Disenfranchised Florida Voters To Confront DNC Leaders

Buoyed by the results in Pennsylvania, bus loads of Floridians -- mostly backers of Sen. Hillary Clinton -- will head to Washington for an April 30th rally before the Democratic National Committee's headquarters. The group is looking to confront party leaders and argue that the Sunshine State's disqualified January primary results should be counted. They are asking that all 2ll Florida delegates be seated at the August convention in Denver, a decision that would help in the delegate-numbers-game for the New York senator.

'How dare they not count our 1,749,000 votes, says Linda Bird, a Fort Lauderdale
realtor and Democratic activist, who adds, " Do they want a fight for our rights at the
convention in Denver?"

Bird is one of dozens of Floridians organizing rallies across the state to be held
Saturday (April 26), a warm-up to the departing caravan of buses scheduled to leave Tuesday
from several Florida locations, carrying some 700 protesters determined to "make our point." The protesters -- a broad mix of independents, Republicans and Democrats being organized by a new non-partisan group called Florida Demanding Representation (FDR) -- are expecting to meet with several Congressional leaders on Wednesday for the 10 a.m. rally.

Lyn Carpenter of Clearwater Beach, a business development executive and Democratic volunteer, said that voters from several locations -- Jacksonville, Tallahassee, South Florida, Orlando, the Tampa Bay area -- would be aboard the buses.

The Florida bus convoy is the latest in a series of activities which has evolved from wrath at the DNC's action in punishing Florida because it held its primary voting a week ahead of Super Tuesday -- even though the date was really set by the Republican-dominated legislature.

FDR founder Jim Hannigan, a marketing executive from Palm Harbor who is not affiliated with the
Democratic party but who is angry that his vote is not being counted, called a meeting of some
dozen citizens six weeks ago and launched a webpage for the fledging organization behind the Washington caravan. FDR is dedicated "to protect the voting rights of Florida citizens."

Hannnigan says FDR is not campaigning for any one candidate, only to get Florida's Jan. 29 primary vote validated and accepted by the DNC -- although most participants admit that the majority members lean to Clinton. The group's webpage is being credited with spurring several rallies and protests -- all targeting the DNC's "unfair punishment."

Hannigan said he had a difficult time getting information from the DNC and had to threaten to go to the American Civil Liberties Union to get data from the national party, including a membership list of the party's Credentials Committee, which he said should be available to the public, "not shrouded in secrecy."

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), headquartered in Washington, a widely respected Hispanic civil rights organization, has announced that it was so impressed with the effort by FDR to recognize Florida's vote, it volunteered to fund the buses, food and hotels for the protest in D.C.

State Coordinator for LULAC Jose Fernandez, of Orlando, said that independents as well as adherents of both parties -- "anyone who believes that their voting is being violated" -- are welcome on the bus trip.

In addition to this weekend's protest rallies in several Florida counties and the bus caravan to Washington, FDR is also organizing five State-wide rallies for May 31, just in case the Florida delegate situation is still unresolved.

"Any voter regardless of political affiliation should be concerned," the FDR webpage declares.

Despite the unfulfilled promise of National Party Chairman Howard Dean to recognize the Florida vote; despite the fact that no one knows how the delegates will eventually be allocated; and despite the fact that the DNC refuses to designate a hotel for Florida delegates in Denver for the convention, Aug, 25-28 -- Florida's party bosses still are proceeding with the final phase of selecting delegates and alternates based on the January results.

The final delegate selection will be in Tampa on May 17. That caucus will be held to fill the remaining seats (based on January results) so that a representative group of men, women, seniors, minorities, veterans are chosen. Earlier, delegates were selected from Congressional districts, but many say they are in a quandary as to whether to make air travel and hotel plans for Denver. There have been constant complaints that the DNC won't even release the name of a Denver hotel supposedly assigned to the Floridians

Dean has said Florida would be seated once the two candidates are in agreement, but
there is general feeling that he is just waiting until all the primaries are over on June 3 "or until there is an eventual nominee," which remains only a probability at the moment. Clinton favors seating all of the Florida delegation while Sen. Barack Obama has said "no" because the state thwarted the party rules and, as a result, not all of the candidates campaigned there, believing the voting wouldn't be counted toward the nomination.

"That could backfire," one unaffiliated Superdelegate explained. "The DNC's action is playing right into the hands of the Republicans." He said that voters are angry and may stay away from the polls in November. Florida--the fourth largest state in the nation and the most sought after "swing state" -- has 27 electoral votes. Republican strategists have been saying quietly that the delegate controversy has been a blessing for their nominee-in-waiting Sen. John McCain and would likely be a campaign issue for the GOP in November. "Vote the GOP -- We care about your votes!"

Because the superdelegates -- the powerful clique of Democratic party insiders -- will probably select the nominee, Florida media have been paying special attention to that select group. Florida has 25 superdelegates. They were identified by name and photo on a full page editorial in the April 20 edition of The Miami Herald under the title "Power Brokers." Of the 25, seven were identified as pro-Clinton, four for Obama and 14 as uncommitted.

Chairman Dean, meanwhile, has made televised remarks urging superdelegates to make their choice public now. But several say they won't be pushed into a decision. Terrie Brady of Jacksonville was quoted in the Miami Herald as saying, " I don't care what Howard Dean says," asserting that he will take his time to come to a decision.

Local party leaders, meantime, say they have had no communication from the DNC regarding the recognition of the elected delegates and constantly remind the DNC that all Democratic candidates were on the Florida ballot, despite the fact that the election was held seven days early. Supporters of Sen. Clinton -- who handily won the Florida primary in January by 17 percentage points -- says Florida deserves its full recognition.

With Florida's delegates and vote count, Sen Clinton would be ahead in the national popular vote and pick up much-needed delegates.

Michigan was similarly penalized by the Democratic Party. But it is the Florida controversy that continues to get most of the headlines, fueled by angry constituents such as FDR members, who are intent on getting public attention.

Should holding a primary a week early disenfranchise so many voters? asks one of the protesters. "I want my vote to count."