Because Florida apparently doesn’t get enough attention from Presidential candidates already, despite being a heavily contested swing state in the last two elections, the state legislature moved its primaries up to January 29.
This created a problem for the Democratic National Committee. It has always been an inviolable principle that Iowa and New Hampshire host the first primaries, because it is important that our nominees are determined by tiny, rural states with no minorities in them. But to work in a little more diversity, the DNC scheduled South Carolina and Nevada to have early primaries as well. All four early states are at least small enough that candidates without a ton of money still have a chance in them.
In order to prevent an insane rush of ever earlier primaries, the DNC made rules that any other state which put its primary before Feb. 5 would be stripped of half its delegates, and any candidate that campaigned in that state would receive no delegates there, even if he or she won the election.
Naturally, Florida reacted to this by realizing the destructive potential of an unregulated free-for-all in the primaries and bowing to the DNC’s wishes.
Ha ha, just kidding!
Actually Howard Dean and the DNC were treated to a storm of petulancy. Many Florida Democrats made unfortunate comparisons to the 2000 election debacle:
”We’re going to fight to have Florida Democratic votes counted,” said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, the state’s top Democrat. “It’s always been a top priority for the Democratic National Committee to protect the rights of every eligible American to vote, and we hope the DNC is going to continue to honor this right.”
(If you are looking for sympathy, Florida, you may not want to remind us of how your botched election gave us George W. Bush.)
The DNC has so far stuck by its threat, but Florida is not budging from its early primary. One concern of the party leaders seems valid:
Also, Florida will vote on a constitutional amendment during its primary election that could significantly cut property taxes. Democratic party leaders felt pushing their delegate selection plan past Feb. 5 would have affected turnout in the ballot question.
If only the Republican primary was held on that day, their turnout would greatly outnumber the Democrats and sway the referendum on taxes. But that is just another argument for centralizing control over the primary schedule so that questions of national importance won’t be swayed by local disputes.
The Florida brouhaha is just the tip of the iceberg of ways that our electoral system is irrational and probably harmful. Sadly, it doesn’t seem like we are going to look past petty local concerns and see the big picture any time soon.