Archive for the ‘Florida and Michigan’ Category

Florida and Michigan Will Not Have Revotes

March 18, 2008

During the past two days the Democratic Parties in both Florida and Michigan announced that revotes are unlikely to occur for legal and logistical reasons.  So, the only choices open to the Democratic Party at this point are the following:

  1. Do not seat any delegates from Florida and Michigan.
  2. Allow some of the delegates to be seated with full votes based on the January primaries.
  3. Allow all of the delegates to be seated with partial votes based on the January primaries.
  4. Allow all of the delegates to be seated with full votes based on the January primaries.

While option 1 (the current de facto option) would respect the DNC rules, it could hurt the chances of the Democratic nominee to win Florida and Michigan in the general election.  So, it is not really a good option for the party.  While Barack Obama’s lead would be cut with any of options 2-4, it is in his longer term interest to accept one of them in some form after negotiations with the Clinton campaign, the DNC, and the state parties.

I proposed a Plan B compromise in my prior post on this issue which was a form of option 2 above.  This is the proposed compromise I made:

  1. The DNC should refuse to reinstate any superdelegates from either state for the reasons I previously gave here.
  2. The DNC should reinstate 100% of the pledged delegates from each state that manages to hold a new primary or caucus before the June 10 deadline.  The allocation of delegates would be based on the new contests.
  3. The DNC should reinstate 50% of the pledged delegates from each state that does not hold a new contest.  The allocation of delegates would be based on the January primaries that these states held with the following modification:  in Michigan, the 40% of the vote that was “Uncommitted” would be given to Obama on the assumption that he would have gotten most or all of those votes if his name had been on the Michigan ballot.

I think this  plan is still a good option.  However, to make it more flexible as a framework for negotiating a solution between the Clinton and Obama campaigns, I would like to suggest the following modified version:

  1. The DNC should reinstate superdelegates from these states with partial votes ranging from 0% to 50% of a standard delegate vote.
  2. The DNC should reinstate 100% of the pledged delegates from each state that manages to hold a new primary or caucus before the June 10 deadline.  The allocation of delegates would be based on the new contests.
  3. The DNC should reinstate 50% of the pledged delegates from each state that does not hold a new contest.  The allocation of delegates would be based on the January primaries that these states held with the following modification:  in Michigan, the 40% of the vote that was “Uncommitted” would be given to Obama on the assumption that he would have gotten most or all of those votes if his name had been on the Michigan ballot.
  4. As far as the popular vote is concerned, all votes cast in the January primaries in these states would be fully counted if no new voting contests are held with “Uncommitted” votes in Michigan again being given to Obama.

The modified version allows the superdelegates to be seated at the convention but limits their vote, thereby imposing a direct penalty on the politicians who had the power and knowledge to avoid the rule-breaking primaries in January.  Some penalty on the superdelegates is needed in order to send a clear message to all state parties that their members will pay a personal price for breaking DNC rules in the future.  However, it is flexible enough to give both campaigns some room to negotiate.  It also fully counts each vote cast in Florida and Michigan as far as the popular vote is concerned.

I had previously estimated that Clinton would cut Obama’s pledged delegates lead by about 25 via item 3 above.  Florida has 25 superdelegates while Michigan has 28.  The modification to item 1 above adds an effective total of at most 26.5 delegate votes.  Assuming Clinton received 2/3 of these, she would get 17.5 of these votes while Obama would get 9.  This would cut Obama’s lead by an additional 8.5 delegate votes.  So, even if the superdelegates from Florida and Michigan were seated with half of their normal votes, Clinton would only cut Obama’s lead by about 33.5 delegates under my modified plan.  Given Obama’s current lead of about 142 delegates, he can probably live with this.  Clinton will obviously want more, but 33.5 is better than 0 which is all she currently has from these states.

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Plan B for Florida and Michigan

March 13, 2008

I’ve written several posts in this blog advocating that Florida and Michigan should have new primaries or caucuses in the Democratic Presidential race.  Democratic leaders in both states are trying to figure out ways to do this, but an article on MSNBC.com today suggests that legal and logistical problems might prevent this in Florida.  So, this leads me to ask what should be done if one or both states cannot hold new primaries or caucuses.

