Thursday, May 22, 2008

Lawsuit filed to seat Florida delegation

Via Jerome Armstrong, the Miami Herald reported:

Florida's history of discrimination against African Americans should force the national Democratic Party to count all of the state's delegates at its national convention, a federal lawsuit filed Thursday claims.

The suit, filed by state Senate Democratic Leader Steve Geller and two other Democrats, claims that the federal Voting Rights Act prohibits the national party from stripping the state of its convention delegates.

The Civil Rights-era law requires the U.S. Justice Department to approve any significant voting change in Florida to make sure it doesn't disenfranchise minority voters. Geller argues that includes the Democratic National Committee's demand that Florida switch ''from a state-run primary to party-run caucus system'' to avoid losing its delegates.

''The purpose of this lawsuit is not to support one candidate over another; it's to enforce one of the most basic tenets of our democracy: Count the votes as they were cast,'' Geller said in announcing the lawsuit.

Geller, a Cooper City lawyer, said the Democratic National Committee has repeatedly argued that the reason it is punishing Florida is because it held its primary before the February date authorized by the party and then refused to conduct a post-primary caucus to designate delegates.

Geller argues that a caucus would have replaced the vote of 1.75 million Floridians with an event that was expected to capture only about 100,000 voters at 120 polling sites, thereby disenfranchising thousands of Florida Democrats, including those serving in U.S. military based outside Florida.

See how caucuses disenfranchise voters? Florida provides a significant example, another reason why I give more weight to Clinton's primary victories. Will the Democratic party learn this lesson and change over to closed primaries? One can hope.

Geller is an uncommitted superdelegate. The other two Democratic plaintiffs are also delegates, one for Clinton and the other for Obama.

The lawsuit also says that by penalizing Florida, the DNC is violating the constitutional protection on equal application of the law and a federal law that requires parties to write their own rules and then follow them. The lawsuit argues that DNC rules require it to conduct an investigation into questions involving state action, such as the premature primary date, but the DNC failed to conduct any investigation.

The lawsuit comes as the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee is scheduled to meet in Washington May 31 to hash out how to settle the delegate dispute involving both Florida and Michigan.

Geller, and two other plaintiffs, sent a six-page letter to the DNC accusing them of failing to understand the legal and practical problems of stripping the state of their delegates and demanding they restore the delegates to the convention.

Geller believes the strongest argument Florida Democrats have in the legal challenge is how it relates to Section Five of the Voting Rights Act. The 1965 act was designed to protect blacks, primarily in southern states, from discrimination by banning literacy tests, poll taxes and unfair redistricting that had denied them access to the voting booths.

Seems the ball is no longer in Howard Dean's court (pun intended) if the May 31 DNC meeting fails to decide to seat the Florida delegation. How can the Democratic party live up to its name by violating the Voting Rights Act? Did I just hear Donna Brazile's head explode?

Earlier today, BTD at TalkLeft quoted Obama on Florida's delegates:

...Sen. Barack Obama said Wednesday that "a very reasonable solution" would be to count Florida's disputed primary votes and cut the state's delegation to the convention in half.

Betcha Florida voters would disagree with Obama's "very reasonable solution" and we will soon discover the outcome from the May 31 DNC meeting. Something tells me the committee will rule against Obama's thievery suggestion. Just guessing.

POSTSCRIPT: This lawsuit on behalf of the Florida delegation wasn't the first.

UPDATE: Edited to reflect that the other two Democratic plaintiffs are not superdelegates. Barbara Effman (for Clinton) and Percy Johnson (for Obama) are pledged delegates.