March 17th, 2008
04:45 PM ET
10 years ago

Attorney: DNC violating Constitution

ATLANTA (CNN) - The Democratic National Committee is violating the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment by allowing only four states to hold caucuses or primaries before the first Tuesday in February, a Florida attorney argued Monday before a federal appeals court.

Attorney Michael Steinberg filed suit in August on behalf of Democratic Party activist Vincent Dimaio after the DNC said it would not seat Florida delegates at the national convention because the state party defied party rules and scheduled its primary for January 29.

A federal judge in Florida dismissed the lawsuit in October, but Dimaio appealed.

"You can't treat the citizens of some states differently than other states," Steinberg told reporters after the hearing. "What I tried to assert is that the DNC has the right to make rules ... but the rules have to be the same for all the states."

According to party rules, only Iowa, South Carolina, Nevada and New Hampshire can schedule their primaries or caucuses prior to the first Tuesday in February. Steinberg argued that the 14th Amendment, which bars states from denying individuals equal protection under the law, should prohibit the DNC from creating rules that make the votes of the citizens of those four states "paramount to the rights of the voters in Florida."

Joe Sandler, attorney for the DNC, told the three-judge panel that the committee is a private entity and "is actually exercising its own constitutional right by not seating delegates."

"The point we were trying to make in court today is that it's up to the parties themselves to determine the best means of selecting delegates to the convention, and it's not really a matter for a court to resolve," he told reporters later.

Dimaio, who referred to himself as the "little guy" who speaks for Floridians, told reporters that it is unfair for only four states to be allowed to hold primaries or caucuses in January.

"If you go before February 5, you're basically screwed because you get no delegates," he said. "We've lost 210 delegates. We're the fourth largest state in the nation and we have zero delegates."

"I'm not asking for a penny, I'm not asking for a dime in this action," Dimaio said. "I'm just asking for my vote to count."

The appellate court is not expected to deliver a decision until next month. Steinberg, who is handling the case pro bono, said that if the ruling goes against Dimaio, he will appeal to the Supreme Court.

- CNN Correspondent Rusty Dornin

Filed under: Florida
soundoff (179 Responses)
  1. Mike Brian

    Obama supporters, what are you afraid of if 52% of democrats really prefer Obama?

    Nobody can shut down the voices of millions of people. It’s a crime to do so...

    March 17, 2008 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  2. jonathan parish

    I hate to say this but i am going to say this america needs to wake up

    March 17, 2008 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  3. Jose

    Most Clinton supporters are not in favor of sitting the delegates from the previous primary, however I believe that these states should have another primary. I agree with this attorney on the point that states should not be treated different and should not be given preference in early primary voting. The DNC should rotate all states in a way that they will all play an important primary role every 4 years.

    March 17, 2008 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  4. Josh

    I'm not a legal scholar, but he needs to answer this question if his arguments are to make any sense: since the DNC is not holding elections for any federal, state, or city office but is essentially a private coalition holding a vote among it's members regarding an endorsement, how does the Constitution even enter into it? A political party should be able to choose it's nominee by drawing straws if it wants to. It can exclude or include whoever it wants.

    Also, do we really want yet another election determined by a lawsuit? Because the first one end up so spectacularly.

    March 17, 2008 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  5. Randy - Denver

    Umm this is stupid and will get thrown out again since there is NO requirement for the DNC to run a vote at all, they could just appoint a candidate, these votes are nothing more than a political tool and are therefore not covered under the equal protectin law.. pitiful tryu, is Mr. Clinton paying this lawyer? We will not ever know since Ms. clinton will not release her papers!

    March 17, 2008 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  6. Leah DiMarco, TX

    Michigan and Florida BROKE THE RULES.
    They KNEW the rules and broke them anyway.

    The voters were told BEFORE the election that the votes would NOT count.

    Many Obama supporters did not go to the polls.

    Now the Clinton folk want to play dirty and do anything to win.

    Vote for the person with integrity – VOTE OBAMA!

    March 17, 2008 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  7. N.

    The DNC is not a state actor and thus equal protection doesn't apply . GO BACK TO LAW SCHOOL BUDDY!!

    March 17, 2008 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  8. Peter

    Take responsibility for your actions...FL and MI took a chance and they should pay the consequences they agreed to in the begining. If they dont like it then they should tell their leaders, leave the party and make a new one or deal with it.

