Delegates from Florida and Michigan may have full voting rights at the Democratic National Convention this month after all.
Sen. Barack Obama, his Democratic nomination for president secure, is now asking party leadership to restore full voting privileges to delegates from both key states.
"I believe party unity calls for the delegates from Florida and Michigan to be able to participate fully alongside the delegates from the other states and territories," Obama wrote in a letter Sunday to the three co-chairs of the Democratic National Committee's credentials committee.
The move was not unexpected. Its effect is largely moot, as Obama clinched the nomination despite losing Florida and not appearing on the ballot in Michigan.
"I think it's Sen. Obama's way of trying to bring the party back together by making sure everyone has full voting rights," said Tallahassee lawyer Allan Katz, a top Obama fundraiser and DNC member. "It's largely symbolic. But symbols matter in politics."
It could also mute a distracting story line when Democrats meet to formally pick their presidential nominee and set a platform at the Denver convention, which starts Aug. 25.
Florida Democrats are still smarting from a DNC rules committee decision to strip the state of its votes for violating party rules by holding its primary before Feb. 5. Michigan violated the same rule.
In a hard-fought compromise, the rules committee decided in May to give delegates from both states half-votes. As an indication of the lingering hurt, Obama was greeted Saturday in Brevard County by a protester with a sign reading: "Bonehead, count our votes."
"We have to keep our eye on the prize here," said former Florida Democratic Party executive director Ana Cruz, of Tampa, who had backed Obama opponent Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. "We're not in a primary anymore. So everything we do from here on out should be focused on a victory for Barack Obama."
Katz, a member of the DNC's platform committee, said he would be surprised if his counterparts on the credentials committee don't honor Obama's request. In a statement, credentials co-chairs Alexis Herman, James Roosevelt Jr. and Eliseo Roques-Arroyo said Obama's request will be a top priority when the committee meets Aug. 24.
"We deeply appreciate and value Sen. Obama's perspective on this important issue," the statement read. ". . . As always our goal is to ensure a fair process and a unified Democratic Party so that we can win in November."
Obama's statement was greeted with praise among Democratic leaders in Florida.
Recent polls suggest he is in a dead heat with the presumptive Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain. Florida's Republican delegates are still facing sanctions that would only let half of them be seated at the GOP convention for violating a similar start-date rule.
"I want to thank Barack Obama, the Florida congressional delegation, the Democrats in our Legislature, and voters across Florida for fighting to have our votes count," Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Karen Thurman said in a statement. "This is a proud day for all of us."
Staff writer Adam Smith contributed to this report. Bill Varian can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3387.