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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Geller files suit to seat Florida delegation

Sen. Steve Geller, D-Cooper City, filed a federal lawsuit today force the national Democratic Party to recognize the 1.75 million votes Floridians cast during the Jan. 29 primary and seat the state's delegation at the convention.

Geller “I’m not sure why the DNC fears counting the full Florida vote, but perhaps they’ve forgotten the lessons of the 2000 election,” Geller (left) said. “The selection of the next Democratic presidential nominee, and indeed the next president, can’t be made by party insiders whimsically deciding which votes to count and which to suppress. Either we stand up for everyone, or we stand for no one. And I believe a federal judge will remind them of that.” (see the jump for Geller's news release) [AP Photo, files]

News release put out by Geller:

FT. LAUDERDALE , Fla . – Senate Democratic Leader Steven A. Geller ( D-Cooper City) on Thursday announced that he has filed suit in federal court to force the national Democratic Party to recognize the votes cast by 1.75 million Floridians during the January 29 presidential primary and seat the state’s delegation with full voting authority.  Geller is an uncommitted “super delegate.” There are two other plaintiffs, a Barack Obama delegate and a Hillary Clinton delegate.   

“This litigation addresses the view of Howard Dean and the Democratic National Committee that 1.75 million Democrats can be ignored at will,” said Geller. “We believe we’ve found a winning legal strategy that will once and for all force the DNC to not only obey its own rules but to listen to the voices of millions of Democrats in one of the most influential states in the nation.”

The lawsuit, a joint effort filed by Geller’s Fort Lauderdale-based law firm of Greenspoon Marder, Miami lawyer Benedict Kuehne, and Dan Stengle of Hopping Green & Sams in Tallahassee , was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. The litigation in particular outlines the rules which the DNC is obliged to follow but did not, along with certain U.S. Constitutional rights the veteran state lawmaker and party super delegate contends are being violated.

“Unlike the contested primary in Michigan , the names of all of the presidential candidates appeared on the Florida primary ballot, and Democrats here made their choice,” said Geller, who remains uncommitted in the race. “The purpose of this lawsuit is not to support one candidate over another; it’s to enforce one of the most basic tenets of our democracy: Count the votes as they were cast.”

The litigation takes aim at three essential issues:

1)       Before disqualifying all of Florida ’s delegates, the DNC under its own rules was obliged to conduct a thorough investigation of the events, and to consider “all provable positive steps” by state Democrats to prevent the primary date change. As Geller has repeatedly pointed out, the legislation moving the primary date in Florida was sponsored by Republicans, endorsed by the

2)       Republican leadership, passed by a Republican-dominated Legislature, and signed by a Republican governor who promised to veto any Democratic effort to change the primary date. Not only was it coupled with a measure establishing a verifiable paper trail – a top priority of the DNC – but an amendment sponsored by the Senate and House Democratic leadership to bring the primary date into compliance was soundly defeated by the Republicans. Despite this, the DNC stripped the state of its entire delegation, without first conducting a meaningful probe and without ever contacting the key Democratic lawmakers.

“This is likened to the famous Judge Roy Bean of the Old West.  We’re going to hang you, but we’re going to give you a fair trial first,” said Richard Epstein of Greenspoon Marder and lead counsel. “Except in this instance, we never got the trial.”

3)       Even though Iowa , New Hampshire and South Carolina also broke the same party rules by moving up their primaries, they were not sanctioned as Florida was, but were instead granted a waiver by the DNC from any such penalties. Failing to grant Florida the same dispensation violates the Constitution’s equal protection guarantee, the lawsuit contends.

4)       As the controversy unfolded, the DNC maintained that Florida should have held a post-primary Caucus and suggested establishing 120 polling places throughout the state. Doing so, Geller argued, likely would have resulted in only about 100,000 votes being counted, a tiny fraction of the 1.75 million voters who turned out in January, while at the same time, completely disenfranchising Florida Democrats in our country’s military serving outside of Florida .  The caucus the DNC tried to force upon Florida would hardly provide a representative sample of the millions who voted or the rich diversity of the state and would, as the DNC designed it, have been illegal. Such a move would have required Florida’s attorney general – another Republican – to seek from the U.S. Justice Department special permission called “pre-clearance” to change the method of this election, something likely to raise serious constitutional questions and unlikely to occur in time to actually conduct the caucus.  It is doubtful Florida would have received this pre-clearance in a timely fashion.

“I’m not sure why the DNC fears counting the full Florida vote, but perhaps they’ve forgotten the lessons of the 2000 election,” said Geller. “The selection of the next Democratic presidential nominee, and indeed the next president, can’t be made by party insiders whimsically deciding which votes to count and which to suppress. Either we stand up for everyone, or we stand for no one. And I believe a federal judge will remind them of that.”

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 11:59am]

    

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