    March 17, 2008 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  9. Bill

    Because the DNC is it's own institution, it sets it's own rules. Since the sanctions were set by DNC bylaws, there is no grounds to sue. Nice try Hillary.

    March 17, 2008 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  10. phil

    if the state of florida or any other state decide to hold elections earlier than the dnc or the rnc decide they should it is the states right to do so we are not ruled by the democrats or republicans . they are the ones whom are supposed to represent us ... and niether party is doing a very good job of representation . we are now going to have another election to determine who will do the least ammount of damage to the country

    March 17, 2008 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  11. lisa

    The florida votes from January should count. They shouldnt spend one dime on a revote.
    Obama had the "audacity" to air ads there even though they werent supposed to campaign, and he still lost.
    So too bad, the sneak did not benefit. Hillary won, and the votes better count.
    A suit was filed for this and I am afraid Obama supporters, that those Jan votes will matter.
    He should have saved his money.

    March 17, 2008 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  12. Jay

    Debra-""If you don't like ther results- try again.""

    Since the results were that Florida and Michigan broke the rules and were disqualified, it would seem to be Clinton that doesn't like the results and wants to try again.

    I'm amazed at the number of arguments that Clinton supporters make that are actually backwards.

    March 17, 2008 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  13. Debra

    Florida had a record turnout. That means more people came out to vote than ever before. I can't imagine anyone staying home but if they did it would have been on both sides.

    March 17, 2008 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  14. M.

    I would love to know why Florida sets itself up every election to disrupt the process...You have our attention...Is that what it's about?...Please, just get with the program...Rules are rules whether you like them or not...The rest of the country is getting really fed up with you placing yourselves center stage all the time.

    March 17, 2008 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  15. Debra

    Jose, I think you have it wrong. It is Obamas camp that wants a new vote in Florida. They lost the first time by a landslide.

    March 17, 2008 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  16. Hong

    In this case, the democrats are not really democratic.

    March 17, 2008 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  17. aaron, minneapolis mn

    I agree it doesn't make sense for states not to be able to move their primaries up. This should be changed. But the fact is the DNC makes the rules and they warned Florida what the results would be. Florida made their bed and now they need to sleep in it. If Florida wants a do-over, then fine. But they should have to pay for it. Not the DNC. It stinks all those voters won't count, but life is rarely fair.

    March 17, 2008 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  18. Paul

    Apparently his copy of the Constitution calls for the establishment of political parties. Interesting.

    March 17, 2008 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  19. Political Jonze

    Why wasn't this case launched back when the punishment was meted out? Interesting timing isn't it? Obvious Clintonite – I'd bet my house on it.

    March 17, 2008 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  20. ted

    They should hold revotes in both, if they feel disenfranchised. Michigan is obvious, because only Clinton's name was on the ballot. Florida, though, would require a revote as well. Since, there was no campaigning. Unless Clinton wins virtually all of the remaining states with over 60% of the vote, it doesn't matter. She'll pick up at best 10 delegates from PA, and she's down 169 (roughly)

    March 17, 2008 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  21. The Program

    Florida and Michigan are trying to steam roll the American public. They know they're are both delegate rich, and that the candidates would want their votes. So the states had temper tantrums.

    Let them stew, who cares. In fact, I wish they could be shut out of the general election, but this is America.

    Some attorney said that primary votes are private, and they don't need federal intervention. But the general election is different, and every voter has the right to vote.

    Hey Florida and Michigan, get with the program, or don't vote.

    March 17, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  22. CMD, Winter Park, Florida

    This is not a Clinton/Obama issue, so stop making it into one. This is about basic freedoms and having a fair election where EVERY vote matters. I want this to go all the way. I want my vote counted.

    March 17, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  23. Jay

    Did you people read the part about how the case was filed way last summer?

    March 17, 2008 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  24. Mr. B.

    MIchigan & Florida can only blame their Govenors, and themselves.

    You voted them in, and they understood the rules !

    March 17, 2008 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  25. EndNepotism

    The DNC needs to step in to stop this never ending infighting. I voted "uncommitted" in Michigan, and felt pretty darn good about it. I am no way disenfranchised, and it is disingenuous to suggest that I am. Just because the governer screwed up, shouldn't make me pay. Move on without Florida and Michigan. It would be funny to see the incompetent state leaders not go to the convention.

    March 17, 2008 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8