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. uchujin

    Another stupid lawyer.......This is how we got into this mess in the first place. Do as he suggests and we the people might as well throw in the towel. The presidency will be further dictated by the ten largest states or 50 largest cities in the country. Small states and population centers will lose their voices. Only HRC's arrogance is possibly greater than this guy's.

    March 17, 2008 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  2. ron

    HIllary is the Best for Florida and the Country.. Split the delegates according to the votes

    March 17, 2008 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  3. Cindy

    What's wrong with Florida? They'd rather go to court than vote fairly?

    I feel bad for the people in the state, they're being used by their party officials.

    Michigan is working things out ammicably, why can't Florida?

    March 17, 2008 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  4. Ron

    This is not about Clinton or Obama its about exercising your right to vote!!!! one of the basic rights every citizen should have.

    March 17, 2008 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  5. Kate

    Every person who wanted to vote in Florida has voted. It was a fair and level playing ground. Seat the delegates as is from Florida, because the Republicans caused the date change. Michigan should redo because it was a Democrat decision.

    March 17, 2008 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  6. angela

    Why are so many Obama supporters keen to disenfranchise the voters of Michigan and Florida? There should be a re-vote. Don't you believe in democracy? What are you afraid of?

    I'm sure the people of Michigan and Florida are paying attention to which candidate thinks their votes should count.

    March 17, 2008 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  7. Fonzi

    Is the florida state democratic party above the DNC? Is Hillary "the fighter" who is fighting for the florida pseudoelection to be uphled, above the DNC?
    What use is the DNC if she can not discipline errant members?
    Why aren't the florida democrats holding their state party officicals responsible for misleading them? If the table was revised i.e Hillary winning the popular votes,winning more primaries and Obama tagging behind, will Obama be praised or booed if he were to act that Florida pseudoelection be upheld to be legal?

    March 17, 2008 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  8. Zach Bruno

    I don't have a problem with the primaries like this. I defy anyone to find the word "Primary" in the Constitution or Bill of Rights, at least pertaining to this issue. Voting for delegates is not in the Consititution, therefore, regulating them can not be unconstitutional. So what? They broke the rules, they lose out, no one will do it again. Good. It's over. Congrats. By the way, this is Florida's fault. If they ponied up the money, or figured out a way to do it, they would have another primary. But it's not unconstitutional. I understand that they have a Republican majority in the state, but Dems were all for it too. I've heard at least 3 individuals, who are Dems, say that Dems were aware of the consequences, and still voted for it. They just wanted Florida in someone's "Win Column". Well, there they are, and the person they voted for is losing.

    March 17, 2008 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  9. Steve

    This is ridiculous.

    March 17, 2008 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  10. David Payne

    Another rigged election wow what news

    March 17, 2008 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  11. LaVelle Jones

    YES WE CAN! To all of the racist, scared, and fearful people out there, rules are rules and you cant changed them in the middle of the campaign! Do not get mad at Obama,get mad at your representatives of each state respectively!!

    March 17, 2008 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  12. Harvey in Va

    Take this to the Surpreme Court....I am glad not to be a citizen of Flordia.....Flordia should go to Clinton....Obama recd almost 1M votes ,, his name was on the ballot and people knew who he is or he would not have recd the votes..why did he leave his name on the ballot but take it off of Michigan what reason was that for.

    March 17, 2008 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  13. michigan

    I voted in the Jan 15 MI primary and feel that vote should count for someting. I disagee with the DNC is their position and and doing exactly what they complain about the RNC did in FL in 2000 – As to Obama not being on the ticket – CNN you continue to not state the fact that he pulled his name from the contest and has in more ways than one made his position the FL and MI delegeates not be seated – because he would have not won them like all the other large state the Democrats need to win the general

    March 17, 2008 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  14. Edward Puran

    Obama's father never serve in this country and Obama himself never service in any military action in his career.His is a senator for three years.Our country was attacked, lives were lost so we supported our president .Politicians voted for the war. Obama didn't.Obama was giving support and getting advised from Pastor Wright a man who dislike America and some more of his friends.Obama's wife Michelle said "In the first time in her adult life she have some respect for this country".This is a statement Michelle Obama made ,why people are not holding her as not patriotic as her pastor Mr.Wright?America is the only Super Power in the world do you think a person with three years experience would able to control it? I don,t think so.

