Florida and Michigan Do-Overs

The Democratic National Committee is trying to work out a means for Florida and Michigan to stage delegate selection contests within the rules but there has thus far been no plan that’s acceptable to the states and both campaigns. Meanwhile, some supporters of Hillary Clinton are arguing that the DNC should simply seat the delegates from the previous round of “voting,” despite no alternative candidates on the ballot in Michigan and a pledge by the candidates not to campaign in Florida.

Jeralyn Merritt contends that it’s not Clinton’s fault that Barack Obama and the other candidates took their names off the ballot in Michigan, since it wasn’t technically required by their pledge, and that said pledge never specifically said the delegates wouldn’t count.

The exclusion of Michigan and Florida was a penalty imposed by the DNC. In my view, it was an unfair one and should be lifted. The votes should count as is, the delegates should be awarded and seated.

Big Tent Democrat favors a re-vote of some sort. Hillary appears not to be opposed if that is the will of the party. The party appears to be leaning towards a mail-in revote. When will Obama get on board?

Publius, rightly in my view, says this is “simply legalistic parsing” that ignores the spirit and context of the agreement. He’s willing to accept any outcome and support the winner “so long as the ending is legitimate — i.e., is consistent with ex ante rules.”

For instance, let’s say that Obama holds a majority in elected delegates (and popular vote), but Clinton pulls it out with superdelegates. I won’t like that, but that’s a perfectly legitimate result. The ex ante rules (however silly they may be) incorporate superdelegates, so I’m not going to march off sullenly if Clinton wins through rules that everyone agreed to going in. In fact, I’m going to go out and work for her.

At the same time, however, I would not accept a Clinton victory that depended on seating the Michigan and Florida delegates (assuming no re-vote, etc.). That’s breaking the rules, pure and simple, and the Clinton campaign should understand in no uncertain terms that the “nuclear strategy” will drive away supporters for the fall and leave lasting damage.

Meanwhile, Al Sharpton is jumping into the fray, providing further evidence that George Will’s famous quip that “Nowadays no diplomatic farce is complete without a cameo appearance by Jesse Jackson” is desperately in need of an Al Sharpton corollary.

Laying the groundwork for a court battle that could divide the Democratic Party, the Reverend Al Sharpton is threatening to sue the Democratic National Committee if it counts Florida’s primary results in the official presidential delegates tally.

Rev. Sharpton is traveling to Florida today to compile lists of residents who skipped the January contest because they thought their votes would not count. He plans to have those residents sign affidavits saying they would be disenfranchised by the seating of the Florida delegation, in the event the Democratic Party allowed that to happen.

Just as a stopped clock is right twice a day, Sharpton would seem here to have a solid argument. Whether he has standing to sue is another question, of course, but it’s hard to argue that the dynamics of the race would not have been radically different had Obama been campaigning and the potential participants under the impression that showing up to vote actually mattered.

Fortunately for Clinton, two of her more prominent backers are making an offer that’s going to be hard for the other parties to refuse: A revote paid for with someone else’s dime.

Gov. Jon S. Corzine of New Jersey and Gov. Edward G. Rendell of Pennsylvania said Sunday that they would be willing to raise half the $30 million it would take to run new contests in those two states. Mr. Corzine and Mr. Rendell submitted their proposal to The Washington Post.

The two governors argue that the Democratic National Committee, and not taxpayers in Florida and Michigan, should pay for a re-election in those states.

Democrats have been struggling to find a way to seat the delegates from Michigan and Florida, who were excluded when those states held primaries in January, violating national party rules.

If someone comes up with a way to raise the other $15 million — and, frankly, it’s not clear to me that the Clinton and Obama camps couldn’t simply pitch in the money themselves — this could have some legs. Howard Dean has, rightly, said that the DNC is not going to pay to run these elections; after all, the states violated the rules with full knowledge that they were doing so. But the taxpayers of those states aren’t going to be willing to pay more money to stage Democratic Party elections, either. Outside financing would seem to be the only solution.

Publius’ main point, though, is the bottom line: The rules must be observed. Simply handing the delegates to Clinton based on sham races would be a travesty. But disenfranchising two of the most populous states in the country as punishment for the gamesmanship of their political leaders won’t do, either.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    Do the ex ante rules allow for a re-vote?

    Why is allowing a mulligan just? Under what conditions would it be just? Would do-overs be just in other states?

  2. Anon says:

    Jeralyn seems to be convenient ignoring the “or participate” part of the pledge. The way she constantly and conveniently omits this seems quite blatant and obvious, and greatly weakens her position.

  3. Pug says:

    Hillary better hope she can win without the support of African American voters because they are gone if she’s the nominee.

  4. Marc says:

    My goodness, both sides say they are not going to vote for the other side if he/she becomes the nominee. That’s why a HCR/BHO ticket is the only thing that is going to save the Democratic Party.

    On another subject: I found this on the Internet a few days ago (I don’t know where now, but I copies and pasted it) Can anyone tell me if this is going anywhere?————

    The pressure on the DNC and state party intensified in Florida on Wednesday.

    State Sen. Nan Rich, D-Sunrise, suggested the legislature consider keeping the nominee’s name off the November ballot unless the party welcomes Florida delegates at the convention.

    Senate Democratic Leader Steve Geller said a bill was “being seriously discussed.” Senate Elections Committee Chairman Lee Constantine, R-Altamonte Springs, said he would welcome such a proposal if it had bipartisan support.

  5. PD Shaw says:

    “Howard Dean has, rightly, said that the DNC is not going to pay to run these elections; after all, the states violated the rules with full knowledge that they were doing so.”

    I don’t know if I agree with this at least as to Florida. There are three groups here: the DNC, the Florida democratic party and the State of Florida. The State violated the rules, but its the national and state parties that are being harmed. Perhaps the State has a moral obligation to remedy the situation, but I am aware of no legal obligation and I can see why Republican and Independent voters would see better uses for the money.

    As far as rules are rules; well rules have penalties and consequences, and these should be proportionate to the violation. The consequences here are hurting the party nationally and in Florida, so I think both should work together to get Florida seated and that includes putting up any money.

  6. rodney dill says:

    Yay! I might get to vote for NOT Hillary again…
    No Experience trumps Faux Experience.

  7. floyd says:

    No they aren’t, most of them have allowed themselves to become the absolute property of the Democrat Party

  8. just me says:

    I kind of agree with Dave though-how is arranging for a revote not a violation of the rules either?

    In the end, can we agree that the GOP dealt with their rebellious states a little more smartly. They didn’t take all the delegates away, thus making the vote totally meaningless, and it makes the argument to seat all of the delegates stronger.

    I think the states and the DNC screwed up big time on this one, and I find it ironic that two states that wanted to count, and moved their primaries would have counted this year no matter what.

  9. Bandit says:

    It’s almost inconceivable that HRC wants to change the rules now that she’s losing.