Huffpost Politics

Party Leaders To Hear Florida, Michigan Delegate Challenges

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WASHINGTON — A plan to award half-delegates for the disputed Michigan and Florida Democratic presidential primaries will get a hearing before party leaders.

The co-chairs of the Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws committee sent members a memo Friday announcing a meeting May 31 to consider the idea.

The committee stripped Michigan and Florida of their national convention delegates because they held primaries too early. DNC members in Michigan and Florida have filed challenges to restore the delegates.

Under the challenges, all superdelegates from both states would get to vote. The pledged delegates would only count for half votes.

Hillary Rodham Clinton won both contests and has been pushing for the delegates to be seated.

Her rival Barack Obama has said it isn't fair to award delegates based on the votes because all the candidates agreed to boycott the contests and his name wasn't on Michigan's ballot. Most of the Democratic candidates had their names removed, but Clinton left hers on. Forty percent of Michigan voters chose "uncommitted" rather than vote for Clinton.

Obama's supporters have suggested splitting the delegates evenly would be a fair way to handle it, since all sides want to see delegates from the two important swing states participate in the convention.

Both states, knowing the potential penalty, held their primaries earlier than party rules allowed to try have more influence in the nominating process that long has been dominated by early voters in Iowa and New Hampshire. Few figured the campaign would last as long as it has, and now that Clinton and Obama are so close in the delegate race, both states want to help choose the nominee.

Michigan lost 128 pledged delegates and 28 superdelegates, for a total of 156.

Florida lost 185 pledged and 25 superdelegates, or a total of 210.

If it were valid, Florida's election would have given Clinton 105 delegates to Obama's 67. Michigan's would have given Clinton 73 delegates, while 55 were uncommitted. That means awarding half-delegates would give Clinton 89 more delegates and Obama 33.5, with 27.5 uncommitted.

The plan would narrow Obama's lead among the pledged delegates won in primaries and caucuses. But Clinton still would not catch him in the remaining primaries.

Obama has a 154-delegate lead among pledged delegates.

The challenges were presented by DNC members Joel Ferguson of Michigan and Jon Ausman of Florida, who also are superdelegates because of their positions with the party. Ferguson supports Clinton, Ausman is uncommitted.

Ferguson and Ausman said in telephone interviews that they think half-delegates should be seated based on the outcome of the state's primary elections. That is not spelled out in their challenges and the Rules and Bylaws Committee could determine how many delegates each campaign is awarded.

"I think the allocation should be solely based on the returns on January 29," Ausman said.

Michigan's case is trickier, since Obama didn't get any votes in the state's Jan. 15 primary. Ferguson said all the uncommitted votes should count for Obama.

"The only thing that hurts my challenge is that I declared that I'm for Clinton, but this has nothing to do with Clinton," Ferguson said. "This has to do with making common sense."

He said it's only fair that the superdelegates be fully restored since they aren't bound by election results any way. The challenges argue that the party doesn't have the authority to strip superdelegates of their votes.

Ausman said as for the pledged delegates, it would be acceptable for the committee either to strip half of Florida's pledged delegates and send the other half to the convention, or to send all and give them half-votes.

The Convention Credentials Committee resolves issues about the seating of delegates, but doesn't meet until later in the summer after all the state nominating contests are over.

The co-chairs of the Rules and Bylaws Committee did not respond to messages left at their offices Friday. Party officials said it's unclear whether they will make a decision and vote on the challenges at the May 31 meeting or just discuss them.

The Clinton and Obama campaigns did not respond to requests for comment.


Associated Press writer Stephen Ohlemacher contributed to this report.

(This version CORRECTS paragraph 11 to show that Obama's total of delegates from Florida was 67, not 73; and his number once cut in half is 33.5 not 36.5.)