Michigan Democrats, who have scheduled a Jan. 15 presidential primary in violation of scheduling rules set by the Democratic National Committee (DNC), have been officially stripped of their entire 156-member delegation to the party’s national convention in August.
Last Saturday marked the end of the 30-day grace period the Democratic National Committee’s rules and bylaws committee gave the Michigan Democratic Party to set up an alternative to the Jan. 15 primary, which was established by a recently enacted state law that passed in the Michigan legislature with bipartisan support and was signed into law by Democratic Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm. The DNC invoked a similar penalty on the Florida Democratic Party, which is going ahead with a Jan. 29 primary that also violates the national party’s scheduling rules.
Those rules set Feb. 5 as the threshold date for almost all states to begin holding their primaries and caucuses. The DNC provided exceptions only for two traditional presidential campaign kickoff events – the Iowa caucuses Jan. 3 and the New Hampshire primary Jan. 8 – and two other events moved up to add some demographic and regional diversity to the early stages of the nominating process: caucuses in Nevada that are scheduled for Jan. 19 and a South Carolina primary Jan. 26.
DNC officials – who originally approved a Feb. 9 caucus for Michigan Democrats before that event was superceded by the Jan. 15 primary law – stated early on that they would apply the maximum penalty of delegate revocation on any state that broke the Feb. 5 threshold without permission, and reiterated that position strongly and sternly. The national party also prevailed successfully upon its presidential candidates to eschew campaigning in states that broke the scheduling rules.
But the candidates had different interpretations of whether they were obligated to pull their names off Michigan’s primary ballot, which has produced a major imbalance. The only candidate among the Democratic front-runners whose name is on the Michigan ballot is New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton; she is joined only by two longshots who are still bidding for votes – Ohio Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich and former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel – and Connecticut Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, who quit the race after a poor performance in Iowa.
Illinois Sen. and Iowa caucus winner Barack Obama and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, who ran narrowly ahead of Clinton to finish second in Iowa, both had their names removed from the ballot. So did New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who still is an active candidate, and Delaware Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., who like Dodd dropped out after attracting little support in Iowa.
That essentially leaves Michigan Democrats who would prefer to support those candidates with only the option of voting “uncommitted.”
Yet even with the non-participation of two of the top three Democratic candidates and severe penalties from the national party, Michigan Democratic Chairman Mark Brewer repeated his claim that Michigan ultimately will have its delegates restored and pull its weight at the Democratic National Convention in August.
“I know there’s been a lot of reports out there about our delegation not being seated at the national convention, but I have every confidence that our delegation’s going to be seated and those delegates will be elected based on the results of our primary,” Brewer said in an address posted on YouTube.com.
Brewer said that “in many ways,” the Jan. 15 contest would be like a regular primary. But he encouraged Democrats who want to support one of the candidates not on the ballot to vote “uncommitted.” If sufficient uncommitted delegates are elected, they will be free to vote for any candidate at the convention, including the candidates who withdrew from the ballot, Brewer said.
“No matter what you do, please get out and vote on Jan. 15th,” he said.