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Florida Dems abandon mail-in vote plan

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080318/ap_on_el_pr/primary_scramble Florida Dems abandon mail-in vote plan By BRENDAN FARRINGTON, Associated Press Writer 16
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 17 6:21 PM
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080318/ap_on_el_pr/primary_scramble

      Florida Dems abandon mail-in vote plan

      By BRENDAN FARRINGTON, Associated Press Writer 16
      minutes ago

      TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Facing strong opposition, Florida
      Democrats on Monday abandoned plans to hold a do-over
      presidential primary with a mail-in vote and threw the
      delegate dispute into the lap of the national party.

      While the decision by Florida Democrats left the
      state's 210 delegates in limbo, Democrats in Michigan
      moved closer to holding another contest on June 3.
      Legislative leaders reviewed a measure Monday that
      would set up a privately funded, state-administered
      do-over primary, The Associated Press learned.

      In Florida, a frustrated Democratic Party chairwoman
      Karen L. Thurman sent a letter announcing the
      decision.

      "A party-run primary or caucus has been ruled out, and
      it's simply not possible for the state to hold another
      election, even if the party were to pay for it,"
      Thurman said. "... This doesn't mean that Democrats
      are giving up on Florida voters. It means that a
      solution will have to come from the DNC Rules & Bylaws
      Committee, which is scheduled to meet again in April."

      Members of Florida's congressional delegation
      unanimously opposed the plan, and Barack Obama
      expressed concern about the security of a mail-in vote
      organized so quickly. Hillary Rodham Clinton's
      campaign expressed disappointment with Florida's
      decision.

      "Today's announcement brings us no closer to counting
      the votes of the nearly 1.7 million people who voted
      in January," Clinton spokesman Phil Singer said. "We
      hope the Obama campaign shares our belief that
      Florida's voters must be counted and cannot be
      disenfranchised."

      Obama's campaign said it looked forward to an
      agreement on what to do about Florida.

      "We hope that all parties can agree on a fair seating
      of the Florida delegates so that Florida can
      participate in the Democratic Convention, and we look
      forward to working with the Florida Democratic Party
      and competing vigorously in the state so that Barack
      Obama can put Florida back into the Democratic column
      in November," said Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor

      The national party punished Michigan and Florida for
      holding 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 states, and Obama did
      not appear on Michigan's ballot.

      Clinton won both primaries. As the race with Obama has
      tightened, she has argued the delegates should be
      seated or new primaries held.

      Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who backs
      Clinton, has suggested one alternative — seating all
      Florida delegates already chosen but only giving them
      half a vote each. Nelson discussed this idea with
      Clinton and Obama on the Senate floor last week. Based
      on the Jan. 29 results, Clinton would have won 105,
      Obama 67 and John Edwards 13. Instead they would get
      half those delegate votes.

      "We will continue to work with both Florida and
      Michigan to come to a solution that's fair and within
      the rules," said Democratic National Committee
      spokeswoman Stacie Paxton.

      Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said the
      congressional delegation is talking with the DNC and
      both campaigns to find another solution to seating
      Florida's delegates, including an idea that would take
      into account the January vote among other factors.

      The draft Michigan legislation included language that
      would approve spending privately raised funds for the
      election, according to a Democratic leader who spoke
      on condition of anonymity because lawmakers and the
      campaigns are still considering the proposal.

      The campaigns also received copies of the bill Monday.

      "A revote is the only way Michigan can be assured its
      delegation will be seated, and vote in Denver" at the
      party's national convention, Clinton campaign aide
      Harold Ickes said. "If the Obama campaign thwarts a
      fair election process for the people of Michigan, it
      will jeopardize the Democratic nominee's ability to
      carry the state in the general election."

      Vietor, the Obama spokesman, said, "It's pretty
      apparent that the Clinton campaign's views on voting
      are dependent on their own political interest. Hillary
      Clinton herself said in January that the Michigan
      primary 'didn't count for anything.' Now, she is
      cynically trying to change the rules at the eleventh
      hour for her own benefit. We received a very complex
      proposal for Michigan revote legislation today and are
      reviewing it to make sure that any solution for
      Michigan is fair and practical. We continue to believe
      a fair seating of the delegation deserves strong
      consideration."

      The Democrat-led House is scheduled to leave for a
      two-week vacation Thursday, so any bills to set up the
      do-over primary need to be brought up quickly. The
      measure also would have to be approved by the
      Republican-controlled state Senate. It would require a
      two-thirds vote in both chambers.

      To go forward, any plan also would require the
      approval of the two campaigns, the Democratic National
      Committee, state party leaders and Gov. Jennifer
      Granholm, who is backing Clinton.

      The contest must be held by June 10 for the results to
      count under DNC rules.

      Voters would have to sign a statement that they hadn't
      voted in the Jan. 15 GOP primary to be eligible to
      vote on June 3. That would effectively keep away from
      the polls Democratic voters — most of them non-Clinton
      supporters — who crossed over to vote in the GOP
      primary because Clinton was the only major candidate
      on the Democratic ballot.

      The draft measure would set up the a fund within the
      state Treasury to receive up to $12 million in cash
      and other assets from private donors to cover the cost
      of the election.

      On Monday in Atlanta, federal appeals judges
      skeptically questioned a lawyer who argued that the
      national party's decision to strip Florida of its 210
      convention 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 choosing 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.

      There was no indication when the court would rule.

      ___

      Associated Press writers Kathy Barks Hoffman in
      Lansing, Mich., and Shannon McCaffrey in Atlanta
      contributed to this report.
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