Democrats propose plan for new Florida primary

 

Florida Democrats have proposed a plan that would allow for a redo of the state’s presidential primary but quickly voiced doubts it would be approved, as officials struggled to settle a dispute that could weigh heavily in a tight White House race.

 

The concerns raised on Thursday by Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Karen Thurman came as officials presented a vote-by-mail plan for the primary in the state which, along with Michigan, was stripped of its delegates for holding its nomination contest ahead of schedule. That move meant a total of 313 delegates are not represented in the national convention in August.

 

With Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton locked in a bruising battle for the party’s White House nomination, and neither likely to win based solely on the available number of elected delegates, the Democratic Party has been scrambling to find a solution to the problem in Michigan and Florida.

 

Democrats worry that a failure to have the states’ delegates at the party’s nominating convention would anger millions of Democratic voters there going into the national election in November.

 

Thurman offered a mail-in/in person proposal for voting and urged state leaders, the national party and the presidential candidates to sign on.

 

Under the plan, all of Florida’s 4.1 million Democrats would be mailed a ballot. They could send it back, or cast a ballot in one of 50 regional voting centers that would be set up. The election would end June 3, a week before a Democratic National Committee deadline to name delegates.

 

The estimated cost is $10 million to $12 million (Dh36.7 million to Dh44.04 million).

 

Asked if the plan will be implemented, Thurman said, “I have a feeling that this is probably closer to not, than yes.”

 

Thurman will review comments from Democratic leaders and make a decision by Monday on whether to proceed with the revote. But she acknowledged that Obama has had concerns and the Democratic National Committee won’t support a proposal unless both candidates also back it. She said there is a serious question over whether the state could legally verify the signatures of a privately run election.

 

“If this becomes something that we can’t do, then we can’t do it,” Thurman said.

 

Clinton won Florida and Michigan, although she was the only major candidate on the ballot in Michigan.

 

In the overall race for delegates, Obama has 1,602 delegates to 1,497 for Clinton. It takes 2,025 to win the nomination at the party’s national convention in Denver in late August. With neither appearing able to win enough delegates through primaries and caucuses to claim the nomination, the importance of nearly 800 elected officials and party leaders who will attend the national convention as unelected superdelegates is increasing.

 

Obama leads Clinton among pledged delegates in The Associated Press count, while the New York senator and former first lady has an advantage among superdelegates.

 

The front-runner, who is seeking to become the first black US president, told reporters traveling on his campaign plan Thursday that although he has concerns about mail-in voting, “we’re going to abide by whatever the DNC decides.”

 

The Clinton campaign made it clear that it strongly prefers a state-run primary to mail-in voting during a meeting with Michigan Democrats Thursday, according to a campaign official speaking anonymously about the private talks.

 

People involved in the private meeting said the Clinton advisers favor the state-run primary because there would be less likelihood of problems such as fraud and ballot counting than with a mail-in vote.

 

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean told CNN that he was in Florida on Wednesday and has been calling members of the congressional delegation to encourage them to cooperate. He said he’d like to find a way to seat the Florida and Michigan delegates and not leave the issue until the convention.

 

All nine Democratic House members from Florida oppose the idea, including Clinton backers.

 

Four Michigan Democratic leaders uncommitted to either candidate discussed options for a redo Thursday with both the Clinton and Obama campaign leaders.

 

The next showdown between Obama and Clinton is April 22 in Pennsylvania. Their campaigns announced Thursday that the Democrats would debate in Philadelphia next month before the primary, with the date still to be determined. The contenders have debated 20 times during the presidential campaign. (AP)

 
 
 
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