Michigan Primary Law Overturned
Not only did Michigan's Jan. 15 primary break Democratic National Committee rules -- the law authorizing it was unconstitutional to boot. But the Hillary Clinton campaign, like Terry Schiavo's relatives, won't let the idea of a do-over die.
A federal court ruling Wedndesday was another setback to the do-over. Judge Nancy Edmunds riled that the section of the primary law that allowed only the Democratic and Republican parties access to the list of voters from the Jan. 15 primary was unconstitutional. A lower court ruling on the issue last fall nearly scuttled the Michigan vote, until the state Supreme Court ruled that the voter list provision was constitutional.
Way back when, at a time when every observer expected the nomination to be settled by now and the Michigan and Florida delegates to be seated by a magnanimous nominee, this court battle was not a fight between campaigns. The suit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of three minor parties. Michigan does not have voter registration by party, which is why the list is so significant as an organizing tool.
"This is the relief we asked for," said Thomas Wieder of the ACLU. "We did not ask for distribution to our clients. Our view is either everyone gets it or nobody gets it." The overturned law set a Wednesday deadline, 71 days after the election, for turning lists over to the parties.
Michigan Democratic chair Mark Brewer zinged the plaintiffs. "If the Michigan Democratic Party cannot get the lists, then our friends at the ACLU may have driven the final nail in the coffin of any re-vote in Michigan," he said. But Judge Edmunds said the Jan. 15 vote is a fait accompli. "Nothing I'm going to say or do" affects the results of the Jan. 15 vote, she said. "That election is on the history books, and it doesn't disappear because the law that created it is off the books. That's the political reality."
The Michigan Democratic Party contends it needs the Jan. 15 voter list to conduct a party-run primary or caucus, because of DNC rules that prohibit someone who's voted in a Republican primary or caucus earlier in the year from participating later in a Democratic contest.
Many Michigan Democrats crossed over on Jan. 15, in part because top-tier candidates Barack Obama and John Edwards were not on the ballot. Some Democratic mischief maker urged crossover votes for Mitt Romney, who went on to win Michigan, in order to stir the pot in a Republican nomination fight that at the time seemed very muddled. The idea was that a Romney win would stretch out the monination process and keep Republicans beating each other up, while the Democratic nominee sailed along unscathed. Kind of funny, isn't it? The GOP contest was all but settled two weeks later with a John McCain win in Florida.
"This is basically the final straw in preventing us from having a do-over election," said Michigan Democratic spokeswoman Liz Kerr. "People would get a chance to vote for a candidate in both parties. That's just not fair."
But undeterred, the Clinton campaign issued a press release urging Obama "to join our call for a party-run primary and demonstrate his commitment to counting Michigan's votes." Team Obama had no comment.
Republicans, who settled this fight months ago by taking away half, but not all, of Michigan's delegates, seemed satisfied with the ruling. "From our standpoint, it has never been about who has access to the list," said Michigan GOP spokesman Bill Nowling. "It has been about whether or not Michigan should move its primary up, and we did that."