But now that the majority of the convention delegates have been selected the DNC needs to work out a solution to allow delegates to be awarded to these two large states. The process needs to be fair. Awarding delegates from the non-sanctioned contests would run counter to fairness.

In Michigan, only Hillary Clinton’s name was on the balllot. The only other choice those voters had was uncommitted.  It cannot be presumed that all the uncommitted votes would have gone to Barack Obama, and it cannot be presumed that if other names were on the ballot that Clinton would have won as many votes.

With Florida, none of the candidates campaigned in the state, and it is likely that many voters did not show up because they knew their votes wouldn’t count towards delegates.

The LATimes reported today on the real possibility that the 796 Super Delegates to the Democratic National Convention will be the deciding factor in the selection of the Party nominee. This makes resolving the matter of Michigan and Florida delegates even more important.

The Democratic nomination appears poised to come down to the 796 party insiders, who are free to vote for whomever they choose. The delegates’ importance depends on Florida and Michigan.

By Peter Wallsten and James Rainey, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
February 9, 2008

WASHINGTON – In a year that has seen Democratic voters flock to the polls but produce two evenly matched candidates, some party leaders are becoming alarmed that the process for deciding an eventual winner is in disarray, and that the decision may come down not to ordinary voters but to the group of 796 insiders known as “super delegates.”

Contributing to the tension is a continuing battle over the roles of Florida and Michigan, which were stripped of their participation in the party’s national nominating convention due to a fight with the Democratic National Committee over the primary election calendar.

Now, with the prospect that neither Hillary Rodham Clinton nor Barack Obama will win a clear majority in the delegate count, a discussion is reemerging over whether voters in those states should return to the polls and help pick the nominee, voting this time in an election formally sanctioned by the party. Click Here for the entire LATimes story.

The DNC needs to come up with a way to award delegates to Michigan and Florida. They need to do it fairly, and they need to do it soon.

Send an email to Howard Dean at the DNC and urge him to work with party leaders to resolve this matter before the Democratic National Convention in August.

  14 comments for “The DNC’s Florida and Michigan Delegate Problem

  1. February 9, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    Chris, I am pretty sure this is a DNC Rules Committee decision. While it doesn’t hurt to pressure Governor Dean, ultimately it’s going to come down to whether the members of the Rules Committee change their minds. (And/or Dean persuades/pressures them to change their minds.)

    I don’t think the Rules Committee will meet F2F again before August, but there are probably conference calls taking place. I can see the possibility of their being an informal agreement made before August, but nothing can be officially decided until the convention itself. And any agreement made now could unravel before August anyway.

    I think the decision made about the early primary states should stand. What’s the point of having rules if they’re ignored?

  2. Northcountystorm
    February 9, 2008 at 10:39 pm

    Let me get this straight– you want to enforce rules against 3 million voters who did went out and voted and had no role in breaking this stupid rule but you don’t want to enforce a rule that many people complied with and was used in the 2004 election?

    If you and Chairman Dean feel the need to punish anyone, punish the State Party officials(although In Florida the GOP really pushed this up). Don’t punish the voters.

    The DNC has their head so far up their keisters its not funny. Why don’t we just kiss off Michigan and Florida’s electoral votes in November, all because of a desire to maintain a calendar that caters to Iowa and New Hampshire. I’ve heard of self-inflicted wounds before but this takes the cake. What are they smoking at the DNC? And you say the DNC was right to do this? Wipe out the will of over 3 million Democrats? Yet you want to change the rules and allow votes for voters who didn’t follow the rules? And you don’t think that a fair inference is that your positions have something to do with how this will impact the fortunes of Senator Obama?

    Chris—-there was an election in both states. No one forced Obama to take his name off the Michigan ballot. Florida was an level playing field.
    We have the data to determine the delegates and trying a do over would only end up being a mulligan–something the California GOP is famous for. And forget caucuses—they don’t even come close to approaching the votes that people in primaries case—1.7 miullion in Florida and Sen. Nelson estimated only about 50,000 would show up at a cuacus.. But I’m glad you at least recognize the big dung pile the DNC has found itself in.

    Your petition says the delegates to the Convention should be determined by the vote on election day. I say whats good for California should be good enough for Florida and Michigan.

  3. February 10, 2008 at 1:30 am

    Northcountystorm,

    The DNC set up rules, before Florida and Michigan set their primaries in an effort to try to keep states from tripping all over each other in an effort to hold primaries earlier than others. Since the DNC sets the rules, they cannot after the fact say oh well, we were only joking, we’ll let you off the hook and seat your delegates.

