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Debate: Michigan and Florida delegates in 2008 US elections

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Should delegates from Florida and Michigan be included in the 2008 US elections?

Contents

Background and Context of Debate:

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.

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? 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.


Rules: Do the rules allow for seating delegates after they've been stripped?

Yes

'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."


No

  • Michigan and Florida knowingly violated the rules and so should be punished 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.
  • Florida and Michigan's infractions threaten to damage the election process and so warrant severe punishments 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.


Democracy: Is seating the delegates necessary in preserving democracy?

Yes

  • Voters are unfairly disenfranchised if Michigan and Florida delegates are not seated. In a democratic system, the voters of Florida and Michigan should have their votes counted. By
  • Punishing the Flor. and Mich. Democratic state parties should not also punish voters. 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.

No

  • The Democratic party has the democratic right to enforce its primary rules. 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.
  • Another re-count in Florida in 2008 will re-kindle old American wounds. 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.


Original vote: Should Michigan and Florida's Jan. 29th vote be used to allot delegates?

Yes

  • The Jan. 29th Michigan and Florida primaries represent the public will There was substantial turn-out to the Jan. 29th Michigan and Florida primaries. While the Democratic candidates did not fully campaign in the two states, it would appear that they nevertheless felt that it was important for them to express their political will by turning out to vote. Their will was sufficiently expressed, with sufficient numbers and representation, to warrant using the results of the election to allot delegates.
  • If allotting Michigan and Florida delegates is desired, using Jan. 29th, 2008 vote is superior to a re-vote. If it is deemed important that Michigan and Florida voters have a democratic voice in the 2008 presidential elections, that their votes be counted, and that delegates be accordingly alloted, using the results of the January 29th vote seems a superior option to doing a re-vote. The reason for this are a combination of practicality and of process.


No

  • Seating delegates based on first 2008 Florida and Michigan primaries would punish candidates that did not campaign there. 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.
  • Initial Michigan and Florida presidential primaries did not have campaigns and so lacked informed voters. 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.


Mail-in re-vote: Does a mail-in re-vote concept make sense?

Yes

  • Raising money for a 2008 mail-in re-vote in Florida would not be difficult 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."[1]
  • A 2008 mail-in re-vote in Michigan and Florida would be democratically inclusive. 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.
  • Howard Dean, DNC Chairman, said on a re-vote. "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."[2]
  • Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (D). "Florida Deserves a Revote". March 10, 2008 - "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."
  • A Florida and Michigan re-vote could help decide the Democratic nomination 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.



No

  • A mail-in ballot funded by private interests risks conflicts of interest. 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.
  • A mail-in re-vote in Mich and Flor risks encountering balloting issues 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?'"
  • It is unclear who should pay for mail re-votes in Mich and Florida 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.[3]
  • A mail-in ballot risks disenfranchising poor, more transient voters 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.
  • A mail-in ballot system entails risks of voter fraud 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.


Pro/con resources

Yes

No

  • Obama campaign. The Obama campaign opposes the idea of seating the delegates and a re-vote.


External links:


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