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Times editorial

No new primary

Slapping together a do-over presidential primary by mail for Florida Democrats is not the way out of this election debacle. There are too many problems to overcome, and the potential for another embarrassing botched election is too great. The only reasonable course is to let the battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama play out all the way to the Democratic National Convention if that is what it takes.

Mail-in ballots might work just fine in Oregon, but Florida has no experience with them. Now is not the time to learn. Such a primary run by the state party without any state involvement would lack credibility, and Florida Democrats have neither the skill nor the organizational strength to conduct one. The state is not well-positioned to run another statewide election, and many county elections supervisors have their hands full replacing voting machines and preparing for the general election in November. It is not even clear that a mail-in ballot primary could be conducted legally without a change in state law.

Then there is the question of cost. Legislative leaders have made it clear they will not spend state money for a new election. The Florida Democratic Party does not have the money. The idea that some fat-cat Democrats from other states would send down a few big checks to pay for an election is unappealing at best.

Holding another Florida Democratic primary is not likely to change the dynamics of the battle for the nomination. Clinton likely would move closer to Obama in the delegate count, but she would not pick up enough delegates to decide the outcome. While we recommended Obama before the January primary that did not count, this is not about protecting his current advantage in the delegate tally. The logistical challenges for conducting another election are too difficult to overcome, and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson should stop pushing for a fix that is not realistic.

There is plenty of blame to go around for the disenfranchisement of Florida Democrats: the Republican governor and Republican-controlled Legislature, who ignored the political party warnings of penalties when they moved up the election; Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean, who cared more about petty rules than voters; and Clinton and Obama, who could have shown some backbone and campaigned here despite the threats from early-voting states to shun them.

The only rational decision now is to sit tight in Florida while Obama and Clinton continue to fight it out. Eventually, the Democrats will have to come up with a way to seat the Florida delegates at the national convention in Denver this summer. Either there will be a presumptive nominee who can ensure Floridians are seated, or calmer heads will see that the Florida delegates are seated and divided evenly between the candidates so they can participate without altering the balance.

Florida has a hard time conducting regular elections even with months of preparation. Attempting a ballot-by-mail election on the fly would be great fodder for late-night talk show hosts, but it is not a satisfactory solution to a mess that could have been easily cleaned up months ago.

No new primary 03/11/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 9:36am]

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