August 25th, 2007
01:06 PM ET
16 years ago

Florida Dems may be barred from '08 convention

Nelson said Friday Florida Dems are prepared to pursue legal action against the DNC.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Democratic National Committee on Saturday rejected a plan submitted by Florida Democrats to hold their presidential primary on Jan. 29, setting up a potential legal showdown between the national and state parties over the seating of delegates at next year's Democratic National Convention.

Anticipating this would happen, Sen. Bill Nelson and other Florida Democratic lawmakers threatened on Friday to sue the DNC if the national party barred Sunshine State delegates from attending the convention.

"If the Democratic National Committee sanctions Florida then some of us (in) the Florida congressional delegation may ask an appropriate legal venue to determine whether or not a political parties rules can supersede someone's right to vote," Nelson said in a conference call with reporters.

The DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee declared that Jan. 29 was not in compliance with its rules and therefore rejected the proposal. The DNC prohibits any state other than Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina from holding a nominating contest before Feb. 5. Florida’s primary date was approved by the state legislature and signed into law by Gov. Charlie Crist.

At the meeting, held in a downtown Washington, D.C., hotel, Florida Democratic Party Chair Karen Thurman argued that it was Florida Republicans who muscled the legislation through the state legislature to change the primary date. Thurman’s argument was not enough to persuade members of the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee.

Florida Democrats now have 30 days to submit an alternative plan to the DNC.

James Roosevelt Jr., co-chair of the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee, said his panel’s action was justified because the nominating calendar was constructed in a way to give traditionally underrepresented Democratic constituencies a role in helping select the party’s 2008 presidential nominee.

“The rules for the primaries and caucuses were developed in a very open and thorough process over almost two years … and they had a principle of creating fairness and openness, geographic, racial, ethnic and economic diversity,” he said. “What happened today was simply to say the rules stay in place.”

The DNC previously had allowed Nevada and South Carolina to move their contests into January to help bolster diversity into the party’s presidential nominating process. While Iowa and New Hampshire are chiefly Caucasian, South Carolina has a large black population and Nevada boasts a growing Hispanic population and has a strong union presence.

Should the Florida Democratic Party ignore the DNC's ruling and move forward with a Jan. 29 primary, it will face sanctions including having all of its 210 delegates banned from attending the convention being held in late August in Denver. This is what Nelson and his Florida Democratic colleagues have vowed to fight.

Allan Katz, a DNC member from Florida who sits on the Rules and Bylaws Committee, told CNN he is “hopeful that we will be able to get past this disappointment and come up with an alternate plan.” Katz said one proposal under consideration is to have a caucus in February where the Democratic delegates for the convention would be officially chosen. Under this scenario, the Jan. 29 primary would in essence become what is being described as a “beauty contest.”

“I think right now what happens is the Florida Democratic leaders … look up and say okay the plan that we wanted is not going to work,” Katz said. “We've been told that definitively. We want to be at the convention. We want to have people elected as delegates. We want to have a party building activity. I believe a caucus process is the best process to go forward.”

Florida is not the only state considering moving their nominating contest into January, causing both the DNC and its counterpart, the Republican National Committee, a major headache. The RNC has similar restrictions on states, with the exception of Iowa and New Hampshire, from holding a nominating contest before Feb. 5.

The Michigan legislature is moving forward with a bill that would hold its Democratic and Republican primaries on Jan. 15 and the South Carolina Republican Party has already declared it will hold its primary on Jan. 19.

With so many issues unresolved, the primary calendar remains up in the air less than five months before the first votes for president are cast.

Under the DNC calendar, Iowa is scheduled to hold its caucuses on Jan. 14, followed by the Nevada caucuses on Jan. 19, the New Hampshire primary on Jan. 22 and the South Carolina primary on Jan. 29.

Officials in New Hampshire and Iowa either publicly or privately acknowledge that these dates are no longer viable given the rush by other states to hold similar contests in January.

On Saturday, the Rules and Bylaws Committee considered the 2008 state delegate selection plans for 33 states.

- CNN Political Editor Mark Preston

Filed under: Florida
soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. T.Allen, Rathbun Lake, Iowa

    Instead of denying Florida's convention delegates access to the voting process, it would fairer all around if they were just forced to be the LAST primary in the US.

    That would be sufficient punishment for breaking the RULES, but still allow their people the right to vote.

    August 26, 2007 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  2. Venus Smith, E.I. , Winter Springs and Florida

    All I can say is this:
    what the preamble to the U.S. Constitution says is that "WE the PEOPLE," in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility and provide for the common defense. We, the People do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

    I might have used some poetic license in the recollection of this 5th grade Civic lesson, but all I can say is after 31 years as a native-born highly educated homegrown woman of this mightly blessed nation of ours that We, the people have spoken and with a REPUBLICAN GOVERNOR!

    Last time I checked the founding fathers were not immaculately created, but honest men fighting in a world without internet, cell phones and AC units. This is a different time and place now; no, don't throw out the baby with the bath water, but gosh golly sometimes the water needs to be purified by FIRE!

    Pressure? Another day in the life of an environmental engineer...get to work boys and girls, momma and daddy are coming home. The house better be cleaned and any evidence of a party better be remarkably undected by sight, smell and verbal friendly interrogation of family, friends and neighbors. This country is run by the People for the People. Get the picture?!

    August 26, 2007 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  3. David, Salinas, CA

    To Venus Smith who recreates the preamble to the constitution:

    I think you need a refresher in 5th grade civics. But I’m not surprised that a Republican would omit the part that says “promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity”

    August 26, 2007 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  4. Jimmy, Cherokee Oklahoma

    Remember Florida. Your governor on down to your House and Senate are Republican controlled and they are taking aim to use your Great State in their current attempt to interupt they democratic process. Look at what their trying to do in Florida. They remind me of what we called Cheater babies. They can't win with the normal process so lets change the rules in the middle of the game. The Election is underway. The Iowa Staw poll usually signals the begginning. Any rule changing now would be just another way to manipulate the results. If Californis doesn't like the way their electoriial is counted maybe we ought to do like the Dems have ask for and just do whats fair. Restore Americans with their vote as President. The President is the only politician we don't get to fairly vote for. That is the only fair race. Let every American cast their vote. Then count every Americans vote and by vote of the people the person with the highest majority would than be President like it is when you vote on a senator. Florida this is just another Republican attempt to break our democracy to advance their personel agendia's

    August 26, 2007 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  5. xtina chicago IL

    LOL at Dave from NC's comment!!

    I think the same thing about Fla. Why are they the ONLY state that can't figure our a d#*& voting machine?

    What is it about Florida?

    August 26, 2007 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  6. Paula, Brentwood, MD

    The Dimocrats still can't get over Therese LaPore & the butterfly ballot that first graders and nursing home elders had no trouble deciphering.
    What a bunch of losers.
    Funny nobody noticed they "misvoted" before they got a call from the DNC.

    August 26, 2007 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  7. Evan Esteves, Boca Raton, FL

    The problem with Florida is the voter fraud that happened in 2000...Who's responsible for that xtina from Chicago? You got it! Jeb Bush, Katherine Harris and then Presidential candidate George Bush...

    August 27, 2007 01:14 am at 1:14 am |
  8. Glenda, McEwen, TN

    I was born in Florida, and after the 2000 election, I never reveal that fact to anyone. Florida needs to be more concerned with learning how to vote and not when to vote.
    Go Hillary, if you don't win and Obama does we are screwed again.......

    August 27, 2007 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  9. RightyTighty

    State discrimination written into the rules and bylaws of the DNC?? Leave it to the demorats to define a new form of bias..

    August 27, 2007 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
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