WASHINGTON _ A prominent civil rights leader has told the Democratic National Committee that refusing to seat delegates from Florida and Michigan would disenfranchise both states' minority communities.
In a Feb. 8 letter to DNC Chairman Howard Dean, NAACP chairman Julian Bond expressed "great concern at the prospect that million of voters in Michigan and Florida could ultimately have their votes completely discounted." Refusing to seat the states' delegations could remind voters of the "sordid history of racially discriminatory primaries," he said.
The DNC penalized Michigan and Florida for moving their primaries to earlier dates in violation of party rules. Both states were stripped of their delegates, and the party's presidential candidates signed a pledge not to campaign in either state. Florida lost all 210 delegates, including its superdelegates; Michigan, 156.
Since then, facing the prospect of a drawn-out delegate battle with Barack Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign has pushed hard for both states' delegations to be seated. Clinton won Florida's primary Jan. 29 and Michigan's Jan. 15, but was the only candidate to appear on the Michigan ballot after the other candidates removed their names.
In an interview, Bond said the NAACP had taken no position in the race between Clinton and Obama and would not endorse either candidate. He sent the letter on behalf of the voters in Michigan and especially Florida, where the Republican-controlled legislature and governor changed the state's primary date.
"It struck me as making the voters, including minority voters in Florida particularly, victims of the Republican legislature in Florida. I wanted to get Chairman Dean to find some way to rectify the situation," Bond said.
The DNC has said it would allow both states to hold a different contest, probably a caucus, that would comply with party rules. Either state can also appeal the penalty to the DNC credentials committee, which will not meet again until this summer.
(This version CORRECTS SUBS 3rd graf to correct number of delegates to reflect superdelegates included)