My Plan B is as follows:

  1. The DNC should refuse to reinstate any superdelegates from either state for the reasons I previously gave here.
  2. The DNC should reinstate 100% of the pledged delegates from each state that manages to hold a new primary or caucus before the June 10 deadline.  The allocation of delegates would be based on the new contests.
  3. The DNC should reinstate 50% of the pledged delegates from each state that does not hold a new contest.  The allocation of delegates would be based on the January primaries that these states held with the following modification:  in Michigan, the 40% of the vote that was “Uncommitted” would be given to Obama on the assumption that he would have gotten most or all of those votes if his name had been on the Michigan ballot.

My plan would satisfy the two principles I laid out in the post I mentioned above, namely that the DNC delegate selection rules should be respected to avoid chaos in future elections and that new contests should be held in Florida and Michigan (if possible) so that voters in those states can have influence on the nomination of the Democratic nominee.  While the DNC stripped these states of all their delegates when it punished them for scheduling early primaries that violated Rule 11.A of the DNC’s Delegate Selection Rules, Rules 20.C.1.a and 20.C.4 only mandated that the DNC strip the states of 50% of their pledged delegates and some specified superdelegates.  The DNC used the discretion it had under Rule 20.C.5 to impose a more severe penalty but presumably still has the discretion to reduce that penalty back to the mandatory penalty or some penalty in between these two extremes.

So, my plan still fully respects the DNC rules.  It also lets the voices of the voters in these states be heard.  While their votes will only count half as much as they could have, this will only happen if their states do not have new contests.  While it would be better if their votes could be counted fully, doing so based on the January primaries would simply not be fair to Senator Obama.  Even allocating 50% of the delegates based on the January primaries is unfair to him, but it is hard to conceive of any solution other than new elections that is fair.

What would the impact of my plan be on the delegate counts if neither state managed to hold new contests? I don’t know exactly how the delegates would be allocated since this would require detailed knowledge about the vote in each congressional district and the delegate allocation rules for these states.  But it is possible to calculate estimates of the pledged delegates that would be allocated based on the vote percentages reported in the original primaries.

Clinton won 49.7% of the vote in the Florida primary while Obama won 33.0%.  Allocating half of Florida’s 185 pledged delegates accordingly would give Clinton 46 delegates and Obama 31, giving her a gain of 15.

Clinton won 55.3% of the vote in the Michigan primary while “Uncommitted” won 40.0%.  Allocating half of Michigan’s 128 pledged delegates accordingly would give Clinton 35 delegates and Obama 26, giving her a gain of 10.

Clinton’s net gain in pledged delegates would therefore be approximately 25 under my plan.  Given that Obama currently has a pledged delegate lead between 150 and 160 , he can probably afford to tolerate a 25 delegate cut in his lead and might agree to do so out of the desire to let the voters in Florida and Michigan have some influence in the nomination process and to make sure they do not harbor resentment towards him in the general election (if he wins the nomination).  He might even do better under my plan than he would if new primaries are held and superdelegates from these states were counted.

Clinton would probably object to this plan since she expects to get more of the superdelegates from these states and would cut Obama’s lead in pledged delegates by 50 if the original primaries were fully counted.  But the chances of that happening are very small, so she might agree to my plan to get some delegates out of these states, especially if one or both of them are unable to schedule new primaries.  Also, even just counting the original January primaries 50% would strengthen her “Big State” argument since she could then claim to have won the legitimized primaries in both states. 

The only potential roadblock to my Plan B is giving Obama the “Uncommitted” vote from Michigan.  But if Clinton agreed to the plan, that should not be problematic.  Of course, if Michigan does hold a new primary, then this issue would disappear.

Comments on Corzine/Rendell Op-Ed Column

March 11, 2008

Apparently, even some of our Democratic governors don’t fully understand the DNC delegate selection rules and are not very good at math.  In an Op-Ed column in today’s Washington Post, Governors Jon Corzine and Edward Rendell write that neither Obama nor Clinton is likely to win 2,025 pledged delegates by the end of the primaries and warn about the downside of having the nomination decided by superdelegates.  “But allowing superdelegates to determine the outcome of our nominating process while 366 pledged delegates, elected by more than 2 million democrats in Michigan and Florida, remain unseated is especially undemocratic.”  Their first mistake is that these two states have a total of 366 delegates (210 from Florida and 156 from Michigan) including both pledged delegates and superdelegates.  The actual number of pledged delegates from these states is 313 (185 from Florida and 128 from Michigan).

