Florida's attempt to be a player in the selection of the Democratic Party's 2008 nominee continued on its chaotic course this week.
Congressional leaders, party leaders and representatives of the Clinton and Obama campaigns are in disagreement on what should be done to count the Sunshine State's anticipated 210 convention seats.
"This is totally ridiculous. Don't they have any concern for the 1.7 million Democratic voters who went to the polls in January and for the delegates who were elected March 1, pursuant to that vote," said George Maurer of Key West, a Monroe County Democratic Committeeman.
1. Should the Jan. 29 vote, which gave the most delegate seats to Clinton, be allowed? The vote was ruled ineligible for delegates by the Democratic Executive Committee, which punished Florida for moving up its primary date (even though it was passed by the Republican-dominated Legislature). That issue is now before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeal which is expected to rule next Monday. A Tampa consultant, Victor DiMaio, filed the suit as a way to get the state party off the hook.
2. Should there be a re-vote and who would pay for it? The state's Republican Governor Charlie Crist and legislative leaders of both parties nix any public money for a new election, although several have floated the idea of a June 3 contest.
3. Should Florida have a vote-by-mail replay? Who will pay for it and is it legal under Florida law? Florida's nine Democratic congressional representatives say they will oppose such an idea and that it may not be allowed under the state's constitution. State Sen. Steve Geller said a poll taken this week showed most Democrats favor a re-vote (The poll was of 600 Democrats, he said).
4. Should Democrats give 105 seats each to Clinton and Obama and let chips fall as they may?
5. Should Florida wait until the Democratic Convention in Denver Aug. 25-28 and go to the Credentials Committee to be seated - or, if necessary, risk a floor fight? That would certainly drive the state's electoral votes away from the Democrats, opponents say.
If these options were not enough to confuse the public, Florida newspapers further muddled matters with contradictory headlines and stories almost daily.
South Floridians, for example, who often see several news accounts as well as multi- channel television reports could hardly miss the following comparison. The Miami Herald noted on page Wednesday "Vote Re-Do Plan Going Forward". The Florida Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale gave a different message, on two successive days - "Florida Congressmen Against a Vote by Mail" and "Do-Over Plan Splits Democrats."
"This is absolutely ridiculous...an insult to voters. How many times do we have to vote," said Terry Hammes, a Boca Raton business executive. "Florida must be counted."
Clinton supporters following her lead, at first wanted only the Jan. 29 vote counted but now say they will accept a mail in re-vote. However, Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, a Clinton advocate, says there is no agreement yet among the party's House members on how to proceed. She said people who know Clinton won the Jan. 29 primary are already upset.
Obama says he just wants a caucus and his supporters say "no" to any other alternative. Rep. Robert Wexler, an Obama supporter, says a mail-in vote is open to possible fraud, noting some seniors may have left the state as spring approaches, college students may have new addresses, renters may not be in the same location and other problems may arise.
Actually, Florida's Convention delegation - as of this time - would make only a miniscule difference in favor of Clinton if the January results were recognized. Because delegates are elected based on congressional district votes, Clinton only would be ahead of Obama by a handful of delegates in Florida. Most observers believe a redo of the election would have much the same results, at the cost of 5 million dollars, and there is still the questions of its legality and who would pay for it.
If Florida and Michigan (another state being punished by the DNC) were to be seated at the convention, the magic number to name a nominee would be 2,209 delegate votes (without the two states, it is 2,025). There are now various figures being cited on the current delegate count, but most observers think it is approximately 1600 for Obama and 1480 for Clinton - neither of which is in striking range for the nomination. Even, with Pennsylvania voting in June and several other states to follow, neither candidate can go over the top, except with Super delegate support "or Florida's vote," according to some party brass.