    As far as Hillary being the only one on the ballot in Michigan, everyone else withdrew their names out of respect for the party rules. Senator Clinton, by her own admission, somehow didn’t do so in time. It is simply unreasonable for her to recieve delegates when the voters did not have the chance to pick among all the candidates. In both the Florida and Michigan contests, no one campaigned in those states. Arguably the voters did not get a chance to hear for all the candidates and certainly all the candidates did not have the opportunity to court their votes.

    California is different in that the California Democratic Party actively courted DTS voters to vote in the presidential primary. In Los Angeles County DTS voters asked for a Democratic ballot and they were given one. The ballot said if you are a “non-partisan voter” select one. Since those voters are called Decline to State and not non-partisan, the requirement is misleading. Futher, the ballot does not say “I you do not check this box your presidantial priomary vote will not count.”

    The situation in Los Angeles County is not even remotely similar to the situations in Florida or Michigan.

  4. Andrew Davey
    February 10, 2008 at 7:48 am

    Northcountystorm-

    Agreed. While I feel for the party trying to maintain control over the primary calendar, I still think it’s wrong for us to disenfranchise some 3 million Democrats. You’re right- We should “punish” the party leaders, not the people- that is, if we really feel the “need” to punish. Since Florida & Michigan votes may not be counted, the only way this may be settled is by either a superdelegate “race” or some kind of backroom deal. And while I hate the idea of either settling our primary race, I also see that without the Florida & Michigan delegates neither side has enough pledged delegates to actually win.

    Chris-

    I don’t think it’s that simple. Florida & Michigan voters didn’t live in some “bubble” insulated from the outside world and that Presidential Election going on out there. After all, many of Barack Obama’s Michigan supporters were urging Michigan Democrats to vote “Uncommitted” if they wanted Obama. AFSCME did 527 “campaigning” for Hillary Clinton in Florida (independent of Hillary’s campaign). UNITE HERE did 527 “campaign” for Obama in Florida (independeny of Obama’s campaign). Obama ran cable ads that happened to air in Florida, and both made fundraising visits to Florida.

    So really, I think Florida & Michigan Democrats weren’t all that ignorant when they voted. So why must we punish the voters when they did no wrong? Again if we really feel the need for “punishment”, go after the party leaders in both states that pushed for the early primaries. But if we keep on this foolish path of punishing the voters, we’ll have egg on our face this fall when the Republicans run ads against us asking why the “pro-voter integrity” party sought to “disenfranchise” voters in 2 swing states.

  5. February 10, 2008 at 11:28 am

    I don’t see why this has to be so complicated. They were told to change their primary date according to the DNC calendar and they refused.

    The DNC is not disenfranchising anyone, it’s the state party that has done this. To continue to push the lie that the DNC did anything but stick to their rules is disingenuous and it gives those voters the wrong people to rail against.

    All the candidates agreed to this, end of story.

  6. Northcountystorm
    February 10, 2008 at 10:16 pm

    No Heather, the end of the story is the party hacks at the DNC tell the voters of Florida and Michigan that they don’t care about their votes and if the November election is close, we stand to lose Florida and maybe Michigan. The end of the story won’t come until November.

    Why do I get this feeling that if Obama had won Florida and Michigan and not counting those states delegates could keep him from getting the nomination, we’d be hearing cries of outrage on this site and from Obama supporters? Demoonstrations, cries of “let my delegations go” etc.?

    Chris–Like any comparison there are differences and this is no exception. But the common thread is changing the rules and disenfranchising voters. It matters not a hoot that some campaign or other chased D/s voters—the state legislature had to act to allow them to vote in a Democratic presidential primary and the LA County registrar of voters office designed a ballot in 2004 which was not challenged then nor before the election by the CDP, the Obama campaign or Chris Prevatt or the Hope OC. I agree the ballot in LA was confusing (even though the non-partisan versus decline tyo state point is weak because people use those terms intergangably)and agree that these votes should be counted–notwithstanding the rule in LA that they had to fill in the bubble. Do you even know how many people failed to fill in the bubble versus actually filled it in? While its admirable your concerned with an unknown number of declined to state voters, you should be as concerned if not more with your Democratic voters in Florida(closed) and Michigan(open). 3 million voters. Whether you liked the rule of filling in the bubble, whether it made no sense it not the point. You want to change the rule here to allow delegates to represent the votes cast on election day. In California where it will assist your candidate. But not in Florida and Michigan where it will hurt your candidate.

    As for the DNC has acted and thats it, please. Do you honestly believe that if Obama wrapped up the nomination in the next 30 days that they would not seat the FLorida and Michigan delegations? They would seat them to avoid the political suicide I referenced previously. It was a stupid rule to begin with–to disenfranchise 2 states voters that are crucial lto our chances in November–just to placate a New Hampshire-Iowa front loaded calendar. Like I said earlier, since this can be appealed the DNC can change their mind, punish the party leaders–punish the Democratic legislators who voted for the early primary by not seating them. But don’t disenfranchise the voters.

