Florida & Michigan Deserve a Voice at the Democratic Convention

As you may know, both Michigan and Florida scheduled their primaries in January. They were told by the powers that be in Washington that the dates chosen were too early. They were informed that the national party did not want primaries scheduled anywhere except New Hampshire and South Carolina prior to February 5th.

While the readers of this blog may understand all of this, it is unlikely that most voters in either state knew what happened. That's why hundreds of thousands of them turned out yesterday in Florida to vote, just as Michigan voters did in mid-January. That is also why the delegates selected by those voters should be seated at the Democratic Convention this August in Denver.

Yesterday, more Democrats participated in the Florida primary than have voted in any of the prior primaries. Today they are being told that the race was nothing more than a beauty pageant. This makes no sense. Voters have good reason to be cynical about the process, especially after the experience of the 2000 election. This denial of their right to be heard after voting in a primary doesn't help at all.

The voters didn't decide the timing of the Florida and Michigan primaries. Their legislators did that. But now it's the voters who are being punished. They are being told that their vote did not count and that their voice will not be heard.

It may be right in theory that states should be penalized for ignoring directions from the national party, but in practice we now know that it is voters who are punished when the politicians make mistakes. That's not just wrong. It's counterproductive as well.

Now we are placed in the terrible position where voters have gone to the polls and voted for candidates, only to be told that their vote won't count and no delegates will be seated. That's unfair to the voters. It is not right. It is demoralizing. And it's not a smart way to win in the general election.

This misguided plan to keep the delegates elected in Florida and Michigan out of the convention will only undermine our ability to carry both states in the fall, regardless of which Democrat we nominate for president. How are voters to feel when we've told them that the one vote they have already cast this year wasn't worth our attention? They are going to feel betrayed, ignored and unwanted.

Is that the message we want to send? I can't imagine what good that will do us.

I have a simple reason for wanting the delegates elected from Florida and Michigan to be seated in Denver: I want the Democratic candidate to carry those states in November. Florida and Michigan are two states whose Electoral College votes will be critically important in the fall. We should win them both.

Yet, in the last few weeks, while our team of Democratic candidates -- Senators Clinton and Obama, as well as former Senator Edwards -- were complying with the rules and refraining from active campaigning, the Republican candidates dominated the media coverage. Yet Democrats in both states turned out on primary day, voting in huge numbers. They want a new direction for this country.

We should make sure their vote is counted and that it counts for something. When the Democrats gather in Denver this summer, the voters of Michigan and Florida should not be left out. Their delegates should be seated as full participants in the convention.