- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Florida Democrats yesterday abandoned plans to hold a do-over presidential contest, delaying a resolution on the state’s disqualified delegates for at least three months.

Under national Democratic Party rules, the only remaining option that would allow Florida’s delegates to be reinstated is for the matter to be taken up by the party’s Convention Credentials Committee, which cannot meet until late July or early August.

Florida Democratic Party Chairman Karen L. Thurman, in a letter to the Democratic National Committee, said it is not logistically possible for the state to hold another election before summer, even if the party financed it.

“We researched every potential alternative process — from caucuses to county conventions to mail-in elections — but no plan could come anywhere close to being viable in Florida,” she said.

DNC Chairman Howard Dean has said the party rules will not be suspended, which, in the case of no revote, hands the decision to the credentials committee as the only body having the remaining power to seat Florida’s delegation.

But the 186-member panel has not been completed. It has 25 existing members in place, awaiting the other 161 to be picked by the candidates, who are granted a number of positions to fill in proportion to their delegate count.

Therefore, picking the credentials panel is not even theoretically possible until after the last primary June 3, which is not a problem when the race is decided by April, as has been the case for the decades, until this year’s campaign.

Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Stacie Paxton told The Washington Times that realistically the panel could not meet until late July.

The Florida party had considered a mail-in election, but the proposal was opposed by members of Florida’s congressional delegation. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, who finished second to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York in Florida’s January primary, expressed concern about the security of a mail-in vote organized so quickly.

The national party punished Florida and Michigan for moving their primaries before Feb. 5, stripping them of all their delegates to the party’s national convention in Denver in August. All the Democratic candidates agreed not to campaign in the two states.

Mrs. Clinton, who also won the Michigan primary, has pushed for the Florida and Michigan delegates to be seated.

“Today’s announcement brings us no closer to counting the votes of the nearly 1.7 million people who voted in January,” Clinton spokesman Phil Singer said yesterday. “We hope the Obama campaign shares our belief that Florida’s voters must be counted and cannot be disenfranchised.”

Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor said his candidate was hopeful that all parties involved could work out a compromise “on a fair seating of the Florida delegates so that Florida can participate in the Democratic Convention.”

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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