Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Michigan Inaction Means NH Waits

Michigan Inaction Means NH Waits

UPDATE: Michigan Supreme Court overturns lower courts, Jan. 15 is a go.

“Keep your eyes on the Michigan legislature and the Supreme Court,” New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner told CQ Politics when asked about his state's primary date. Gardner, who alone holds the power to set the date for the primary that has been first in the nation since 1920, isn't going to get impatient after 30 years of defending his state's status.

In Michigan, on the other hand, the clock is ticking. The state's Jan. 15 primary law has been declared unconstitutional, due to a provision that would give lists of the participants to the political parties but no one else. The Republican-led state Senate has passed an amendment removing the voter-list provision, but the Democratic controlled House failed to met yesterday and is not scheduled to return to session until next Tuesday.

State Elections Director Chris Thomas, in an affidavit submitted with Monday's appeal of a lower court ruling, said election officials need to know by noon today whether the Jan. 15 primary will be held. That means the only hope left for Michigan's primary, which violates the Democratic Party's calendar, is a swift ruling by the Michigan Supreme Court.

If the Jan. 15 date holds, the contest is more for bragging rights than anything. Michigan has lost half its Republican delegates and all its Democratic delegates as punishment for going early. If there is no Michigan presidential primary, Ballot Access News reports, the Republicans will choose their national delegates at a state convention on January 25-26. Democrats would hold caucuses, but no date is determined. Leading Michigan Democrats, including Sen. Carl Levin, Public Enemy Number One of the New Hampshire primary and the Iowa caucuses, have threated to schedule Democratic caucuses on the New Hampshire primary date. That just gives Bill Gardner all the more reason to wait.

There's another lawsuit under way in Florida, another calendar leapfrogging state, but this one's calling for a later primary. The Democrats have taken away all Florida's delegates for scheduling a Jan. 29 primary, and the Republicans have removed half the delegate. Ausman v. Browning blames the state legislature for the mess and argues that a state political party has the right to a presidential primary date that won’t disenfranchise its voters. It asks that the Florida primaries be postponed to a date that's acceptable to the national parties, which would mean the Tsunami Tuesday de facto national primary on Feb. 5 or later.

Two other pending cases cases blame the national Democratic Party instead, and demand that delegates chosen on Jan. 29 be seated.

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