In the 2008 US presidential elections, Michigan and Florida were stripped of their Democratic delegates after they disobeyed Democratic Party rules and held their primaries before Feb. 5. Michigan held its primary on January 15th and Florida held their’s on January 29th. While neither candidate actively campaigned in either state, Clinton won both primaries. To the surprise of few observers, Clinton began calling for reinstating the delegates either according to the results of the elections that took place in January or to according to some kind of a re-vote. Barack Obama, who stood to lose from any arrangement that would seat the Michigan and Florida delegates, not surprisingly objects to these proposals and Clinton’s position. Both candidates tried their best to argue their cases. Given their opposing interests in making these cases, they’ve brought almost all of the arguments for and against this notion to the surface.
One of the main proposals has been to to hold a re-vote in Michigan and Florida and to use the results to allot delegates from the state. On March 18th, 2008, however, the Florida Democratic Party rejected the idea of holding a re-vote of any kind. This means that even if there is a rationale for doing so, it apparently will not happen. It appears to remain a possibility in Michigan.
The debate surrounds a number of important questions. Do Michigan and Florida deserve to be punished? Is this essential to preserving the integrity of the primary election process and the authority of the Democratic National Committee who makes the rules? Is their an established process whereby the state parties can make appeals to the DNC to seat the delegates? Does the punishment unfairly disenfranchise Democratic voters in these two states? Need the primaries be fully democratic, or can they be largely determined by the party leadership. Is it fair to the candidates to seat the delegates according to the results of elections in which neither candidate campaigned seriously but in which Clinton campaigned more? Is it fair to seat the delegates between these two candidates when other candidates were still in the contest at the time? If a re-vote is held, who is going to pay, will it be too costly, and will the payment arrangement be consistent with democratic principles? Is a mail-in ballot an appropriate response to this problem? Is it practical and is it a problem that Florida has never done a mail-in ballot before? Is there public support in Michigan and Florida for these proposals? Is there national public support? How does public support interact with the question of who pays the bill? Would this be a good way to resolve the difficulties in concluding a dead-even Democratic nomination? Is this a “crisis” that requires making exceptions to provide an opportunity for the elections to be decided? Finally, would seating the delegates be good for the Democratic party? These are the questions of this debate. Many of them exist on the level of practicality, and many others exist on the level of the fundamentals of our democratic system and the primary nomination process.
While it is accurate that Obama and Clinton did agree to not campaign in Florida and Michigan, Clinton maintains that this does not mean that they agreed to not push for the seating of the delegates after the election that took place in these states. This is a very important distinction, and it places Hilary’s actions to call for the seating of the delegates appropriately outside of the agreement that was struck between the two candidates.
The law to move the state primary forward was a state-wide legislative move that then obligated both the Democratic and Republican state parties in Florida to move their primaries forward. The Democratic party, while obligated by state law to obey, was not chiefly responsible for moving the election forward and became powerless to change the law. The problem for the Democrats is that they are not in control of the state legislature. And, despite the Democratic parties general disapproval of this action, the Republican state party pushed the measure forward. It is unfair to punish the Democratic party so severely for an action that they were not necessarily chiefly responsible for. Therefore, the Florida Democratic delegates should be seated at the national convention.
“Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons, an Obama supporter, said the rules are the rules.
‘Michigan and Florida both decided to violate the rules. They were told, ‘If you violate the rules, this will be the penalty.’ They violated the rules anyway. And so, now, here we are trying to change the rules after the game,”‘he said.
But the rules, according to the DNC, gives the states stripped of their delegates the ability to try other options.
The first course of action is for the state parties to appeal to the Convention Credentials Committee, a group that resolves any issues that pop up.”
