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Michigan Considers Dem Primary Do-Over

GENERIC Michigan democrats election primary vote
CBS/AP
Legislative leaders reviewed a measure Monday that would set up a do-over Democratic presidential primary in Michigan, The Associated Press learned.

The draft legislation included language that would approve spending privately raised funds for the election and setting the date for June 3, according to a Democratic leader who spoke on condition of anonymity because lawmakers and the campaigns are still considering the proposal.

The campaigns of Democratic presidential contenders Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama also received copies of the bill Monday. Clinton has said she would go along with another primary, but Obama's campaign has raised some concerns.

"A re-vote is the only way Michigan can be assured its delegation will be seated, and vote in Denver' at the party's national convention this summer, Clinton campaign aide Harold Ickes said Monday. "If the Obama campaign thwarts a fair election process for the people of Michigan, it will jeopardize the Democratic nominee's ability to carry the state in the general election."

Obama advisers said they were reviewing the plan and didn't have any immediate comment.

The Democrat-led House is scheduled to leave for a two-week vacation Thursday, so any bills to set up the do-over primary need to be brought up quickly. The measure also would have to be approved by the Republican-controlled state Senate. To be given immediate effect, the measure would require a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate.

To go forward, any plan also would require the approval of the two campaigns, the Democratic National Committee, state party leaders and Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who is backing Clinton.

The contest must be held by June 10 for the results to count under DNC rules.

Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, a backer of moving Michigan's primary to Jan. 15, told reporters Monday in a conference call from Kuwait that he hoped state lawmakers would approve a bill "that makes it possible for there to be a clear decision on this among Democratic voters."

"Of course it's not the only solution," said Levin, who has not endorsed a candidate for the nomination. "There's always, if necessary, taking this to the convention. But that's not the ideal solution. That's the second-best solution."

The national party punished Michigan and Florida for moving up their 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 two states, and Obama was not even on the Michigan ballot.

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

The two states have been struggling to come up with alternative plans to ensure their delegates are seated.

On Monday in Atlanta, federal appeals judges skeptically questioned a lawyer who argued that the national party's decision to strip Florida of its 210 convention delegates was unconstitutional.

Michael Steinberg, a lawyer for Victor DiMaio, a Democratic Party activist from Tampa, said Florida's Democratic voters are being disenfranchised by not being permitted to have their say in the selection of their party's nominee. The action violates DiMaio's constitutional right to equal protection, he argued.

"The citizens of the state of Florida are not being treated equally," Steinberg told the judges.

But Joe Sandler, a lawyer for the Democratic National Committee, said the party has the right to set its own the rules and not seat delegates who refuse to follow them.

"It goes to the heart of the constitutional right of the DNC to determine the best means of selecting delegates to the convention," Sandler said.

Sounding skeptical of Steinberg's equal protection argument, the judges noted in their questions that states select their presidential picks in different ways - some use caucuses and others primaries - and on different days. Judge Stanley Marcus suggested at one point that the only way to treat all the states equally, under Steinberg's theory, was for them to all hold their primaries on the same day.

Not so, Steinberg said. He said one solution might be to rotate the states so that each gets a shot at being in the first round.

Marcus asked Sandler whether the party could constitutionally exclude some states from the process altogether. Sandler replied that Florida was allowed to vote, just not on the date it chose.

Outside the courthouse, DiMaio said he cast his ballot for John Edwards, who has since dropped out of the race, but is remaining neutral in the contest between Clinton and Obama.

"I'm just a little guy trying to get some justice," said DiMaio, a political consultant who serves on the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee.

His lawsuit was dismissed by a federal judge in Florida but the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to hear an expedited appeal. It was not clear when the court would rule.

Sandler said the suit would be moot if Florida scheduled a re-vote. Steinberg disagreed, saying the Jan. 29 vote should count.