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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Presidential debates at FAU

28

September

The Florida Press Association, Leadership Florida and NBC/PBS announced that their planned 1/23 and 1/25 presidential debates will be at Florida Atlantic University in Boca. No word yet on candidate commitments, though. Those debates potentially violate the pledge most of the leading Democrats have signed not to campaign for Florida's Jan. 29 primary.

UPDATE: Speaking of which, Steve Geller argues those four states may be violating the Voting Rights Act of 1965: " Floridahas five voting rights counties, Hillsborough, Hendry, Hardee, Collier, and Monroe. The four states have conspired together to intimidate the Presidential candidates to ignore Florida, such that a minority voter in a Federally protected Voting Rights county will have no opportunity to see a Democratic Presidential candidate during October, November, December, or January, unless they pay for this privilege.  I believe that this is a clear violation of the Voting Rights Act, and I expect a federal Judge will agree. "

Here's Geller's full op ed on this:

The position taken by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Democratic Parties in the states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolinais harmful to Floridaand other states, selfish, probably illegal, and should be reversed.  It is causing harm to Democratic efforts to win Floridaand the White House.

For many years, Iowaand New Hampshirehave been the first states to elect Delegates to the Political Conventions.  Florida's primary has historically been held in March, when the Presidential candidates were already largely decided.  Iowaand New Hampshirewould get great attention from the Presidential candidates on their important issues, while Florida's important issues, such as a National Natural Disaster Fund would get little attention.

The Republican Speaker of the House made an earlier primary one of his top priorities.  As word circulated that Floridawas looking at a primary earlier that February 5, the DNC issued threats to the Florida Democratic Party (FDP) that if the legislature did this, sanctions would be taken. 

In the Senate, a bill dealing with a verifiable paper trail was amended to add an early primary with a date of January 29.  When the bill came to the Floor for a vote, we tried to accommodate the wishes of the DNC, and I offered an amendment to change the primary date to February 5 to comply with the DNC rules.  There are 26 Republican Senators and only 14 Democratic Senators, and I knew that we could not possibly win this vote. 

The amendment was defeated by a voice vote. 

This Republican sponsored bill was passed by a Republican controlled Senate, a Republican controlled House, and signed by a Republican Governor. Florida Democrats are being punished for our failure to stop something we had no ability to stop.

After the bill’s passage, the DNC and the four states announced that the FDP would lose all of our votes at the Democratic Convention and that they would take action against any Democratic Presidential candidate that campaigned in Floridabefore February 5, except for fundraisers.  The states demanded that all major Democratic candidates sign the "four state pledge" that they would not campaign in Floridabefore February 5, and advised all of the Presidential candidates that they would punish any candidate that did not sign the pledge.

Florida's Democratic leaders attempted to negotiate with the DNC.  The DNC demanded that the Primary not count, be only a "beauty contest," and that we elect our delegates later.   Even if we did this, the DNC and the four states said that they would still prevent candidates from campaigning in Floridauntil after Jan 29, 2008.   

Florida's Democratic Leaders determined that we could not do anything to make the January 29 primary not count. A major Constitutional amendment and many local government elections were on the January 29 ballot, and we are determined to ensure a large turnout. We are certain that our delegates will count at the Democratic Convention this summer.

One week after the Floridaprimary, approximately 20 states will hold their conventions.  Whoever carries the Florida Primary will have huge momentum going into the February 5 primaries. 

I do not blame the Presidential candidates who submitted to the extortion of the four states.  They had no choice. 

I blame the DNC for being foolish, and ignoring the consequences of the decision that they have made. The Country cannot endure another four years of Republican mismanagement. These actions hurt the Democratic chances in the most important swing state in the country. The Republicans cannot win the Presidency without Florida.

My anger at the DNC is not as great as it once was.  During extensive negotiations it became apparent that at least some DNC leaders were willing to reach a face-saving compromise.  I believe that we could have done this if not for the selfish self-interest of the four state Parties. I believe that these states have made a major legal mistake here and are violating the law.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 establishes special protections for Minority voters in certain areas where they were historically oppressed.  Floridahas five voting rights counties, Hillsborough, Hendry, Hardee, Collier, and Monroe. The four states have conspired together to intimidate the Presidential candidates to ignore Florida, such that a minority voter in a Federally protected Voting Rights county will have no opportunity to see a Democratic Presidential candidate during October, November, December, or January, unless they pay for this privilege.  I believe that this is a clear violation of the Voting Rights Act, and I expect a federal Judge will agree. 

I believe that Florida Democrats are being unfairly punished for the actions of Florida Republicans, and the DNC and especially the four states are taking possibly illegal actions that may ultimately hurt the chances of electing a Democratic President in 2008.  Florida's Democratic Leaders have determined that we will not disenfranchise millions of voters, and we are confident that our votes cast on January 29 will count.  I call upon the DNC and the four states to reconsider their actions for the good of the entire Democratic Party nationally.

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 12:16pm]

    

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