It is commonly recognized that Iowa and New Hampshire, by going first in the primary process, have a disproportionate sway in selecting the presidential nominee. This is because the results in these states can sway the results in other states. This means that voters in these two states have more power than voters in other states. Since Florida and Michigan have their turn toward the very end of the primaries, their voters have much smaller impact on selecting their parties’ respective nominee. This means that Florida and Michigan’s voters have less power or, other words, that they are disenfranchised on some level. This is undemocratic and unjust. Michigan and Florida’s attempts to move their primaries forward were both a just protest of this system and a just attempt to give their voters a fair say in the nominations. They should not be severely punished for these actions by having their delegates stripped, which will only further disenfranchise these voters.
The Democratic National Committee rules were very clear in Florida and Michigan. The punishment for violating the rules was also very clear; the state party would be stripped of its delegates, meaning that the state’s vote would not count in the primary election. With perfect knowledge of the rules and the punishment for breaking the rules, the Florida and Michigan Democratic parties, nevertheless, broke the rules. They should not now claim that the punishment is unfair.
Obama and Clinton agreed with each other that they would not campaign in either Florida or Michigan. They agreed with each other on this point because they both recognized that it would not count, and, subsequently, that any effort by one or the other candidate to campaign in these states and stake claim to the results could be unfair, would be wasteful, and would likely undermine the decision of the DNC. They should stick to this agreement to not count the results of the two states.
The reason that these states deserve to be punished is because these rules are essential to preserving the integrity of the primary system. The rules ensure there is not an endless leap-frogging effect between states to move their primary elections earlier in the calendar to presumably achieve greater attention in the election process. If Florida and Michigan were not punished, other states would find the idea attractive to move their elections up in the calendar. The credibility of the DNC would be diminished and a chaotic, unstable, and damaging election process could result. In so far as Michigan and Florida’s actions threaten to cause such damages, they deserve to be punished severely for their infractions.
After the precedent of 2000 where the intervention of the Supreme Court was necessary to determine the president of the United States and the current tight and challenging competition for the Democrat nomination, people feel that there is a need for rules and consistency to strengthen the democratic process of electing the most important person within the US political system.
Changing the rules to allow for the seating of Florida and Michigan delegates will undoubtedly benefit one of the candidates. Which candidate benefits depends on what course of action is taken. But, this does not matter. If a change in policy will negatively affect any one candidate, than no action should be taken.
In a democratic system, the voters of Florida and Michigan should have their votes counted. The implications of denying them the vote are very high.
While the DNC certainly does have the right, to some extent, to limit the democratic nature of the primaries, upholding this very democratic nature is in their interests. In general, it upholds the legitimacy of the Democratic party to be as democratic as possible in the primary elections. If they fail to uphold these principles, their general legitimacy is undermined, undermining their agenda and chances in general elections.
It ensures that the nominee actually receives the support of the general public; support that he or she will need in the general election. It is also important that voters not feel disenfranchised in the primary elections. If this is the case, they may feel compelled to protest by not voting in the general elections.
If the nomination of the Democratic nominee is in a dead-heat going into the national convention, the Florida and Michigan delegates could be an important way to provide the decisive support to one Democratic candidate that is needed to end the contest, unify the party, and move into the general election with strength.
Certainly, the Florida and Michigan Democratic parties are responsible for breaking the rules of the Democratic National Committee by attempting to move their state primary forward in the calendar. Punishing them is an appropriate measure. But, it is unfair and undemocratic to unseat the delegates of these states, as the chief recipients of this punishment are actually the Michigan and Florida Democratic voters, who are subsequently disenfranchised. Voters should not be punished for the mistakes of their leaders. Rather, punishments should focus on penalizing the State Democratic parties and their leaders. This would be a more just punishment and more democratic. In the 2008 elections, the best response would be to allow the voters to have their voices herd by seating the delegates, while devising better ways to punish state parties that break the rules.
Valid elections require that certain democratic standards be upheld. One of these standards is that the rules are clear from the beginning. An election in which the candidates and voters are led to believe won’t count, but that is later changed to count, violates this basic rule. Similarly, the most basic election standards demand that the candidates are all fairly and equally represented on their respective ballots. Michigan’s primary violated this principle in that Obama’s name did not appear on the ballot, while Hilary’s did.
