RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
ROBERT SMITH, host:
And I'm Robert Smith.
Here's another sign of how surreal the race for the Democratic presidential nomination has become. This weekend the biggest political drama in the nation will be in a meeting room of something called the rules and bylaws committee. The 30 members of that Democratic National Committee group will be in Washington to decide what to do about Michigan and Florida.
MONTAGNE: For those who've forgotten the details, those states violated party rules by holding their primaries early. They were then told they would not be seated at the party's convention in August. The meeting this Saturday is aimed at reaching a compromise, since Democrats believe Florida and Michigan will be vital to their chances in November.
We have reports now from both states. The first from NPR's Greg Allen in Miami.
GREG ALLEN: Ah, Florida. Mention electoral difficulties and it's not hard to flash back to 2000 and a central, also excruciating role the Sunshine State played in the selection of the president. Not quite eight years later there are still many disgruntled Democrats in Florida, like John Classgold(ph) of Boca Raton. As far as he's concerned, he hasn't had his vote for president counted properly since 1996.
Mr. JOHN CLASSGOLD: Well, in 2000 the Supreme Court deprived me of my vote. In 2004, we had an electronic ballot with no paper trail that I consider suspicious, and I just think it's unfortunate that the Democratic National Committee of all people should try to deprive me of my 2008 vote.
ALLEN: Classgold is a Hillary Clinton supporter. After the DNC said it was stripping the state of all its delegates, the Democratic candidates agreed not to campaign here. What's more, Clinton adviser Harold Dickies, who's a member of the DNC rules committee, was one of those who voted to penalize the two states.
Clinton herself acknowledged the two primaries would not be counted. Even with no campaigning in Florida, there was a huge turnout - 1.7 million Democrats voted, one million more than in 2004, and Clinton won by a large margin. As she's lagged behind Obama in the delegate count, Clinton has increasingly talked about seating Florida's and Michigan's delegates, and was here last week to make that case.
Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York, Presidential Candidate): I believe the Democratic Party must count these votes.
ALLEN: But it's not just Clinton and her supporters fighting to get Florida delegates seated at the convention. John Alismon(ph) is a DNC member from Florida who endorsed the presidential candidacy of Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich. At Saturday's meeting he'll be presenting Florida's challenge to the DNC ruling that stripped the state of all its delegates.
A close reading of party rules, he says, shows that the DNC went too far. Alismon says the rules allows the DNC to penalize a state by stripping just half of it delegates. If the DNC exercised that option, he says, Democrats would not be in the mess they're in today.
Mr. JOHN ALISMON (DNC): 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 frontrunner. Other states pick corn, but Florida picks presidents, and in this case Florida was denied that opportunity.
ALLEN: Members of the rules and bylaws committee and DNC staff are leaning toward that solution, restoring half the state's delegates, and it's an approach the Obama campaign supports. But it raises another question. How would the delegates be divided? Depending upon the formula used, Clinton could pick up anywhere between six and 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. And she's not the only one. Florida's Senate Minority Leader Steve Geller agrees. Geller filed a lawsuit in federal court saying that for Floridians a half a loaf solution just won't work.
Mr. STEVE GELLER (State Senate Minority Leader, Florida): There is incredible, incredible anger on the streets at the Democratic clubs, at the condos that I speak to, over the fact that our delegates haven't been fully seated. I think the only way that we will be competitive in November is if they seat our delegates.
ALLEN: And here's something else: Saturday's meeting of the DNC rules and bylaws committee may not resolve the dispute after all. The Clinton campaign has left open the possibility that it may appeal an unfavorable decision to the DNC credentials committee later this summer, which means that this fight may not be resolved until the party's convention in August.
Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami.
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