They then suggest that having revotes in Florida and Michigan could avoid reliance on the superdelegates: “Fortunately, we do have another, more democratic choice: We can choose to enfranchise Democrats in Florida and Michigan, thereby increasing the likelihood that voters, not politicians or party elders, will determine who faces Sen. John McCain in the fall.” The governors also voice their support for the principles that all voters should be able to participate in the nomination process and that all nominating contests must be fair.

As I indicated in a prior post, the total number of delegates needed to win the Democratic Party’s nomination for President will increase from 2,025 to 2,208 if delegates from Florida and Michigan are reinstated.  There are good reasons for having new primaries in Florida and Michigan (which I have advocated here and here), but making it more likely that one of the candidates can clinch the nomination without superdelegates is not one of them.  The bottom line is that neither candidate is likely to clinch the nomination with pledged delegates alone since the DNC rules allocate delegates from all states proportionally and Clinton and Obama will share the remaining pledged delegates.  For the math on this, see this post.

Corzine and Rendell are right in advocating new primaries in Florida and Michigan, but they should have checked their facts more carefully.  Instead of advocating new primaries as a way of avoiding the nomination being decided by the superdelegates, they should have argued the issue solely on the principles that voters in all states should have a voice in nominating the party’s candidate and that only fair elections should count.

Florida and Michigan Superdelegates Should Not Be Reinstated

March 10, 2008

While I have been advocating new Democratic primaries in Florida and Michigan in this blog and was one of the first people to propose financing them with money raised through donations, I am against the reinstatement of the superdelegates from these states.

I have consistently supported two principles in several blog posts about the possibility of new primaries in these states:

  1. The DNC delegate selection rules must be respected to avoid chaos in the scheduling of primaries in future elections.
  2. Operating within those rules, Florida and Michigan should hold new primaries or caucuses so that the voices of voters in these states can be heard.

The second principle does not require that the superdelegates should be reinstated.  It is the pledged delegates who represent the voices of the voters based on actual elections.  The superdelegates primarily represent themselves rather than the voters of their states.  It is entirely possible to respect the second principle by holding new primaries in Florida and Michigan and only seating the pledged delegates selected by the voters.  In fact, there are good reasons to not seat the superdelegates if new primaries are held.

The Florida and Michigan Democratic Parties both knew the DNC delegate selection rules ( published in August, 2006) long before these states scheduled their rule-breaking primaries that took place in January.  While an argument can be made that it was the Republican-dominated Florida legislature that set Florida’s January 29 primary date, the Florida Democratic Party could have decided to run its own voting contest on a later date and could have refused to participate on the date picked by the Florida legislature.  The DNC even recommended that Florida have a separate caucus on a later date (that would adhere to the DNC rules) before stripping Florida of its delegates in August, 2007.  So, the Florida Democratic Party had plenty of time to schedule a primary or caucus on a different date.  Unfortunately, Florida’s state party chairwoman, Karen Thurman, complained at the time (in a Washington Post article) that the Florida Democratic Party did not have the money to run its own caucus; she and the rest of the leadership of the Florida Democrats should have been a little creative and searched for ways to raise the required funds as is now being proposed by people like James Carville, Senator Bill Nelson, Governor Corzine, and Governor Rendell.

Similarly, Michigan was stripped of its delegates in November, 2007 after setting its January 15 primary date.  But Michigan Democratic Chairman Mark Brewer arrogantly told MSNBC at the time that he did not think the delegates would be lost for good and said he expected the Democratic presidential nominee would insist that the state’s delegates be seated.  He knew the rules and knew the penalty, but didn’t believe the penalty would stick.