The Democratic party, with the right to free association, has the right to establish rules and to enforce those rules. If Michigan and Florida break those rules, the DNC has the right to punish them. If that right to set and enforce its own rules is limited, then the DNC’s free right to association is infringed upon, which harms the democratic principle of the rule of law.
Florida played a pivotal role in the 2000 Presidential elections, with its courts deciding on the critical issue of whether a recount would be conducted. It was widely seen in America as having a disproportionately large and undue impact on the outcome of the elections. This has caused resentment, and the notion of Florida having another re-count in the 2008 presidential elections re-kindles these resentments.
This means that the Democratic voters in this election were simply not give a ballot that could ever live up to democratic, election standards. It is necessary, with any ballot that the primary candidates’ names appear on the ballot. Both Obama and Clinton’s names were absent. There is not chance that the results of an election that did not include the names of the candidates on the ballots could be used to later allot delegates for the Democratic Convention.
Roughly 1.7 million Democrats in Florida’s primary. That’s roughly fifty percent of the registered Democrats there. This indicates that these voters were paying close attention to the candidates and that they took the election seriously, despite knowledge that their votes would probably not count. This was certainly a legitimate election that sufficiently represented the will of the people. As such, it is valid to use the results to allot Florida and Michigan delegates.
The current media environment – with constant and comprehensive coverage of the candidates on the TV, Internet, and Radio – makes it impossible to argue that Florida voters, in order to become informed about the candidates, required that the candidates waged campaigns there. Given the massive turnout, it would appear that voters did not depend on the campaigns of the candidates to acquire information that would cause them to act so passionately in support of their respective candidates.
Knowing that the Michigan and Florida elections would not count as far as leading to the seating of delegates, Democratic presidential candidates did not campaign there. In Florida, Senator Clinton did campaign to some extent, while Senator Obama did not at all. Indeed Obama, by not campaigning in Florida due to the knowledge that delegates would not be seated from the state, did poorer in Florida than he probably otherwise would have. He was acting on the assumption that the Democratic National Convention would enforce its punishment of Florida by not seating delegates according to the vote. If the DNC later decides to allot delegates based on this vote, it would effectively unfairly punish Obama for trusting the DNC’s rules, its punishments, and the DNC’s willingness to enforce both. This would unfairly punish Obama.
In order for citizens to cast an informed vote, they must be aware of the platform and character of a candidate. This requires, to some extent, that voters are campaigned to by presidential candidates. In both Florida and Michigan, due to the unseating of their delegates, presidential candidates did not wage serious campaigns. Subsequently, the voters were uninformed of the choices confronting them. Their vote, therefore, should not be counted, as it was not as informed as otherwise would be the case. If a re-vote is possible, then the candidates could wage real campaigns there, the voters could become fully informed, and the ultimate re-vote could be viewed as more fully informed and thus legitimate.
A re-vote would cost roughly $6 million. Howard Dean had DNC lawyers look at the idea, and they felt that a mail-in primary could be run and paid for by the party without breaking any laws. The Florida Democratic Party, under state law, could accept unlimited donations from people, campaigns, unions or companies to pay for it. NPR reported on March 12, 2008, “The Democratic governors of two other states, Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania and Jon Corzine of New Jersey, say they’re willing to raise half the money — as much as $15 million. Both governors support Hillary Clinton in the nomination race. Getting the money shouldn’t be a problem. Democrats have already contributed hundreds of millions for this presidential contest — more than anyone thought possible.”
A mail-in ballot is democratically inclusive because every Florida and Michigan voter will receive a ballot in the mail, including those voters whom are abroad or in different states in America. This means that it is a very inclusive process, and is sure to be more representative than the first, meaningless elections that took place in these two states. The results are much more likely to be accurate and their is a much lower chance of vote-count problems. The will of the people would be very clearly expressed and then represented in the allotment of delegates. This would be good for Florida and Michigan voters’ sense of their voices being heard, as well as for the strength of the Democratic process in general.
