Election 2008

Fla. Democrats Challenge Ruling Barring Delegates

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This weekend, a group of Democratic National Committee members is meeting in Washington, D.C., to decide what to do about delegates for Michigan and Florida. Those two states violated party rules by holding early primaries and were told their delegates would not be seated at the party's August convention.

Saturday's meeting of the rules committee is an attempt to reach a compromise with the two states, which Democrats believe will be vital to their chances in November.

Jon Ausman, a DNC member from Florida who endorsed the presidential candidacy of Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, will present Florida's challenge to the DNC ruling that stripped the state of all of its delegates.

A close reading of party rules shows that the DNC went too far, he says.

'Florida Picks Presidents'

Ausman says the rules allow the DNC to penalize a state by stripping just half of its delegates. If the DNC exercised that option, he says, Democrats would not be in the mess they're in today.

"On the Republican side, where they did do a 50 percent reduction for the Florida delegates, Florida knocked out Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney, and John McCain became the clear front-runner. Other states pick corn, but Florida picks presidents, and in this case, Florida was denied that opportunity," Ausman says.

Dividing the Delegates

Members of the rules committee and DNC staff are leaning toward that solution — restoring half the state's delegates. It's an approach the Obama campaign also supports. But it raises another question: How would the delegates be divided? Depending on the formula used, Clinton could pick up anywhere from six to 19 delegates — in any case, still not enough to catch Obama.

That could be one reason why Clinton has been calling for the DNC to seat not just half, but all 211 of Florida's delegates — even though Clinton adviser Harold Ickes, a member of the DNC rules committee, is among those who voted to penalize the two states.

A Possible Clinton Appeal

After the DNC said it was stripping Florida of all of its delegates, the Democratic candidates agreed not to campaign there, and Clinton herself acknowledged that the primaries would not be counted.

But even with no campaigning in Florida, there was a huge turnout: 1.7 million Democrats voted — 1 million more than in 2004 — and Clinton won by a large margin.

The Clinton campaign has left open the possibility that it may appeal an unfavorable decision at Saturday' meeting of the rules committee to the DNC Credentials committee later this summer, which means that this fight may not be resolved until the party's convention in August.



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