I believe that the superdelegates from Florida and Michigan should not be reinstated for the following reasons:

  1. Florida and Michigan violated the DNC delegate selection rules and deserve some sort of penalty.  While it is desirable to hold new primaries or caucuses in these states so that their voters can participate in the nomination process, these states should not get off scot free.  By not reinstating the superdelegates of these states, the DNC would penalize the people who had the greatest ability to avoid the illegal January primary dates.  This would send a clear message to state-level party leaders in all states that any future attempts to hold early voting contests would ultimately penalize those party leaders directly.
  2. Senator Clinton has been the primary advocate of either reinstating the Florida and Michigan delegates or holding new contests in these states.  She has clearly been motivated by Senator Obama’s lead in the delegates race.  She needs the delegates from these states to be reinstated much more than Obama does.  The voters and superdelegates of these states might therefore be somewhat biased in favor of Clinton because of her advocacy to count their delegates.  There is nothing that can be done about voter bias while respecting principle 2 above; Obama will just have to live with that bias and strive to turn out as many voters as possible.  But it is possible to avoid bias amongst the superdelegates by simply not reinstating them.  (Please note my comment below where I point out that I would want to avoid bias in favor of either candidate and would make the same argument if it was Obama who needed the delegates more than Clinton.)

So, while I continue to advocate new primaries in Florida and Michigan, I oppose the reinstatement of the superdelegates from these states.

Senator Nelson Proposes Plan for New Florida Primary

March 8, 2008

Democratic Senator Bill Nelson of Florida told Newsweek  yesterday that he has discussed plans for a new primary in Florida with the Florida Democratic Party, Florida’s Governor Charlie Crist, and the DNC.  His plan is similiar to the proposal  I have made in that it would solve the thorny issue of funding by paying for a new primary with donations.  More specifically, he has proposed that the Florida Democratic Party could raise “soft money” to fund the primary.  This is also similar to what James Carville  seemed to suggest on CNN’s The Situation Room yesterday afternoon.

Nelson indicated that he and Governor Crist met earlier this week and agreed on 3 points about solving the Florida delegate issue:

  1. A revote should be held.
  2. The revote should be a primary conducted via mail-in ballots.
  3. The Florida taxpayers should not bear the costs.

He also indicated that the DNC’s legal counsel determined that it would be legal for the Florida Democratic Party to raise soft money for a revote.

Soft money is money raised by organizations such as 527 groups that is not spent to directly advocate the election of a particular candidate.  For example soft money can be used for voter registration efforts and to promote positions on specific issues.  Individuals and groups can donate more soft money to such groups then they can directly to candidates and the national political parties.  The latter were banned from accepting soft money by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, otherwise known as the McCain-Feingold Act.  But the ban does not apply to the state political parties.

The bottom line here is that it’s looking more and more likely that a new primary will be held in Florida.  While the Obama campaign has not yet signaled its support for a new primary in Florida, it won’t really have any choice if the Florida Democratic Party submits a plan for a new primary to the DNC and the DNC approves it.

Clinton Campaign Just Offered to Raise $15 Million to Cover New Primaries in Florida and Michigan

March 7, 2008

James Carville, a Clinton supporter, just announced on CNN’s Situation Room that the Clinton campaign can quickly line up $15 Million to help underwrite the costs of new primaries in Florida and Michigan and would do so if the Obama campaign also did the same.  He even said he had big donors ready to contribute.  Unfortunately, the Obama surrogate who appeared opposite Carville, David Wilhelm, seemed reluctant to agree to this proposal.  I suspect that he did not feel he had the authority to accept this proposal on behalf of the Obama campaign.  Wilhelm ultimately did say that Carville’s proposal would be “one of the options on the table”  and “a reasonable position” but he did not want to hammer out an agreement on the show.  He seemed more focused on scoring political points about the Clinton campaign’s former advocacy of counting the original primaries.

Carville’s proposal is essentially in line with my proposals in recent blog posts  in which I suggested that the states and campaigns could raise the money needed for new primaries in Florida and Michigan through voluntary donations from voters.

Now the ball is in the Obama campaign’s court.  I hope they quickly step up and agree to contribute or raise the same $15 Million that the Clinton campaign (through Carville) agreed to raise.  Note that while Carville might have been talking about raising “soft money” from big donors, it would probably be easy to raise the money from ordinary voters $25, $50, and $100 at a time.

New Contests in Florida and Michigan Would Bring Higher Threshold for Victory

March 7, 2008

An article  on CNN.com about the possibility of new contests in Florida and Michigan made a the following erroneous statement:

“Now, neither Illinois Sen. Barack Obama nor Clinton will be able to attain the 2,024 delegates needed to clinch the nomination without delegates from Florida and Michigan.”

