updated 2:51 p.m. EDT, Thu March 27, 2008
Senator calls for sweeping election overhaul
From Alexander Mooney
CNN Washington Bureau
(CNN) -- Sen. Bill Nelson on Thursday proposed an
overhaul of U.S. presidential election laws, saying
the dispute over delegates in Florida and Michigan has
exposed a flawed nominating system.
Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida proposes getting rid of
the Electoral College system.
In a speech on the floor of the Florida state Senate
Thursday, Nelson said he formally will introduce
legislation that will attempt to fix many of the
problems exposed by this cycle's round of presidential
primaries, adding that the "time for reform is now."
"This country cannot afford to wait that long before
we fix the flaws we still see in our election system,"
Nelson said. "The blessings of liberty cannot wait."
Specifically, Nelson said he will propose six rotating
interregional primaries that "will give large and
small states a fair say in the nomination process."
These primaries would be conducted on dates ranging
from March to June, Nelson said, taking the place of
the current early-voting states Iowa and New Hampshire
-- which critics long have argued aren't
representative of the American electorate.
The dates initially would be set by a lottery system
for the 2012 election and would rotate positions in
Nelson called for early voting in every state and the
elimination of voting machines that do not produce a
paper trail. Video Watch more on voting problems »
The Florida Democrat also said all citizens should be
allowed to vote absentee if they so choose, and he is
pushing for a federal grant incentive program to help
develop voting by mail and via the Internet.
Nelson also formally will seek to award the presidency
based on the popular vote instead the Electoral
College -- a move that would require a stand-alone
bill since it would require an amendment to the
"The goal is simple: one person, one vote," Nelson
said in his speech Thursday.
Nelson's Senate office said he is working to gain
support for the bill and indicated it could be ready
for a committee hearing in the coming weeks.
Previous electoral reform efforts, especially those
seeking to eliminate the Electoral College, have
failed to gain widespread support.
Last fall, three senators also introduced a proposal
for four regional primaries, but the legislation
failed to gain traction. Nelson, along with Sen. Carl
Levin, D-Michigan, also proposed a regional primary
plan last fall.
Nelson, a supporter of Sen. Hillary Clinton's White
House bid, has been at the center of election overhaul
efforts for much of last year since leaders in his
state voted to move up the presidential primary ahead
of the approved date by the Democratic and Republican
parties. Video Watch more on the challenges Clinton
The Democratic National Committee stripped his state
of all convention delegates, while the GOP penalized
Florida by cutting its delegate strength in half.
Last fall, Nelson unsuccessfully sued his party over
the sanction, saying the lawsuit "is about the right
of every American to have access to the ballot box,
and to have that vote count -- and to have it count as
The DNC took similar action against Michigan, and both
states' convention delegations are the subject of a
heated back-and-forth between the two Democratic major
presidential candidates and local party leaders.
Nelson, a strong proponent of a mail-in revote in
Florida earlier this month, has warned of a "train
wreck" for the Democratic Party should it snub his
state at the national convention in August.
But the revote efforts in Florida and Michigan, which
Clinton campaign strongly has championed, failed to
Neither state will be awarded seats at the convention
unless the two candidates and the DNC can agree on a
compromise that satisfies all parties.
"If nothing else, this election has provided further
evidence that our system is broken," Nelson said
"My fight has been based on the principle that in
America every citizen has an equal right to vote.
"It is based on a premise that Floridians are entitled
to have their votes count as intended. And it is based
on a belief that we all deserve a say in picking our