Saturday, May 10, 2008

Your questions about disenfranchisement - answered!

After writing yesterday’s post about the D.N.C.’s apparent disregard for the voters of Florida and Michigan, I received numerous questions and a few comments that suggest that information would be helpful. Please note that I am trying to give the best answer I can give to each question. More exhaustive answers can be given (and even found on reliable websites).
I'm answering one question per post. First up:

“If Michigan and Florida didn’t play by the rules regarding primary timing, why should the D.N.C. count the votes of people who participated in those state primaries?”

Answer: The scheduling of state primaries is controlled by each state, and requires state level government action (because an election day must be designated, polling stations established, etc). In every state, the state-level Democratic Party plays a role, and in some states some years (think Florida), Republican politicians get into the act (not, you can be sure in an effort to help Democrats.) As it happened, this year, the powers-that-be in Florida and Michigan chose to hold, or were maneuvered into, holding primaries on dates that went against the schedule set out by the national level Democratic Party.

Candidates signed a pledge not to campaign in states that held “early primaries.” When one is running for President, one does not aggravate the national Party, particularly just when it is trying to get organized for the primary season.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of “ordinary” Floridians and Michiganders voted on the only day they could vote. They did not have the luxury of waiting for a day they knew the national Party would accept, and they had no control over the date their state level officials had set.

For months, Democrats at all levels beseeched the D.N.C. to redress the mistake of imposing such a harsh penalty on Michigan and Florida, to do so before it would appear that acting fairly toward the voters in that state would come across as an act favoring one candidate or another – and at the time there were a number of candidates still in the race. The D.N.C. just did nothing. I think they seriously thought that if they waited out the situation, all the other contests would produce a clear nominee and so the failure Florida/Michigan debacle would not make a difference in result.

Whatever the merits of that line of reasoning, I regard it as wholly beside the point. Recognizing voters is the cornerstone of the modern Democratic Party. Disenfranchisement is unacceptable. The D.N.C. has made it hard for itself to correct the current injustice it seems willing to inflict on the voters neither the State Parties nor the legislatures – in Michigan and Florida. The D.N.C. did not step in and side with those who called for and were willing to fund re-votes in those states.

But it is never too late to mitigate an injustice – and sometimes even to correct it. The D.N.C. now faces a choice: having made it impossible for citizens of Florida and Michigan to re-vote, the D.N.C. can and should listen to how those citizens voted on the only day they had to vote.


Anonymous don tufts said...

great post, you know whats ironic about tuesdays vote in wv is the state came into being in the middle of the war between the states when the citizens of the counties that make up the present state of west virginia disolved their union with the rest of virginia over virginia joining the confederacy.maybe if the dnc does not do the right thing and recognize the michigan and florida votes we all should disolve our relationship with the party,maybe its time that the voters in this country had a centrist moderate party that could attract both dissatisfied democrats and republicans.god bles heidi don and carolyn

May 10, 2008 at 11:13 AM  
Blogger janicen said...

Thank you for this post, HLF. I know you are very busy, and I appreciate the time you took addressing my question.

I wanted to get your explanation because I knew it would be thoughtful, measured, and accurate!

Thanks again!

May 10, 2008 at 12:14 PM  
Blogger Heidi Li Feldman, J.D., Ph.D. said...

You are most welcome, Janicen. I am going to answer another question you asked and one another person did, as I get the time. You are terrific!

May 10, 2008 at 12:16 PM  

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