The current number of delegates (2,025) needed to win the Democratic nomination is predicated on the fact that both Florida and Michigan were stripped of their delegates for holding their primaries early leaving only 4,049 delegates.  If they held new contests and their pledged delegates and superdelegates were reinstated, then the total number of delegates would increase by 366 (210 from Florida and 156 from Michigan) giving a total number of delegates of 4,415 which means the winning candidate would need 2,208 delegates to win the nomination.

While it is true that neither Clinton nor Obama can win the nomination with pledged delegates alone, the target number of 2,025 can and will be achieved by one of them after all officially recognized delegates are counted.  (Even if the difference between them was so small that John Edwards’ 26 pledged delegates were needed, he or the delegates would ultimately end up going over to Clinton or Obama and a winner would still be declared.)  The candidates do not need delegates from Florida or Michigan in order to win the nomination.

It is possible that the writer of the article meant to say that neither candidate would win the nomination with pledged delegates alone without Florida and Michigan.  That would have made a little more sense, but only a little.  There are 611 remaining pledged delegates as I discussed in a recent post.  According to CNN’s Election Center, Obama currently has 1,326 pledged delegates and Clinton has 1,198 pledged delegates.  So, it is true that neither one of them can currently win the nomination with pledged delegates alone.  However, if Florida’s 185 and Michigan’s 128 pledged delegates were reinstated, there would then be a total of 924 pledged delegates remaining.  So, Obama could theoretically win the nomination in that case with pledged delegates alone if he won 881 of the remaining 924 delegates.  But given the fact that delegates in the Democratic party are split proportionally, that is virtually impossible.  So, even if the writer did mean to say that reinstating the pledged delegates from Florida and Michigan would enable one of the candidates to win with pledged delegates alone, he or she was still wrong in practical terms.

That being said, I do believe that new primaries should be held in both states so that the voices of the voters in these states can be heard.  See my previous post  on this topic regarding how new primaries could be financed by voluntary donations from voters in Florida and Michigan and the rest of the country.

Can Clinton Overtake Obama in Pledged Delegates?

March 6, 2008

A look at the results from the March 4 election results on MSNBC.com and CNN.com suggests that Hillary Clinton probably only netted a gain of 7 delegates from Rhode Island, Vermont, Ohio, and Texas.  While the results from the Texas caucus are not all in yet, CNN’s Election Center  reported that Obama had a 56% to 44% lead with 40% of precincts reporting.  So, if we allocate 56% of the Texas caucus delegates to Obama, we get the following results:

State

Clinton

Obama

Clinton Gain

Ohio

75

66

9

Rhode Island

13

8

5

Texas Primary

65

61

4

Texas Caucus

29

38

-9

Vermont

6

9

-3

Total Clinton Gain:   6

So, Clinton probably only picked up 6 delegates on March 4, leaving Obama with a large lead in pledged delegates of 135 according to CNN’s  calculations and 142 according to MSNBC’s  calculations.  CNN’s number does not yet include the projected gain of 9 for Obama from the Texas Caucus.  So, both networks essentially show a lead of between 142 and 144 for Obama when the Texas Caucus is factored in.

There are only 611 pledged delegates up for grab from the remaining states (not counting Florida and Michigan).  So, Clinton would have to win the rest of the primaries and caucuses by a margin of 377 to 234 in order to end up with more pledged delegates than Obama.  These numbers represent a 61.7% to 39.3% margin in the remaining contests.  Note that she would have to win 61.7% of the remaining delegates; she would probably need to win a higher percentage of the popular vote due to the way the rules determine delegate allocation.   If Florida and Michigan held new primaries or caucuses, then there would be an additional 313 pledged delegates (185 from Florida and 128 from Michigan) giving a total of 924 pledged delegates remaining.  In this case, Clinton would need to win 533 of these 924 delegates or 57.7% of them.

I think her chances of overtaking Obama’s lead in pledged delegates without Florida and Michigan are poor.  Her chances will improve if Florida and Michigan do hold new contests.  However, there were 370 pledged delegates in the 4 March 4th states and Clinton only gained about 6 delegates which is less than 2% of the contested delegates.    Net gains of 2% of the remaining 611 (or 924) delegates would only cut Obama’s lead by 12 (or 18) delegates which is far less than the 142 delegates Clinton needs.  So, it seems unlikely that she will end up with more pledged delegates.

