The meeting participants were faced with this question. They had received extensions from the DNC for submission of the FDP's Delegate Selection Plan. However, the DNC refused to grant an extension beyond June 15th. So the question was, what would the Delegate Selection Plan have to say about the January 29th primary?
The Florida DNC members ultimately came up with a set of principles to use to evaluate the question. The first was to encourage maximum participation of Democratic voters. That means a primary. Any type of caucus or other mechanism would likely draw only a small fraction of what a primary would draw. The second principle was that Florida Democrats votes should count. Period.
As reported in the St. Petersburg Times:
"Florida Democrats definitely do not want to be the people that decide, your vote doesn't count," said Arlin Briley, vice chairman of the Pinellas Democratic Party, echoing Democrat after Democrat attending the event. "We're in a spot, and we have to let the chips fall where they will and honor the people's vote."Florida Senator Bill Nelson is also quoted by the Times:
Florida's top Democratic elected officials, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson oppose making the Jan. 29 election nonbinding, but it's unclear whether DNC chairman Dean has any leeway to bend his party rules and avoid punishing Florida Democrats for the early primary.Under these circumstances the Florida Democratic Party decided to submit their Delegate Selection Plan to the DNC with the January 29th primary as binding on the allocation of delegates to candidates. The plan must be submitted to the DNC on June 15th. There will then be a 30 day comment period. After that, the DNC will decide what to do.
"He better," Nelson said Saturday. "I have talked to him and said, 'Don't forget the goal, and the goal is to do well in Florida in November. The last thing you want to do is have the perception that you're taking away people's right to vote and putting in a smoke-filled-room caucus.'"
Here is the statement from the DNC upon hearing this news from Florida:
The DNC will enforce the rules as passed by its 447 members in August 2006. Until the Florida State Democratic Party formally submits its plan and we've had the opportunity to review that submission, we will not speculate further.Howard Dean speaking in New Hampshire was quoted by the Times:
"Their primary essentially won't count,'' he said of Florida. "Anybody who campaigns in Florida is ineligible for delegates." By moving to Jan. 29, he said, Florida Democrats "essentially converted their primary to a straw poll."Now for a dose of reality. At this point the DNC is like the boy with his finger in the dike. Other states (Michigan, for example) looking to move up are watching what the DNC is going to do about Florida. If the DNC can hang on long enough, these other states will have passed their window of opportunity to move up. At that point, the DNC will be able to say to Florida: OK, you got screwed by the Republican legislature. We don't like it, but we are going to accept your plan. That way, the DNC doesn't have to tell Florida Dems their votes won't count.
If that doesn't happen, here is another reality check. The Democratic nominee ultimately controls the Democratic National Convention. No Democratic nominee looking to win Florida in the general election could possibly fail to seat a Florida delegation at the convention. Here is the Times again, quoting DNC member Jon Ausman of Tallahassee :
once a presidential candidate receives a majority of the delegates, I believe Florida is home free.I'd be hard pressed to argue with that assessment.