    March 17, 2008 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  15. Lois, California

    If Florida does not seat their delegates and Obama wins the nomination (he doesn't want Florida to seat their delegates because Sen. Clinton won more delegates), Obama will not win the Presidency. Florida will be the state that will cost him the Presidency. It will be a revolt vote in the general election. People will stay home and not care. This is the worst DNC committee I've ever known. Howard Dean is the worst president. We have a chance to win the White House in November and look at this mess. Everything is Obama. Too bad he will go down with ship.

    March 17, 2008 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  16. Ronald

    What, you don't have any ambulances to chase in Florida? What a sorry excuse for a lawyer! You knowingly broke the long-established rules of the DNC. Now that you get called on it, you are going to sue? Get really mad and leave the Democratic party . . . please!

    March 17, 2008 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  17. David Riley

    Here's a thought. Who cares when the primaries or caucuses are held, as long as the results of all of them are released on the same day, after all have been completed. No "one" state would know how any other state voted until the primary voting was over, and no state would have an advantage.

    March 17, 2008 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  18. SAM - CommonSense

    Elected leaders in Florida and Michigan decided that they were gonna go against the rules to benefit their choice candidates. In the case of Michigan, the senator is an ardent supporter of Clinton... and in the case of Florida, their Repulican senator sure wanted to stir this controversy amongst the Democrats and we are buying into it big-time. Howard Dean is ma new hero... He's standing on his word unlike others and making the rules stay now as it was before the elections started. Florida and Michigan will vote in the general elections come this fall! Elections must be fair...

    March 17, 2008 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  19. tdo

    Obama supporters and their rant about florida and Mich. breaking the rules, blah blah blah. Those are swing states and if you want to disenfranchise them, now why would you expect them to vote for obama in november?

    March 17, 2008 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  20. Mike in Wilmington DE

    Amazing. The Republican Florida legislature, over the objections of the democrats in the state, changed the date for both primaries. The RNC cut the number of delagtes in half, and seated them proportionate to the state vote. The DNC, to punish the republican legislature in Florida, says Democrats votes and delegates don't count? What idiocy! The DNC should seat the delagates! I am rapidly becoming ashamed to be a Democrat.

    March 17, 2008 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  21. Praetorian, Fort Myers

    Sounds credible to me.
    As a voter whose vote won't count in the Primaries–I feel like my rights have, if not violated, certainly not taken seriously.

    March 17, 2008 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  22. John

    It will be fair if the DNC. Chairman step aside,and allow a fresh face to handle the Florida- Michigan quagmire.Democrats have enough,and we need solutions not procrastination before the convention.

    March 17, 2008 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  23. Ash

    Anyone who votes for Barack Obama at this point would be considered stupid. He is distancing himself from his pastor since he wants to run for presidency .. He did not take that action before he launched himself in this race , did he ?

    That action of his speaks for itself about how much he is influenced by this pastor.

    March 17, 2008 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  24. islandmisfit

    I agree, the FL and MI votes should count! It shouldnd make when the primary was held and their votes should count!

    Howard Dean should never have been appointed as head of the DNC and should be removed from his position as soon as possible.

    And Speaker Pelosi should keep her comments to herself regarding the situation. She only makes matters worse. She and Dean should ride off into the sunset together.

    March 17, 2008 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  25. JustPaPa60

    In my opinion, if the DVC received any money from the government, the tax payers money, they they are governed by the laws of the Constitution. I love this chaos the democratic party is going through right now. And believe me, the law suits aren't finsihed yet!

    March 17, 2008 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
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