A Solution for Florida and Michigan: Part 2

March 5, 2008

Terry McAuliffe from the Clinton campaign was talking about counting the delegates from the Florida and Michigan primaries last night on MSNBC and Hillary Clinton listed both states amongst the big states she had won during her post-primary speech last night. 

A spokeswoman from the Democratic National Committee, Karen Finney, told Brian Williams on MSNBC that Florida and Michigan have had the option all along of resubmitting election process proposals to the DNC under which the states could hold new primaries or caucuses that would comply with the DNC rules unlike the original primaries that did not comply with the rules.  She also said that the DNC would like to see events in which as many people as possible would participate.

What she did not say anything about was how expensive new primaries (as opposed to new caucuses)  would be or how they would be financed.  I made a proposal for this in a blog post  on 2/17/2008, suggesting that it would be very easy for the states to raise the required funds if they put up websites asking the voters of their states to make voluntary contributions to cover the expenses of new primaries.  I also suggested that Senators Clinton and Obama could each kick in a few Million dollars to get things rolling.

Of course, contributions would not have to be restricted to the voters in Florida and Michigan.  I’m sure that many Obama and Clinton supporters across the country would make donations for this purpose.  In fact, it might not even be necessary for the states to set up their own websites.  Senators Obama and Clinton could each solicit donations from their supporters explicitly for the purpose of holding new contests in these states and accept the donations through their own websites.  They could then pass on such donations to the states.

I still believe that my proposal is the best way to get new primaries in these states and that new primaries would be the best thing for the Democratic Party, the voters, and the candidates.

A Solution for Florida and Michigan: Part 1

February 17, 2008

People paying attention to the Democratic Presidential race know that Florida and Michigan were both stripped of all their delegates by the Democratic National Committee for holding their primaries before February 5 and that the Clinton and Obama campaigns are currently arguing about whether or not those delegates should be reinstated.  The Clinton campaign argues that the delegates should be reinstated because all votes should count.  The Obama campaign argues that the rules should not be changed in the middle of the contest.  This has created a conundrum for the Democratic Party which fought so hard to have all votes counted in Florida during the disputed 2000 election.  On the one hand, Democrats do believe that all votes should be counted; on the other hand, the party does not want to give one candidate an unfair advantage.  Additionally, the party wants to enforce discipline on the states to avoid chaos with the voting schedule in future elections. I’d like to analyze this issue and then propose a solution for it.

While I support the principle that “all votes should count”, that principle is intended to make sure that all voters who are eligible to vote and want to vote can do so and have their votes counted.  This principle is one among many designed to make sure that elections are fair and reflect the will of the electorate.   If an election is not fair, then it does not make sense to count any votes; instead, a new, fair election should be held.

An election is clearly not fair if some candidates are not on the ballot.  In the case of Michigan, Senator Obama was not on the ballot, so its primary was clearly unfair; it therefore would not be fair to Obama to seat the Michigan delegates based on the results of Michigan’s January 15th primary in which Senator Clinton won 55% of the popular vote.

In the case of Florida’s primary on January 29th, Obama and Clinton were both on the ballot.  At first glance, this suggests that it was a fair contest and that the DNC could count all votes from the primary without giving one candidate an unfair advantage.  There are two problems with this view: 1) Clinton was much better known to the Florida electorate than Obama and 2) Many Democrats might not have voted because they did not expect the primary to impact delegate selection.  Note that Obama started out far behind Clinton in the polls in many states but was able to close the gap and even win many contests after campaigning in those states.  While neither Obama nor Clinton could campaign or advertise in Florida, Clinton clearly had a big headstart in terms of name recognition.  Obama did not have an opportunity to overcome that initial advantage.

Additionally, people who did not vote because they thought Florida would not get any delegates might have done so if they had thought the DNC would reverse its decision afterwards.  If the results of the primary were recognized, the votes of these people would not be reflected.  1.7 million Floridians did vote in the Democratic primary, which is 2.27 times the 750,000 people who voted in the 2004 Democratic primary.  So, one might argue that Democrats in Florida ignored the DNC’s penalty and voted anyway.  However, one cannot really compare the numbers of votes in the two elections since the 2004 primary in Florida was held on 3/9/2004 by which point John Kerry had already locked up the nomination.  If one looks at some other states that held late primaries in 2004 but voted on Super Tuesday in 2008 one finds the following:

  • AL: 6/1/2004:  218,574,  2/5/2008:  539,743 , Ratio: 2.47
  • NJ: 6/8/2004: 214,000, 2/5/2008:  1.1 million,  Ratio: 5.14

These numbers suggest that the higher number of voters in the Florida 2008 Democratic primary could have been substantially higher if voters had expected delegates to be awarded to the candidates.  In the end, Clinton won 50% of the Florida popular vote while Obama won 33% and Edwards won 14%.  But we have no way of knowing how those other people who did not vote would have voted; it is possible that they would have voted with the same percentages, but it is also possible that Obama might have turned out more votes if he had been allowed to campaign.

