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This past week I had the opportunity to head north to Washington to meet with a number of folks to discuss Florida’s delegate situation.
As you know I have filed two appeals on behalf of a number of Floridians. The first appeal asks that the 23 ‘Charter Delegates’, those persons holding positions listed in the Democratic Party of the United States’ Charter stating they “shall” be delegates, be seated as delegates. Some people call these people superdelegates but they are, in fact, ‘Charter Delegates”.
The second appeal addresses the status of the 185 pledged delegates and 3 unpledged add-on delegates, for a total of 188 delegates. The 2008 Delegate Selection Rules in Rule 20.C.1 states that if Florida violates the “timing rule” by having its “first determining step” prior to 5 February 2008 then there shall be a reduction of 50% of its pledged delegates. The rules allow neither a 49% reduction nor a 51% reduction. Clearly these rules do not allow a 100% reduction for a “timing violation”. In fact, the other sections cited by the Rules and Bylaws Committee to justify the additional reduction actually state you cannot add additional penalties if you are penalizing Florida for a “timing violation”.
Florida has, already, been severely punished. The Presidential candidates did not campaign in Florida. Florida has had no say in the most exciting Democratic contest in two generations. You only have to go to your favorite media site (NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, NY Times, Washington Post, RealClearPolitics, or your favorite) and it will show Florida with no delegates.
The Florida Legislature when it passed a law moving the primary before 5 February 2008 stated national conventions were rubber-stamps and that it was “more important to vote early than to send a few select Floridians to the national conventions.” As it turned out, they were wrong even if they are still unrepentant.
Despite the strong probability that Florida would not have any delegates we saw a substantial increase in voter turnout. In 2004 in the Florida presidential preference primary about 720,000 Democrats voted. In 2008 in the Florida presidential preference primary 1,725,000 Democrats voted. A more than 100% increase, a more than one million net voter increase, is incredible when you consider no candidates campaigned.
This is not to say Florida Democrats were not aware of the merits of their favorite candidate. After all, Floridians have access to newspapers, news magazines, the internet, television news and other sources of news.
In my discussions while in Washington I had an opportunity to talk with a number of folks. What I am going to share is my summation of these discussions.
- Florida is going to receive a penalty and we are not going to get 211 delegates on 31 May 2008;
- Florida is going to get some delegates and alternates on 31 May 2008;
- My presentation is going to be positive and forward looking because we are all on the same team;
- My presentation is going to acknowledge that Florida violated the “timing rule”;
- My presentation is going to note how Florida has already been punished;
- My presentation will note the rules call for a reduction of delegates, not an elimination; and,
- My presentation will acknowledge that a reduction is called for at this point.
Our goal is to come back together and prepare to support the Democratic nominee against the Republican. We need to use this hearing on 31 May 2008 to put our best foot forward in a way that helps us do so.
There a saying a want to share with you: “You have to get nominated before you can be elected. You have to get elected before you can govern.”
Much of our energy has focused, rightfully, on the nomination portion of this saying. I want to focus on the “getting elected” portion. Every single Florida Democrat, regardless of who they support, is on the same page when it comes to the “getting elected” part.
Florida Democrats are going to have to make a tough decision soon. If the 188 delegates are reduced by 50% we can either have 188 persons cast a half vote or 94 persons cast a full vote. The Florida Democratic Party State Executive Committee should consider this question and decide which it prefers.
From a process perspective, it would be better to have 188 persons cast a half vote because we have already selected 148 of them and will be picking the remaining 40 on 17 May 2008 in Tampa at the Florida Democratic Party State Executive Committee meeting scheduled for that date. In short, no one wants to tell 94 persons they are not longer a delegate (but maybe could be if the Convention Credentials Committee awards the rest of the delegation).
However, a half vote creates a potential publicity problem. As you may recall, our original Constitution stated that slaves would be counted as 3/5th of a person. The likelihood of clever buttons, slogans and placards being made denouncing the DNC for giving Floridians only a half vote is high (somebody is going to do it).
The problem here is twofold: One, Florida did violate the “timing rule” and Florida knew the penalty was a 50% reduction in the delegation; two, we need to focus on the “getting elected” portion of the saying and be a positive force for the nominee rather than a negative story leading into the convention.
With respect, I am,
Jon M. Ausman, Member
Democratic National Convention
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