  7. February 11, 2008 at 12:30 am

    Northcountystorm;

    I understand that Approximatly 94,000 people did not check the bubble in LA County.

  8. February 11, 2008 at 5:23 am

    Northcountystorm

    For me, it’s irrelevant who is leading since my candidate dropped out. They all signed a pledge and were perfectly aware that the delegates would not be seated. There was no campaigning in either state and I believe this favored Clinton due to name recognition alone.

    Here is something from the Daily Kos and I agree with it.

    http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/2/10/164650/509/500/454101

    Here is the critical thing to understand about Michigan and Florida. The candidates signed a pledge, while there was still time for Michigan and Florida to change their minds. The candidates agreed not to campaign in those states if they went forward with their plan to hold early primaries. If, indeed, those primaries were held in advance of February 5th, the candidates signed a pledge that stated they would not count towards the Pledged Delegate totals, as is fitting since there would have been no campaigning. The Pledge, then, was a negotiating tool used by the DNC and the candidates ahead of time to try to get Michigan and Florida to change course. They did not. And because they did not, the candidates did not campaign in their states. (We can debate the fine points of this, but as a matter of fact there was no GOTV, no debates, no door-knocking, no voter interaction.) The primaries did not yield Pledged Delegates because there was no campaigning. For those primaries to, after the fact, yield Pledged Delegates would have the effect of creating an unequal playing field favoring one candidate over another. This after the fact rule change would also create an unequal treatment of the will of the voters in all of the other states and territories who played by the rules and where the candidates did campaign. ie. If all the other states registered a preference for a candidate after he or she campaigned there, that should not be outweighed by the preference of voters in a state where that candidate, observing a pledge, simply did not campaign.

    What that has meant in pragmatic terms is that the “consequence”…the loss of Pledged and Super Delegates…was locked in Michigan and Florida for now; their primaries will not yield Pledged Delegates, even if, in all likelihood following a decision by the Credentials Committee, their delegations will be seated at the convention and join the rest of the nation casting a vote in the First Ballot. That was the clear and agreed upon consequence of these two states breaking the rules. The Pledge has to mean something, especially in a closely fought contest, or it will throw the entire process into disarray.

  9. Northcountystorm
    February 11, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    I am shocked to see some poster on Kos argue that the DNC hackmesiters should continue to disenfranchise voters who did not violate the DNC Iowa-New Hampshire K.A. Rule but that a new rule should apparently be written in to put new requirements on superdelegates to follow some sort of “follow the election day results” voting straightjacket. I was also shocked to see that the Kid concluded by telling people to do something about it with a link to the Obama campaign efforts.

    Heather has sipped the kool laid spiked chardonnay but Chris, let me ask you this, do you think the rules should be changed to require the superdelegates to follow the results of the election? And is that going to be based on their state or their congressional district? Is this another rule that you want to change?

  10. Northcountystorm
    February 11, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    Now Chris, no fair calculating whether Obama would benefit the most by a congressional or state mandate before you answer the question. Let’s have your answer.

  11. February 11, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    So because I disagree I’ve “sipped the kool laid spiked chardonnay”.

    Well, I guess I can’t argue with that logic. How does any meaningful discourse come out of shutting things down the the cursory kool aid comment?

  12. February 11, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    Northcountystorm,

    You’ve made an incorrect assumption that my position regarding the DNC delegate problem with Michigan and Florida has anything to do with my support for Senator Obama.

    My position is based upon the simple reality that once the DNC went down the road of telling these two states that they would get no delegates if they scheduld their primaries early there was really no turning back. Are you really suggestin the DNC now say “never mind, we were only joking?” That would set up a delegate fight at the credentialling committee that would cause even more people to feel disenfranchised.

    If the DNC were to reverse it decision, then they will no longer have their decisions taken seriously by anyone. Counting delegates from Michigan is the bigger problem for me because only one candidate was on the ballot. All of the candidates had agreed to remove their names, but Hillary’s campaign somehow didn’t get around to it. It is also not surprising that she vowed after that primary to fight to have those delegates seated.

    If you were to seat the Florida delegates as selected in the non-sanctioned primary, then you would also need to seat Michigan. seatig delegates from Michigan, where Hillary or uncommitted was the only choice is not a fair andequitable process. Seating only the Florida delegates is not either.

    That is why I am suggesting a solution similar to what Chairman Dean has suggested. While not the best, it is more fair than seating delegates selected in non-sanctioned primaries.

