Constitutionality of DNC Florida primary to be decided in appeal

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Elbert P. Tuttle Courthouse, where the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals is based.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, Georgia agreed to hear Victor DiMaio's suit against the Democratic National Committee on Monday. Dimaio sued the DNC over their decision to ignore the results of Florida's Democratic primary.

DiMaio claims that excluding Florida's Democratic voters and allowing some states to vote earlier than others violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The DNC countered that they have the power to exclude any state that does not follow their rules, and that the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld the right of political parties to make and enforce their own rules as protected by the Freedom of Association in the First Amendment. The DNC's rules currently allow early primaries to be held in only four states: Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.

The appellate court's decision could take more than a month. Whichever way this court decides, the losing party is expected to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to review the question.

Meanwhile, a furor is brewing inside the Democratic Party over what will be done with the delegates representing the voters of Florida and Michigan. Schemes to offer an inexpensive mail-in revote in Florida have been abandoned by the Florida Democratic Party as being at risk of vote tampering.

A plan to distribute Florida's delegates among the candidates was proposed Wednesday by Florida state senators Steven Gelleras and Jeremy Ring. The plan recommends seating half of Florida's 210 delegates based on the votes cast in Florida's primary. Their remaining delegates could be allocated evenly or in proportion to each candidate's national tally.

The Michigan legislature was considering a re-run of the Michigan Democratic primary for June 3rd but Barack Obama questioned the legality of the planned vote. The Michigan legislature adjourned for spring recess today (Thursday) before reaching a decision which has effectively ended the possibility of a re-vote on June 3rd. Last minute deals are still possible but the re-ballot would have to occur before June 10 to comply with DNC rules.