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. Fit For A Queen

    I want a president who's going to be for everyone, not just a certain segment.

    Barack will be the people's president, while Hillary will thank mostly white women and latinos, and call it a day. Oh, did I say thank, she won't even do that, she'll just grab her crown, and run to the White House.

    Obama 08

    March 17, 2008 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  2. Carl from Pa

    This whole situation is very upsetting. Honestly, nothing the courts can decide will be the correct desition. Not everyone voted and so having the vote as is count is unfair yet that is what they are trying to do. If I lived in florida I would be very upset. How can you say, "This electoin for us won't count and then say, ha ha fooled you too bad you didn't vote." You might as well be in school again and say "oh you know that pretest you took, well that will count as your final. If you didn't do well, too bad." I bet every parent would be in court over that case, but well here we are and the stakes are higher.

    Who is to blame? Florida yet again!!! I say we just not count anything that ever comes from them for they are messing up the whole election process year after year.

    Additoinally, nothing that happens from Michigan or Florida will matter. Obama will still have the delegate lead so this whole issue is 100 percent moot.

    March 17, 2008 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  3. Joe

    They all had the same set of rules and all agreed to the same rules. It is not the DNC's fault that these two states could not follow the rules. If anyone should be getting heat for this, it should be the state reps who decided to violate party rules which had already been agreed upon.

    March 17, 2008 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  4. Justin from West Haven, CT

    Um, newsflash, attorney, the Democratic Party is a private organization and this is not the general election. Tough.

    March 17, 2008 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  5. Harold Haddix

    Why dont florida just shoot us, and take all the Democats rights.It feels like We are living in russia, It is just not right. Another FIXed Election.Where are we anyway??

    March 17, 2008 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  6. Gigi Soliman

    Thank you Thank you Thank you.
    I'm tired of all these so called "rules". The only rule to voting that the constitution has is that Americans are allowed to vote, and by that, they should be counted.

    One man, Mr. Dean, stands in the way of 1.7 million Florida voices counting? I wanna know where Democracy went, especially since this so called party's name has the word in it.

    -Angry Floridaian

    March 17, 2008 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  7. La Petite Sorciere

    mmm, this sounds like Clinton will do whatever it takes...... She agreed to this from day one when she had no oponent, now she wants things changed.. how unsual !!!
    since this does not favor her, she now has attorneys filing law suits... I said it long ago, she will start law suits.. which she and Billy are experts at..............
    NO more Clintons

    March 17, 2008 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  8. Ivory Tickler

    Folks are blinded on both sides (Clinton/Obama). However, I find my fellow Clinton supporters more ignorant of the facts. Folks are making stupid and irrelevent arguments that actually make our (Hillary's) camp look even worse. Before you open your mouth, check the facts by at least 2 sources... then put forth your opinion. Otherwise, we supporters look as incompetent as Hillary'scampaign.

    Open to another candidatre for Prez.

    March 17, 2008 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  9. Sue Marie, MI

    The DNC has already done a lot of damage in Florida and Michigan. As a resident of Michigan I will be changing my political party from Democrat to Independent prior to the general election. Don't count on my vote, DNC.

    March 17, 2008 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  10. Don, San Francisco

    If Florida keeps crying like this, we won't have to wait for Climate Change to put the whole state under water.

    March 17, 2008 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  11. Jeff

    Why stop at Florida? Why not have a re-vote in all the other states as well! Anything Hillary wants!

    March 17, 2008 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  12. Jessica, MI

    I think you're right Bill from Streamwood. I don't think this is a valid equal protection claim.

    March 17, 2008 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  13. Richard, Ky

    I think it is all a bunch of hog wash. We need to fire all of washington, cut the salary in half and then let the people run that want to change america. We do not need people in there to collect a paycheck and not do their job plus get the lobbiest perks to. We need to eliminate the lobbiest and the strangle hold that this corrupt government has and do what is right. let us have a popular vote and let every vote count and do away with these delegates and electorial bull. We do live in the information age.

    March 17, 2008 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |

    As an Obama supporter.....I'd love for the delegates to be seated @ the Convention; however, it's just not looking too promising right now....I was born/raised in Chicago, Ill. where we've always voted "early and often" for our candidate(s). This time, I just think the milk is already on the floor.

    March 17, 2008 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  15. T_Crawford

    1. Karen Thurman is heavily tied to clinton
    2. Karen Thurman did not go through the proper channels to submit a request that the election count, there was in fact a deadline for such a request
    3. Karen Thurman challenged the DNC as far back as August
    4. Karen Thurman featured hillary clinton at the top of the florida democratic commitees website in the days immediately leading up to the election, there was no mention of edwards or obama
    5. Karen Thurman had the FLA dem committee send out emails announcing clinton's support of the florida vote in the days leading up to the election
    6. Karen Thurman is known to have announced Hillary Clinton would be florida's nominee as early as last spring

    These are facts, they are not conspiracy theories. Florida voters, you have not been disenfranchised, you have been used by an inept and highly partisan official named Karen Thurman.

    March 17, 2008 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  16. Grif

    You Need Help!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 17, 2008 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  17. E. C., Houston, Texas

    The DNC can't make its own rules that violate the rights of Voters. It's hard to believe that the DNC hasn't been called on this before now.

    March 17, 2008 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  18. Grif

    Psycho Analysis is nor available for this kind abomination.

    Ask the Obama... Abomination!!!

    Remember the Movie The FlY! Help................Me!

    March 17, 2008 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  19. katie

    Hillary for 2008!

    March 17, 2008 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  20. M

    Get over it people, you're sounding like a bunch of cry babies... like Mrs. Clinton! Enough is Enough!!!

    March 17, 2008 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  21. M. S. Indiana

    Can we get news ???

    March 17, 2008 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  22. Eric

    Good. Keep fighting until there's a re-vote. Obama shouldn't get off this easy.

    March 17, 2008 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  23. Gwen NC

    Votes should always count, we don't need another what if. The DNC shouldn't have authority over voting, maybe how they conduct their own affairs, but not voting. ALL VOTES COUNT, EACH ONE IS AN AMERICAN VOICE!!!!!!

    March 17, 2008 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  24. Not Given

    Let the republicans have Florida already. Let's face it, they voted for Bush in the last two presidential elections, or at least allowed the courts for vote for them and odds are very strong that they will vote for McSame. I think the DNC should just write off the entire state.

    At least Michigan is worth fighting for and they have the brains to figure out how to do a re-vote.

    March 17, 2008 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  25. Life28SBK

    How is the DNC violating the constitution? These states BROKE THE RULES... they deserve to be punished. they voted, thats there right and they did that. so please stop crying.

    March 17, 2008 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
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