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. Chris

    Yeah, too bad the DNC can make up whatever rules they want. They aren't the government, so they can use whatever process they want to get their nominees elected. I don't understand why nobody sees this.

    March 17, 2008 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  2. I know in, CA

    Re: Independent Voter
    In response to your statement:
    "She cares so much for Florida and Michigan but not Texas…or just the part of Texas' vote she overwhelmingly lost."

    Just wait on that...something is coming. Ask yourself how someone could win by 4 points in the primary, but lose by over 10 points in the caucus? Clinton haters say she'll do anything, say anything, but she's kept this quiet since it requires discretion.

    March 17, 2008 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  3. Walt, Belton,TX

    This should help just fine to unify Tzar Dean's wonderful party!

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

    In my opinion, every state should do there primarys and/or Caucuses on the same day, that we'll be more Democratic and we'll have the results in one day.


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

    Neiither state should hold a re-count. FL and MI elected officails decided to break the rules and they knew the consequences ahead of time. It's a done deal.

    Spilt 50/50 and lets move on already!

    March 17, 2008 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  6. A-Lo

    It's amazing to me how many people are just willing to accept the ridiculous rules the DNC has put forward and call it democracy.

    March 17, 2008 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  7. Towhappy

    Well now we hope all the judges keep throwing this case out due to the fact that the DNC was not responsible for the Florida fiasco, but the local Hacks themselves, and I hope both Florida and Michigan make these elected idiots pay with there jobs!!

    Obama 08!!!

    March 17, 2008 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  8. davo

    Before you criticize Florida and Michigan, you should check how many DNC and former DNC members are involved with Rezko and Obama in Chicago.

    March 17, 2008 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  9. Kimberly

    Every Vote Counts. Give Hillary & Obama their delegates according to the votes that were cast.

    March 17, 2008 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  10. Michael

    Absolutely ridiculous, and this has no legal standing. This is a political ploy and will get thrown out just like it did the first time.

    March 17, 2008 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  11. Kris

    I agree, if our leaders did anything wrong, by moving the date, then fine them, dont punish the people of the states....We all have a right to vote and I am in Michigan and feel that my right is being taken away also. Go florida, demand your vote count!!!!!!!!

    March 17, 2008 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  12. makola

    Just split the votes in half for both states and give to both campaigns. End of story.

    March 17, 2008 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  13. EBC

    Wow.... can we just move on? I mean this man needs to file his suit against the Governor of Florida that approved the primary date change, NOT the DNC. The DNC upheld its rules, and all parties agreed in writing to the rules. These rules governed what goes on in their states as it pertains to the voting process/delegates.

    March 17, 2008 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  14. Chris, Bethesda, Maryland

    I agree that excluding states is wrong, but it's not unconstitutional. Like it or not, the DNC is a private organization and the Constitution does not come into play. The rules of the primaries and caucuses are determined by them, and them alone. We can argue right and wrong, but don't break out words like "unconstitutional."

    March 17, 2008 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  15. BGIV in NC

    I'd LOVE to know what his connection to the Clinton campaign is. That's how she rolls – dirty.

    March 17, 2008 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  16. Brian

    Some states have open primaries and some closed. Does this violate the constitution too?

    March 17, 2008 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  17. Nunya

    Yes, we want to not seat their delegates if they stick by their rules violations. Otherwise, it sets precedents for everyone to break the rules next time. Besides, with the economy tanking so severely, the Democratic candidate will win regardless of what Florida and Michigan vote in November...

    March 17, 2008 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  18. Donavon

    well need to be set or else you will have every state feeling they "should" go first, then in 4 yrs from now will have nominees the year the president takes offices cause everyone would want to get in front of another state.

    March 17, 2008 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  19. Desiree

    A state should have the right to hold their primaries whenever they want and not be penalized for it. The DNC is just giving votes to the republicans.

    March 17, 2008 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  20. Truthteller

    This argument is beginning to fulfil the well known phrase of beating a dead horse. The fact of the matter is that these 2 states violated rules set forth by their national party. If voters in these states want to be upset that their votes aren't being counted then their argument should be with statewide politicians not a national party. Furthermore, the fourteenth amendment allows national parties to have final say so in primary rules and regulations.

    Finally, it would be outrageous for someone to suggest that a national party sink between 10 and 12 million dollars per state to hold a re-do when they could be using that money come November to campaign for their candidate.

    March 17, 2008 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  21. Frank

    That's an action that should be taken long time ago, when the DNC approved not allowing Florida to vote early in the process. Now, all this splash sound too fishy in Hillary's favor. Go figure what some democrats are looking for.

    March 17, 2008 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  22. Truthteller


    a vote not counting in a primary is not violating someone's right to vote. They still hold that same right in November no matter what happens in any primary.

    March 17, 2008 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  23. Kathy in IL

    PLEASE lets talk about the main election in November and not keep trying to kill each other. Florida broke the rules it was the Republicans fault and now the Republican government wanted a re-do. EVER ask yourself WHY????
    Because it is the same issue of Republicans supporting Hillary. In texas she would have never won the primary without the many republicans that voted for her. Check it out!!!
    Will they vote for her in November don't make me laugh. Rush is doing a good job in his radio talk show. the most disgusting person in the world. You the media need to get him off the air.
    DNC take some action!!! People are getting discouraged myself included. The economy is going to the dogs and the administration is giving the elite banks our money. Why !!!!! WE NEED CHANGE NOW

    March 17, 2008 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  24. Tony

    Why is Florida picking only on some rules to challenge? They should try the "superdelegates" system as well, the number of delegates that are selected from each state, etc, etc. And then they will figure out how stupid all this is to try courts to determine the parties rules.

    March 17, 2008 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  25. Bill, Streamwood, IL

    Funny, I thought the Constitution addressed general elections and did not deal with party issues. Maybe Mr. Steinberg is looking at a different version of the U.S. Constitution thatn the one I or anyone else has.

    March 17, 2008 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
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