“It’s comprehensive. You get to vote if you’re in Iraq or in a nursing home. It’s not a bad way to do this.”
“With so much at stake, and the race so close, it’s apparent to me that a new election in Florida is a fair way to provide both candidates with another chance to win needed delegates in a state that is certain to be pivotal in November. And there is a practical and affordable way to conduct another election that would be fair to all involved, and should gain the support of state officials. It is this: Hold a revote via a mail-in ballot, and underwrite its cost with Democratic Party funds. I’ve already discussed the idea with Republican Gov. Charlie Crist and he is supportive.”
It is important that the Democratic nomination be decided in a timely fashion. This is good for the Democratic party, avoids bloody politics, and can enable the country and candidates to “rest” before the general election. A Michigan and Florida re-vote offers a final opportunity for one candidate to win decisively, secure the nomination, and end the Democratic primary election.
On March 18th, 2008, the Florida Democratic Party rejected the idea of holding a re-vote of any kind. This means that even if there is a rationale for doing so, it won’t happen. It also means that there is not popular will in Florida to make it happen, which would make it particularly inappropriate to try to push forward a re-vote.
Given the costs of a proposed mail-in ballot system, some propose that it be paid for, in part, by private interests. This may, indeed, be necessary for such a system to achieve funding viability. The problem with this kind of arrangement, however, is that private interests could be seen as having a conflict of interest in funding such a system. The most obvious conflict is that many private interests will support funding this re-vote merely because it appears to favor a candidate they support. In Florida, this is Hilary Clinton, who is likely to win any re-vote there. And, as expected, Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania and Governor Jon Corzine of New Jersey say they are willing to raise as much as $15 million to support mail-in re-votes. Both governors support Hillary Clinton in the nomination race.
Michigan Sen. Carl Levin (D) – “it would be very difficult to hold another vote in Michigan and that even a mail-in contest would have problems: ‘Not just cost, but the security issue. How do you make sure that hundreds of thousands, perhaps a million or more ballots can be properly counted and that duplicate ballots can be avoided?'”
The costs for a mail-in ballot are not small. At the low end, estimates for a Florida mail-in-ballot range from $4 million to $10 million. At the high end, there is an estimate of a total $30 million for both Michigan and Florida. Who’s going to pay for this? Both the states and the DNC do not want the bill.
Florida has never before held a mail-in ballot. Now is not the time for it to try to build this system and experiment with it. The importance of the 2008 presidential elections, and any outcome from a Florida vote, makes it inappropriate to experiment with an untested mail-in ballot.
A mail-in system depends on ballots being received by voters. One of the problems, however, is that poor voters are frequently transient or without permanent or up-to-date addresses. This means that poor voters are uniquely disadvantaged and disenfranchised by a mail-in ballot system. A walk-in caucus or primary, conversely, does not depend on voters having permanent addresses, and is subsequently more accessible to poor voters.
The concern with mail-in voting surrounds the verification of voter identity as well as voter signatures. This requires a fairly well developed balloting infrastructure, standards, and administration. But, in the state of Florida, there is no past experience with mail-in ballots, making the risk of voter fraud very high.
Knowing that their vote would not count in the Democratic primaries in Florida, it is presumable that many Democrats and independence voted Republican, so as to have a voice. This means that they registered as Republicans. How would these individuals be accounted for in a re-vote? Would they be allowed, now, to vote Democrat? This couldn’t happen, since that would mean that these voters would vote twice. So, these voters, who would have voted in the Democratic primary, would be effectively disenfranchised in the re-vote.
Despite all the logic that could accompany a re-vote, in Michigan, it is simply highly unlikely that the Republican-controlled legislature would allow for a re-vote.