Some would argue that it was not fair of the DNC to penalize Florida because the date of the primary was set by the Republican-dominated Florida legislature.  That doesn’t hold water with me.  Primaries and caucuses can be run either by the political parties or by the states.  Since primaries cost more money than caucuses, those states that do have primaries do tend to fund and run them which give these states the right to set the dates.  But the Florida Democratic Party did not have to participate in the January 29th primary; it could have held a caucus or primary on any date they wanted on or after February 5.  I understand why they wanted to hold a primary rather than a caucus (so that more voters could participate).  I also admit that it would have been a challenge for the Florida Democratic Party to fund a primary but I’ll argue below that they could have and still can overcome this challenge.

So, my conclusion is that neither of the primaries in Michigan and Florida were fair contests.  It therefore does not make sense to talk about counting all votes.  The only fair solution would be to have new contests, either primaries or caucuses, in both states.  Obama has indicated that he would be willing to participate in such contests as long as he and Clinton could compete fairly and have enough time to make their cases with the voters.

The solution most often suggested is for both states to organize caucuses for selecting delegates.  This is something that the DNC has encouraged.  In fact, the DNC even offered to give Florida $800,000 last summer to hold a 150 site caucus.  The reason caucuses rather than primaries are generally suggested is that it costs states much more money to hold primaries which involve many more voting sites and many more votes.  The Democratic Party in Florida estimated that a “vote by mail” primary would have cost $8 million.  The actual primary held in Michigan cost between $10 and $12 million.  Apparently, the state-level parties and the DNC do not have that kind of money or are not willing to spend it for this purpose.

I indicated at the beginning of this post that I would like to propose a solution to the problem.  Here it is: both Florida and Michigan could schedule new primaries and set up websites asking Democrats in their states to donate money toward funding them.  Additionally, the Clinton and Obama campaigns could both offer to contribute equal amounts of money from their vast warchests toward this purpose; I suggest each candidate could contribute $2.5 million to each state.  At the current rates the candidates are raising money, that would only represent about 3-5 days of fundraising for each of them.  Since 1.7 million Democrats voted in Florida in the January 29 primary and 3.6 million people voted for John Kerry in 2004, these voters could easily fund the remaining costs of a Florida primary if they each contributed $5-10 to Florida’s website.  While only 600,000 Democrats voted in the 2008 Michigan primary, 2.5 million people voted for John Kerry in Michigan in 2004; so Michigan Democrats could also easily make enough online donations to fund the expense of a second primary in their state.

Considering how many ordinary people are donating $100 or more directly to the candidates, I am confident that the Florida and Michigan primary websites would quickly raise the required funds to support state-wide primaries.  If they did not, one could then argue that the voters did not really care enough about having the delegates from their states seated at the convention. The DNC could then leave the current penalties standing.

Of course, contributions would not have to be restricted to the voters in Florida and Michigan.  I’m sure that many Obama and Clinton supporters across the country would make donations for this purpose.  In fact, it might not even be necessary for the states to set up their own websites.  Senators Obama and Clinton could each solicit donations from their supporters explicitly for the purpose of holding new contests in these states and accept the donations through their own websites.  They could then pass on such donations to the states.

I do think that the DNC should not seat any delegates from Florida or Michigan unless they do hold new contests of some kind.  I have two reasons for this.  First, it would clearly not be fair to Obama as previously discussed.  Second, it would set a bad precedent and lead to more primary chaos in future elections.  The DNC needs to send a clear message to the state parties that they have to obey the DNC’s rules.  Letting Florida and Michigan hold new contests would not undermine the DNC’s authority because these new contests would be sanctioned by the DNC and because the original pre-Super Tuesday contests would not have counted toward delegate selection.