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. becca

    duh.... the equal protection clause states that "no state shall deny any of its citizens equal protection under the law." the DNC is not a state.

    does anyone known if the citizens of florida and michigan protested? if my state decided to break the rules and my vote wasn't going to count, i'd be up in arms. it's the state's faults.

    March 17, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  2. Terry, VT

    The problem is not with the DNC, it is with the state officials, sue them. Will someone please put an end to the Clinton's and there reign terror.

    March 17, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  3. kelly WI

    Will be NO re-do

    March 17, 2008 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  4. JC

    I'd like to see how it turns out because, as far as I know, the DNC can do whatever it wants. The election laws do not cover this issue because it is the DNC and they are choosing a candidate, not electing an office.

    March 17, 2008 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  5. Louis

    Florida and Michigan agreed to the rules prior to scheduling and holding their primaries. In the case of Florida the primary was moved up, not by the local DNC but by the Republican led legislature. Which should be held liable for attempting to interfere with this political process. The reason why all of the primaries are not held on one day, is because the candidates need time to go to each state and be introduced to the voters and plead the reasons why they should be elected. So, if they cannot all be held at the same time, some will have to be first, these could be rotated to be sure. In the end, the votes are all counted and none are more valuable than the others. the emphasis is all placed by the press.

    March 17, 2008 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  6. swede_mariner

    I want change.
    Not 24 or 28 years of Bush and Clinton in a row.
    Obama is someone who can restore our country's reputation and who has a chance to unite our country for important future goals.
    I cannot believe all these Clinton bloggers, who are calling Obama a liar. I don't understand this hatred. All experts are saying Obama and Clinton have very similar wievs on issues, so why the hatred?
    I can live with Clinton, if for some unexpected reason Obama won't be nominated.
    People who are saying if Obama is nominated – I'll vote for McCain must be republican by heart. They can't be true democrats!

    March 17, 2008 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  7. a.b.

    ...this is why I'm not a registered voter.

    March 17, 2008 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  8. Jason

    Enough with the delegates, superdelegates, caususes, voting on different days, weird state rules, etc.....Both parties pick a day, have the people vote & whoever gets the most votes wins. What a mess.

    March 17, 2008 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  9. cd

    Who cares who he supports-Floridians deserve to be heard and their votes counted!!!

    March 17, 2008 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  10. John

    What an idiot! Political parties are not part of the government. Political parties are essentially private clubs and therefore the Constitution has no bearing on their responsibilities to their members. I don't see how lawyers belong in any part of this. If anything, the DNC should banish Hilary Clinton from the party because of her campaigning in Florida and Michigan in direct violation of her signed pledge to not do so. ...but what's another broken promise to a Clinton ...even if it's got your signature on paper?

    March 17, 2008 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  11. Karl Shipps

    This is the same argument employed in the unsuccessful attempt to shut down the at large precincts in Nevada. It didn't sell there, and I don't think it will sell here.

    March 17, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  12. Maria

    DO NOT seat the delegates. This is just another ploy by a scoundral (a.k.a. Hillary Clinton) to cheat herself into the winners seat.

    March 17, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  13. RFB

    Ok here it is. I vote every single time their is an opportunity to vote. I may not vote for everything that is on the ballot, but I am there to cast my vote. So, If there were other issues on the ballot in FL and people opted not to go vote, I would say that was their loss. Hillary, and obama were both on the ballot in FL, I don't feel that the statement that their votes would not count doesn't hold water. Those people are just poor citizens for not going to the polls to vote for the other issues that were on the ballot. Their loss, not the candidates. FL primary should stand as is from the January primary.

    March 17, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  14. Dedrick from Atlanta (in Portland)

    Time for a national primary! Finally, maybe someone will realize that no one state's vote counts more or should count more than any other state. Follow the rules. Everyone should vote on Super Tuesday and all of this junk goes away. Move on...

    March 17, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  15. Bill L

    Most will admit the current method is flawed. The primaries are spread out so that the candidates can travel to various parts of the country to enable the voters to learn more about them. A same day election might be much more expensive.

    Also, spreading out the voting helps to narrow the field, otherwise you may have a case where no one gets over 50% because of the number of candidates.
    My suggestion is to have 4 or 6 regional election dates within a 6 week period from mid-January to March 1. This would help to control the travel and advertising budgets of the candidates, and still help to narrow the field.

    March 17, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  16. Bayou Joe

    Why is it that Florida always gets it wrong? I say count the votes in Florida and have a re-vote in Michigan. Maybe with the new stuff that the media finally got around to bring forth about Obama: Clinton will get her chance to be president. Are you liberals so stupid that you can't see that Hillary has the best chance of winning? White American owns this country and will not give it up. end of story.

    March 17, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  17. Jonathan Swift

    A few things worth keeping in mind:
    1. Hillary actually did campaign in Florida. As I recall she started talking about the votes in FL counting before the primary. I would say that is more pandering than campaigning, but a far more persuasive argument to her supporters to turn out.
    2. Hillary said MI wouldn't count so that makes her arguments about including all voters a bit late. (See pandering point above).
    3. For the money this will cost we could feed a larger of homeless people tonight.
    4. There is a professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago, who has made no argument about this except that he will follow the rules of the DNC.
    5. This is not about Obama vs. Clinton. Its about Clinton vs the rules

    March 17, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  18. Ron, TX

    The DNC isn't a government body... it can do what it wants.

    March 17, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  19. bond

    People are starting to wonder if the Dems can't run their own party, how are they going to run the country? McCain and Repubs are loving all of this.

    March 17, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  20. Jon

    Let's just vote for McCain – this whole Democratic mess has caused me to leave the party.

    March 17, 2008 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  21. Dan

    Rules are not laws. Rules can be changed, Obama is finish with his racsist minister and if this shafting of the peoples vote happens. It will go against everything dems are about. McCain will become president

    March 17, 2008 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  22. jp/michigan

    It will be a sad day for the democratic party, if Michigan and Florida are unable to have their votes count. According to the constitution , I have a right to vote and to have my vote count. If Michigan and Florida are unable to re-vote and have their delegates seated. Then all those people in both states should vote republican in November, and let the DNC choke on their rules.

    March 17, 2008 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  23. hehe

    I am so disappoint in the way CNN handles this election. It seemed that CNN has picked the next president, and would do anything to make it happen. The reports are so biased toward one candidate, especially in the last a few days. CNN, the most trusted name in news? Not any more for me. CNN lost me.

    The sad thing is, which one should I see? FOX? MSNBC?

    March 17, 2008 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  24. errrr

    I think that Florida and Mi would have been seated long time ago if Obama was the winner. The DNC leaders would ruther loss the two states than let Hillary win it.

    March 17, 2008 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  25. Bacusla

    Leap-frogging commonsense! Is the attorney general willing to stake his lisense to practice law on this case? Since when did (MI & FL's)DISREGARD for set electoral rules become a protected right that violates the 14th Amendment? What a wash?

    March 17, 2008 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
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