Florida Democrats were moving forward Monday with a plan to redo their presidential primary using privately-funded mail-in ballots, a key state party official said, even though some congressional and party leaders had yet to sign on to the idea.
"We're huddling with state brass now," the official said. "The spotlight will be on us. We will have a detailed plan."
The official said the state party expected both the Clinton and Obama campaigns to eventually agree to the plan.
"They've seen the writing on the wall and they realize this is something they need to get behind," the official said. "Both campaigns have reacted favorably to the idea so far."
Both Florida and Michigan have been studying ways to hold re-votes now that the Democratic contest remains so close and their states could determine the winner. The states' previous primaries were held earlier in the election season than party rules allowed, prompting the Democratic National Committee not to count their delegates.
The plan would be funded with money raised by the Florida Democratic Party and possibly include the help of the campaigns, the official said. The plan would also provide for the possibility of voting auditors and third parties to provide independent accountability.
The plan could eventually call on the state to play an active role in the mail-in primary, something Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, has been actively pushing.
Under the plan now being considered, Florida voters would receive mail-in ballots, with return postage, in mid-May and possibly face a late May or early June deadline for returning them, the state official said. Before it could be implemented, the mail-in plan would need to be voted on by the state party before heading to the Democratic National Committee for final approval, the state party official said.
The DNC would then conduct a 30-day public comment period before allowing the state party to move forward. If approved, the state party would then need at least three weeks to verify the mailing addresses of the 4 million Democrats who reside in the state before ballots could be sent.
Florida officials had been studying alternate voting methods well before the current controversy erupted, affording them a familiarity with mail-in voting even though the state does not typically conduct its primaries by that method.
Michigan Sen. Carl Levin suggested on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday that the mail-in option might work for Michigan as well.
A spokesman for Nelson (D-Fla.), a driving force behind Florida's mail-in plan, said the senator saw no other options to allow Florida voters a say in the nominating process.
"He's pretty much wedded to having the state do this with the cost going to the state party," said Nelson spokesman Dan McLaughlin. "We realize there are some significant obstacles but we also realize there's no recourse."
Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings (D) was amenable to the plan, if it could be funded.
"Look, if we can find the money and the voters want it, then I'm open to being convinced that this is the best course of action," he said.
Another Florida representative, however, had grave concerns about mail-in ballots. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D) said the plan would disenfranchise many voters, especially those in low income areas.
"I really don't think it's a good idea," she said. "It's fraught with problems and now is not the time to be experimenting when we're talking about stakes this high…We still have very raw nerves from the 2000 recount."
Plans for revotes in Florida and Michigan have stoked pointed divisions not only in the states themselves but nationwide.
Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), an uncommitted superdelegate from the Pittsburgh area, enthusiastically supported revotes.
"They've got to redo that," Doyle said. "There's no way we can go to Denver (the site of the Democratic National Convention) without those states having a say. Those are two huge states you're talking about. You can't disenfranchise those voters. "
But Rep. Jason Altmire, whose district lies next to Doyle's, said he was against it.
"I don't agree with that. A decision was made to not play by the rules. If they just waited, as Pennsylvania did, they would be fine. You cannot change the rules in the middle of the game."
As the Democratic nominating process dragged on with ever more complexity and, in some cases, acrimony, one Democrat called on DNC Chairman Howard Dean to convene a convene a group of party elders to short-circuit the process and help decide a nominee.
"The road to Denver, as it currently exists, is dotted with intra-party explosive devices (IEDs) with the potential to blow away our party's very real chance to capture the White House," wrote Missouri Rep. Emanuel Cleaver to Dean Thursday. "The Michigan and Florida predicament ... could explode at the convention and cause more casualties than we could imagine."
By Amie Parnes and Josephine Hearn