    As far as the suggestion that superdelegates be bound to the popular vote; my answer is a resounding NO! The rules are the rules. You can’t be changing them after the process has begun. Superdelegates have been free to make their choices as they see fit. If that doesn’t follow the will of the voters in the primary, then the Party Nominee, and leaders, will have to find a way to get the support of the majority in the general election.

  13. Northcountystorm
    February 11, 2008 at 8:32 pm

    No Heather, it wasn’t because you disagreed with my point(note I didn’t make the same comment concerning Chris). But when you regurgitated with agreement a Kos post heavy on situational ethics and light on consistency with a little Obama campaign link for seasoning, it was hard to miss the kool aid spiked chardonnay. Sorry if I offended you.

    Chris: First let me say I still think you are inconsistent with regard to changing the LA rule but not the DNC rule. But saying that, let me applaud you for the consistency in saying the superdelegate rules should not change. Its interesting that your new candidate Mr. Obama floated the idea that something would need to be done if the superdelegates didn’t break the way of the delegates elected. Of course he backed away from that as soon as a reporter asked him if he meant that Senator Kennedy would be required to vote for Clinton since she won Massachusetts. Then Obama fell back onto “I’m only saying there are arguments on both sides.” Hmm.

    Anyway, I am not sure what Chairman Dean is proposing now that he’s gotten us into this mess(along with the knuckleheads in the Florida and Michigan state legislatures and the rest of the DNC). This wouldn’t be such a problem if instead of exercising the nuclear option the Deaniacs at the DNC would have followed the GOP model and just stripped 50% of their delegates. Still some problem but not enough to jeopardize losing Florida and maybe even Michigan in a general and leading to a donneybrook in Denver by ignoring the will of almost 3 million Democrats.

    And the superdelegates in those states should not have their right to be seated effected at all. Their status as a delegate was not based on the primary results but on their status which was independent of either states elections.

    But if its a redo caucus, forget it. Bill Nelson is right, 1.7 million Florida Democrats voted and a caucus with 50,000 people showing up does not cut it. Even leaders in the Florida Obama campaign acknowledge it would be unfair. I know the Obama people love the caucuses where only about 3% of the registered Democrats in caucus states show up–usally the more liberal, wealthier, white professional type that form one of the key bulwarks of Obama’s support. And hey, those are the rules and more power to him. But not in states that honor the secret ballot and want elections where 10 -20 times the voters turn out.

    But you have a good point where you say Michigan is more of a problem because Obama and Edwards took their names off(in large part to ingratiate themselves with Iowa and New Hampshire calendar extremists but still, an uncommitted vote might have confused people even though the word seemed to get out in Detroit). If Chairman Dean is looking at a way to avoid a train wreck, here is a Solomon like solution—count the Florida votes, seat delegates in proportion to their vote in the election, and refuse to seat any state legislator or party official who failed to object to the legislative decision to move the primary a week earlier then met the DNC’s correct calendar timeline. Then allow Michigan a choice–either hold anonther election or a caucus. They caused the mess and if Senator Levin objects to a caucus then buck up to the bar and pay for another election.

    Or, something far easier and certianly less expensive issimply do what the GOP did with a slight variation. Seat the delegates as apportioned to the election results but they only count 1/2 a vote so you in effect are penalizing them SIGNIFICANTLY by reducing the size of their delegation. Florida would have been the 3rd largest delegation at the Convention. Taking away 1/2 their votes based on the election results is significant enough punishment while not totally throwing out the votes of the voters. Come on Chris Solomon, you can do it.

  14. jeff dogg
    February 29, 2008 at 7:27 am

    There was indeed a vote in both states and it certainly should count. Mr. Obama chose to remove his name from the ballot in Michigan though it was not necessary to do so… this was not a mistake but it was simple ignorance… regardless, his endorsers & constituents there openly campaigned throughout the state well in advance of their primary date to vote un-committed which they did… just in fewer numbers than those that voted for Senator Clinton.
    In Florida, both candidates had the 527′s actively campaigning for them, Obama purchased national cable buys which allowed his campaign to run commercials in Florida, “mistakenly they say” yet fully ignoring the ‘no campaign’ rules, the democratic voters in the state were well aware of the candidates position on the issues and voted in kind… it just so happens they voted overwhelmingly for Senator Clinton like every state that allows actual registered democrats.
    Primaries were ran and to disenfranchise the voters in both states will lead to the defeat of the Democratic nominee in November. As for the caucus idea… that is just ridiculous since a caucus may only allow about 5% of the original voters to participate… a primary is the true pulse of the electorate. Wake up DNC… allow the votes, allow the delegates and allow the super delegates to vote as they were designed to vote… not by the blowing winds. Mr. Obama needs to show that he truly does care about the voters from these two states and call for the DNC to allow the vote to stand… that is if he truly does care about receiving their vote in the general if he is the eventual nominee.

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