Florida Democrats Won't Hold Re-Do Primary

generic florida map flag seal Hillary Clinton Barack Obama
CBS/AP
Facing strong opposition, Florida Democrats on Monday abandoned plans to hold a do-over presidential primary with a mail-in vote and threw the delegate dispute into the lap of the national party.

While the decision by Florida Democrats left the state's 210 delegates in limbo, Democrats in Michigan moved closer to holding another contest on June 3. Legislative leaders reviewed a measure Monday that would set up a privately funded, state-administered do-over primary, The Associated Press learned.

In Florida, a frustrated Democratic Party chairwoman Karen L. Thurman sent a letter announcing the decision.

"A party-run primary or caucus has been ruled out, and it's simply not possible for the state to hold another election, even if the party were to pay for it," Thurman said. "... This doesn't mean that Democrats are giving up on Florida voters. It means that a solution will have to come from the DNC Rules & Bylaws Committee, which is scheduled to meet again in April."

Members of Florida's congressional delegation unanimously opposed the plan, and Barack Obama expressed concern about the security of a mail-in vote organized so quickly. Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign expressed disappointment with Florida's decision.

"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. "We hope the Obama campaign shares our belief that Florida's voters must be counted and cannot be disenfranchised."

Obama's campaign said it looked forward to an agreement on what to do about Florida.

"We hope that all parties can agree on a fair seating of the Florida delegates so that Florida can participate in the Democratic Convention, and we look forward to working with the Florida Democratic Party and competing vigorously in the state so that Barack Obama can put Florida back into the Democratic column in November," said Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor

The national party punished Michigan and Florida for holding primaries before Feb. 5, stripping them of all their delegates to the party's national convention this summer in Denver. All the Democratic candidates agreed not to campaign in the states, and Obama did not appear on Michigan's ballot.

Clinton won both primaries. As the race with Obama has tightened, she has argued the delegates should be seated or new primaries held.

"The decision not to re-vote keeps the state's Democratic delegates in limbo," said CBSNews.com senior political editor Vaughn Ververs. "It is hard to see them being seated solely based on the results of the January vote anytime before the convention and just as difficult to think they would be divided equally between the two candidates. This would appear to be a blow to the Clinton campaign which needs to find a way to make up deficits in both the pledged delegate count and the popular vote."

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who backs Clinton, has suggested one alternative - seating all Florida delegates already chosen but only giving them half a vote each. Nelson discussed this idea with Clinton and Obama on the Senate floor last week. Based on the Jan. 29 results, Clinton would have won 105, Obama 67 and John Edwards 13. Instead they would get half those delegate votes.

"We will continue to work with both Florida and Michigan to come to a solution that's fair and within the rules," said Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Stacie Paxton.

Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said the congressional delegation is talking with the DNC and both campaigns to find another solution to seating Florida's delegates, including an idea that would take into account the January vote among other factors.

The draft Michigan legislation included language that would approve spending privately raised funds for the election, according to a Democratic leader who spoke on condition of anonymity because lawmakers and the campaigns are still considering the proposal.