I'm a Pundit Too

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Impending Legal Battle Over Voter Disenfranchisement

Last year when the race began to become “important” during the primary season, the Democratic National Committee declared that the delegates from Florida and Michigan would not be seated at the convention in Denver, due to those states defying the party leadership by moving their primary dates. At the time all major democratic contenders publicly agreed with the decision. As the primary season draws to a close, Senator Hillary Clinton has intensified her calls for counting the votes of Florida and Michigan. She clearly needs these votes to close the delegate gap between her and Senator Barack Obama. She won both states in January and hinted that she would work to ensure their votes were not in vain. Obama was on the ballot in Florida but was not on the ballot in Michigan by his own choice.

The Obama campaign, in a move to try to quell the firestorm that will inevitably explode, has proposed that the delegates be evenly split between the two campaigns. This is obviously the best-case scenario for the Obama camp. He is trying to portray that he really does want the voters of Florida and Michigan to have their voices heard, but if this truly were the case he would have kept his name on the Michigan ballot. Failing to do so, has shown that in January he didn’t care enough to allow his supporters to voice their opinions at the ballot box.

Hillary Clinton has asserted her intentions to take this fight to the courts. Her claim is that Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean has disenfranchised the voters of Florida and Michigan by not counting their votes. Dean has vetoed every proposal to count the votes. Eight years ago, Al Gore took his case all the way to the Supreme Court to force the state of Florida to recount the votes from three select counties; by the way he lost every recount at the time and every subsequent recount. Now the leadership of a major political party is refusing to count any of the votes in two entire states.

On May 31 the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee will meet to decide whether or not the DNC leadership violated party rules by disqualifying the Florida and Michigan delegates. I believe that if the Rules Committee comes back with anything less than a ruling to allow the votes stand as they are with Clinton claiming a majority of the delegates from both states, the Clinton campaign will take their fight into the legal system. I don’t believe Hillary will be successful in her bid to wrest the nomination away from Obama, but the damage will be irreparable. Howard Dean has single handedly turned this election season into a constitutional mess.

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