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Half votes may break Florida Democratic delegate impasse

Half a vote is better than no vote.

And according to the Florida Democratic activist challenging the national party's punishment of Florida Democrats, a leading scenario to resolve the Florida delegate impasse is for Florida's delegates to be seated at the national convention, but with only half a vote each.

That would mean Florida delegates would have as much say in picking the Democratic nominee as those from Guam, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

"I think we're moving toward half votes for everybody," Democratic National Committee member and Tallahassee resident Jon Ausman said of his appeal to be heard Saturday by the DNC's rules and bylaws committee. "But I still have some intense negotiation. … There will probably be some tight votes on Saturday."

That's when hundreds of reporters converge in Washington to watch a usually obscure national party panel decide whether Florida and Michigan deserve to get some, all or no delegates restored after holding primaries earlier than allowed by the national party.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is calling on the DNC to restore all the delegates to Florida and Michigan, while Sen. Barack Obama told the St. Petersburg Times he would support seating at least half of the delegation.

But there is no easy solution here.

Letting Florida and Michigan avoid any penalty, many Democrats fear, would invite mayhem in 2012 if states believe they can buck the party rules without consequence. Seating the full delegation based on Jan. 29 would net Clinton 19 more delegates from Florida — 105 for her, 67 for Obama and 13 for John Edwards.

Another plausible scenario is to cut in half the number of Florida's pledged delegates, to 92 from 185. It sounds simple, but it's not. Depending on how that 50 percent reduction is imposed, Clinton could net either 19 delegates or just 6.

Allan Katz of Tallahassee, a top Obama fundraiser who sits on the rules committee but must abstain from the Florida vote Saturday, said it's too early to predict how the rules committee will handle Florida.

"People are trying to figure out some kind of a hook and then find a result that people can live with and then move on," said Katz, predicting Clinton will wind up netting more Florida delegates than the Obama campaign would want, but fewer than she would want.

Florida Democrats have elected 185 delegates pledged to Obama, Clinton and Edwards, so cutting in half the number of delegates would mean telling people they won their party elections for naught. Key Obama supporters in Florida are calling for delegate elections to be reopened because the Obama campaign did not field a preferred slate of candidates.

Adam C. Smith can be reached at asmith@sptimes.com or (727)892-8241.

Half votes may break Florida Democratic delegate impasse 05/27/08 [Last modified: Friday, May 30, 2008 10:52am]
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