Democracy Soup

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Did the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee protect the fair reflection of the voters?

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Originally published on on Mon, 06/02/2008 – 8:59am

So are you happy with Saturday’s result of the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee?

If you breathe out of your lungs, and you care about this issue, you probably aren’t completely happy with the result.

If you felt like the DNC shouldn’t have seated Michigan and Florida at all, then you weren’t happy. If you wonder why the DNC broke their own rules and seated the two states, then you aren’t happy.

If you felt like the Michigan Democratic Party’s compromise was a violation of the fair reflection of the voters, then you weren’t happy.

Then again, you might be satisfied to go on and forget this nightmare ever happened. But some words before we close this chapter. (And as always, this reflects my own personal view and not that of BuzzFlash management.)

I have criticized the DNC rule of taking away all the delegates as being unreasonable. I preferred the RNC rule of taking away half the delegates, which is, of course, exactly what the DNC committee ruled on Saturday. But I have also criticized the rule because it was apparent that the DNC was never going to apply the rule in this fashion. One of the reasons the states called their bluff is that they knew the DNC would have to seat the states in some form. It is good to have rules and to follow them, but rules aren’t effective if ultimately you know the penalty won’t stick.

But if the rules were the only issue, and would have been the only issue before the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee on Saturday, then I might be happy right now. But I’m not.

My main issue with the Michigan and Florida issue hasn’t really been the rules, but the side agreements. As several people pointed out on Saturday, the DNC wasn’t a party to the side agreements. The side agreements from Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada were designed to further penalize Michigan and Florida beyond the DNC rules. The candidates did sign the side agreements, but it’s difficult to say they signed them willingly since they wanted to curry favor with the four states.

Former Michigan Governor Jim Blanchard, speaking for the Clinton campaign on Saturday, pointed out that the side agreements didn’t require candidates to remove their names from the ballot. If that isn’t true, no one has objected so far. [Disclosure: Blanchard was my governor when I lived in Michigan.]

Sen. Barack Obama, Sen. John Edwards, Sen. Joe Biden, and Gov. Bill Richardson did remove their names from the Michigan ballot. Rep. Dennis Kucinich did try to remove his name, but was unable to do so. Gov. Blanchard on Saturday did say if there was one thing that would change, it would be changing the law to not allow candidates to remove their names from the ballot.

The side agreements set up significant additional penalties against the two states: no campaigning, no buying of ad time. But the side agreements came about because the DNC rule took away all the delegates, leading to numerous people saying “these states won’t count.”

But since Michigan and Florida would have appealed the decision, even without the Obama/Clinton close race we saw, it was way too soon to say “these states won’t count.” And as it turns out, those states now do count.

So was the 69-59 compromise by the Michigan Democratic Party a fair compromise or a flawed compromise?

The original premise of the compromise was that it was halfway in between the vote from January 15 (Clinton 73, Uncommitted 55) and the Obama campaign proposal (Clinton 64, Uncommitted 64). The 69-59 figures (rounded) were meeting the two sides halfway.

Gov. Blanchard, again speaking for the Clinton campaign, did point out that “as a practical matter, it is probably fair to say that almost all, if not all, of the uncommitted will be delegates for Sen. Barack Obama.” Blanchard did point out that the Clinton campaign has worked hard to not be involved in selecting the Uncommitted delegates.

Gov. Blanchard pointed out that there was an organized, vigorous “uncommitted” campaign. He also mentioned that Obama, Edwards, and Richardson had joint handbills urging voters to vote “uncommitted.” But for the 30,000 and perhaps others who would have loved to write-in a candidate, they were at the mercy of the Michigan rules and the candidates who didn’t file the paperwork to have those write-in votes counted. Candidates who removed their names from the ballot would have needed to file additional paperwork to have any write-in votes counted.

What was fascinating was that Mark Brewer, chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party, offered extensive figures to back up the compromise. There were about 594,000 votes, not counting 30,000 write-in votes.

The 69-59 compromise is 3% of the vote, even though Brewer cited the 30,000 write-in votes (5%) and a 9% drop for Clinton in the exit polls. That is a heck of a lot more than 3%, so perhaps the number was tabulated based on a compromise between the January 15 primary and the Obama camp’s split of the vote 50-50.

But does the 69-59 vote truly reflect the Michigan voters? For those who want to end this nightmare, you could justify the compromise as reflecting some of the write-in votes. But understand that there are going to be voters in Michigan who do feel like their votes were switched from what they voted in the voting booth, and that is a difficult pill to swallow.

Regardless of whether you support Obama or Clinton, regardless of how you think the vote will be impacted in Michigan and Florida in November, the Democratic Party should not be in this predicament of changing votes. The DNC rules weren’t the problem; the side agreements truly made this mess. After all, Florida wasn’t as much of an issue since all the names were on the ballot.

Iowa and New Hampshire have a lot of power; South Carolina and Nevada are getting their first taste of this power. And with the side agreements, we clearly have seen abuse of power from these states. There will be a new way in 2012 – it would be nice if the voters had the power to make sure their votes count.


Written by democracysoup

June 2, 2008 at 8:59 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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