A Democratic Party rules committee has the authority to seat some delegates from Michigan and Florida but not fully restore the two states as Hillary Rodham Clinton wants, according to party lawyers.
Democratic National Committee rules require that the two states lose at least half of their convention delegates for holding elections too early, the party's legal experts wrote in a 38-page memo.
The memo was sent late Tuesday to the 30 members of the party's Rules and Bylaws Committee, which plans to meet Saturday at a Washington hotel. The committee is considering ways to include the two important general election battlegrounds at the nominating convention in August, and the staff analysis says seating half the delegates is "as far as it legally can" go.
Saturday's meeting is expected to draw a large crowd, with Clinton supporters among those encouraging a protest outside demanding that all the states' delegates be seated. Proponents of full reseating have mailed committee members Florida oranges and pairs of shoes to get their attention.
DNC officials are concerned about a potentially large turnout at the "Count Every Vote" rally outside the event and have asked the hotel staff to increase security to keep everyone safe. The DNC says the roughly 500 seats available to the public inside were taken within three or four minutes of becoming available online Tuesday.
The DNC analysis does not make recommendations for how the Rules and Bylaws Committee should vote, but gives context from the party's charter and bylaws for the committee to consider.
It underscores a prickly problem: If the Rules and Bylaws Committee decides to restore any of the states' delegates, there is not a simple way to divide them between Clinton and Barack Obama.
That's especially true in Michigan, where Obama had his name pulled from the ballot. He didn't have the option of removing his name in Florida, but all the candidates signed a pledge not to campaign in either state.
Clinton won the majority of the vote in Florida and Michigan and has been arguing that the delegates should be fully restored according to the results of the January primaries. But even if they were, it would not be enough for her to overtake Obama's delegate lead.
As it becomes clear that Obama likely will win the nomination, he has been working to win over voters in the two states with visits in recent days. He plans to return to Michigan on Monday.
The DNC staff analysis argues that the Rules and Bylaws Committee was fully within its rights to strip all 368 delegates from the two states when they scheduled primaries in January. Party rules said their nominating contests could be no earlier than Feb. 5. Michigan voted on Jan. 15, Florida on Jan. 29.
The analysis also said there is an option to restore 100 percent of the delegates _ by a recommendation of the Credentials Committee that meets later this summer. However, that would mean a final decision would not be made until the first day of the convention in Denver since Credentials Committee decisions have to be approved by the full convention as it convenes — risking a floor fight.
Alice Huffman, a member of the Rules and Bylaws Committee from California who is supporting Clinton, said she has been barraged with e-mails in the past few weeks. She said the senders include Floridians who are upset that they are being disenfranchised, and she has started printing out the messages so she'll have a record to explain her decision.
"This is a really, really significant issue to women. Obviously it's a significant item to people of color too. So I'm just preparing myself as best I can," said Huffman, president of the California NAACP.
The shoe shipments are being organized by WalkAMileInOurShoes.org and1 the orange idea was promoted by a group called Florida Demands Representation, which plans to bus Floridians to Saturday's rally outside the meeting. Blaine Whitford, a volunteer helping organize the effort, said they are unaligned with any candidate.
Susie Buell, one of Clinton's top fundraisers, has formed a political action committee encouraging women to support full seating of the delegates. The WomenCountPAC has taken out ads in USA Today and The New York Times promoting attendance at the rally.
Also: "Obama urges supporters not to demonstrate at crucial DNC meeting" (The Hill):
Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) campaign is urging its supporters not to demonstrate at Saturday’s highly anticipated Democratic National Committee (DNC) meeting on how to handle the delegates of Florida and Michigan.Barack Obama
In an internal campaign e-mail obtained by The Hill, the Obama campaign states, “We look forward to the meeting proceeding smoothly — and we’re asking our supporters not to show up to demonstrate, passionately as they feel about this campaign.”
This weekend’s meeting of the DNC’s 30-member Rules and Bylaws Committee (RBC) at a Marriot Wardman Park hotel in Washington, D.C. is expected to be a media circus, and will likely attract many supporters of Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).
But the Obama campaign wants to avoid heated intraparty confrontations that would attract national headlines and be replayed on the cable news networks. Saturday’s potential public relations nightmare comes as the Obama campaign is taking steps to unify the party as the Democratic primary process appears to be winding down.
The DNC stated on its Web site that demand for the meeting was extremely high: “Just a quick note if you tried to register for the RBC meeting this morning. First, yes, it did go online. For about a minute. There was a lot if demand and we’re sorry if you didn’t get a spot...they were gone pretty quickly.”
The difference between nabbing a spot and falling short “was a matter of seconds,” the DNC stated.
The Obama campaign “talking points” e-mail cautions supporters not to speculate about what will happen on Saturday though it emphasizes that the Illinois senator will campaign vigorously in both states for the general election.
In a Q&A section of the e-mail, a question reads, “Sen. Obama has such a large lead that the outcome of this nomination is all-but academic. Why not just seat the delegates as they voted so that Sen. Clinton has one less reason to continue her campaign?”
The answer states, “That’s not Sen. Obama’s decision to make. The rules for this nomination contest were designed and are enforced by the Democratic National Committee. That’s why our campaign is working to forge a fair agreement that will ensure Democrats from Florida and Michigan will be able to participate in our convention.”
The Clinton campaign has repeatedly stressed that all the votes should be counted, including those cast in Florida and Michigan. Both states were punished by the DNC because they violated the committee’s rules by moving up their primaries.
The DNC bylaws meeting is seen as Clinton’s last-ditch effort to make up significant ground on Obama in the delegate count. Clinton won both states easily, but Obama pulled his name off the ballot in Michigan and, like the former first lady, did not actively campaign in Florida.
The talking points memo provides some answers to potential questions about Saturday. One reads, “I don’t think that any of us are in a position to speculate about possible outcomes at the meeting — but what I do know is that the Obama campaign is as eager as anyone to see this situation resolved fairly, which reflects the desire of these delegations to be seated and the fact that we and all the candidates competed under rules in which there were no delegates to be awarded and no campaigning took place.”
It adds, “Obviously, the May 31 meeting will be an important part of reaching an agreement that’s in the best interests of Florida and Michigan voters and in the best interests of the Democratic Party.”
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