The Good News: You get to vote from abroad, and it's proportional representation
Patriotic duty: my reminder to all expatriate Democrats that Thursday January 31 is the final deadline to register at www.VoteFromAbroad.org to participate online in the Global Presidential Primary (if you can't vote online for some reason, check Democrats Abroad for information on physical voting centers). This historic opportunity to vote as "The 51st State" gives overseas Americans (all 6 million of them) a chance to show their strength in numbers, rather than being discounted as an afterthought, with their votes dispersed among 50 states plus the District of Columbia. The icing on the cake is that the vote is proportional, a word that doesn't even elicit a hit at the Republican National Committee (RNC) site.
Speaking of those states... Given foreign nomadic wanderings over much of my adult life, how do I identify myself when answering the question, "Where do you come from?" Is it the state of my birth? My late parents left Pennsylvania the same month as I joined the US Foreign Service, so their adopted state of Florida became mine. I've been a Florida voter since 1979.
So it is with more than a passing concern that I read that the Democratic National Committee (DNC, headquartered in Washington, D.C., and chaired by former Vermont Governor Howard Dean) has dissed (or essentially disenfranchised) the Democratic voters of Florida:
The DNC issued the following statement today after the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida in Tallahassee upheld the Party's right to enforce its primary rules:
"We're pleased the court ruled in our favor, recognizing the constitutionally protected right of the Democratic National Committee to enforce its rules and treat all state Democratic parties in a fair and equal way," said Democratic National Committee Communications Director Karen Finney. "The DNC is committed to protecting the right to vote for every American, and we look forward to continuing to work together to ensure that Florida turns blue in 2008."
The above was issued by the DNC on December 5, 2007.
I suppose, to be fair, I should cover the background to this spat between Democrats (Washington) and Democrats (Florida). I guess that the DNC side would again underline its "constitutionally protected right... to enforce its rules," and that we should all respect that.
The Bad News: Become a Florida Democratic delegate, but pay your own way to the Convention
But hold on a minute: how about the basic American right to vote? Are Florida Democrats to be deprived of their franchise at this crucial stage, just because their state committee couldn't work out a compromise with the DNC's "rules panel?" Here's the Florida Democrats' website FAQ on the imbroglio:
Q: What role will Florida delegates have if the DNC does not permit them to participate?
A: Although the DNC has said it will not recognize delegates from Florida, the Florida Democratic Party plans to appeal to the eventual Democratic nominee for President to be seated at the Convention. While there are no guarantees that this will happen, the Party will continue the delegate selection process to elect the actual delegates to the Democratic National Convention and will use the results of the January 29th Presidential Preference Primary to determine the apportionment of those delegates.
In a last minute bid to ingratiate herself with Florida Democrats, Senator Hillary Clinton on Friday was quoted in the Miami Herald that she would "ask my Democratic convention delegates to support seating the delegations from Florida and Michigan." The paper noted that Clinton is leading 2 to 1 in Florida.
To its credit, the Ft. Lauderdale "Sun-Sentinel" has continued to play the game, coming out with an endorsement of Senator Barack Obama - in the event that Democratic readers wanting to make a symbolic vote might be swayed by the editorial. But you can feel the heartbreak in the message:
Disappointingly, the Democrat presidential candidates kept their pledge to not campaign in Florida. The Democratic National Committee has also warned that Florida's primary this Tuesday won't count toward assignment of delegates to this summer's national convention.
Nonetheless, there is a vote, and it's an important one for a host of reasons. Not least of which is that whoever wins the popular vote in the Sunshine State, a place that has been a house of horrors for the party in the past two presidential elections, can claim to be the popular front-runner headed into Super Tuesday.
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board recommends voters choose Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.
Rules are important, sure. Every state cannot be first to hold its primary. But is it not a Pyhrric victory for the DNC to so treat a state that was the determining factor in the 2000 election that resulted in 8 years of George W. Bush? Is that a way to welcome the very voters the DNC wants to "turn blue in 2008?"