On Thursday DNC Chair Howard Dean made all the rounds on the cable news networks and morning talk shows suggesting that it may be possible to hold “do-over” primaries in Michigan and Florida. Both states decided to violate Democratic Party rules and hold their contests before the allowed date of February 2. At the time Dean said that neither state’s convention delegation would be seated, but now that it is clear that neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama will win enough delegates to capture the nomination, Dean along with the governors of both states are suggesting that do-over primaries could be held in June.
Dean’s position on the issue was first made clear via a statement he released on Wednesday. “We’re glad to hear that the Governors of Michigan and Florida are willing to lend their weight to help resolve this issue. As we’ve said all along, we strongly encourage the Michigan and Florida state parties to follow the rules, so today’s public overtures are good news. The rules, which were agreed to by the full DNC including representatives from Florida and Michigan over 18 months ago, allow for two options. First, either state can choose to resubmit a plan and run a process to select delegates to the convention; second, they can wait until this summer and appeal to the Convention Credentials Committee, which determines and resolves any outstanding questions about the seating of delegates.”
The biggest hurdle to holding do-overs is money. Specifically, the question of who will pay for these unusual primaries. Primaries aren’t cheap to hold. A full primary election could easily cost each state in excess of $20 million. Cheaper options would include a vote by mail primary or a caucus. No matter which option is chosen, the cost would still be in the millions of dollars. Dean contends that the states should pay for the elections, while the states feel that the DNC should cover the costs.
Ironically, lawmakers in Michigan and Florida got themselves into this mess by trying to jump into the national media spotlight without party approval. The frontloaded system was supposed to result in the nomination process being resolved quickly. The party never thought of the possibility that some candidate other than Hillary Clinton might prove to be popular with the voters.
So, it turns out that Michigan and Florida might get their days in the sun after all, but the question remains, do they deserve to benefit from their inability to follow the rules? Do they deserve a do-over? To me, the real losers in this whole mess have been the voters in each state. The frontloaded primary process has treated the voters as an afterthought. I am happy that this scheme has fallen flat on its face. Perhaps in 2012, we can put the voters first?