Saturday, May 31, 2008

TPM On Disenfranchisement

Josh Marshall makes this excellent point today at his blog, Talking Points Memo:

The Clinton campaign argues that if the delegates from these non-sanctioned primaries are not seated hundreds of thousand of voters in Florida and Michigan will be disenfranchised.

The other side argues that it is wrong to change the rules of the nomination process after the fact in order to advantage one candidate over another. The latter is an argument I agree with -- but there's no question it lacks the emotive impact of the disenfranchisement argument.

What doesn't get mentioned, however, is this: it was widely reported and understood in both Florida and Michigan that the results of these primaries would not be counted. And based on that knowledge, large numbers of voters in both states simply didn't participate.

If the DNC were now to turn around and decide to make these contests count after all, these non-participating voters would be disenfranchised no less than the people who did turn out would be if the DNC sticks to the rules and doesn't seat any of the delegates. The simple fact is that large numbers of people, acting on accurate knowledge and in good faith, decided that there wasn't a real primary being held in their state on the day in question and on that basis decided not to participate.

I've seen that elsewhere, but that summary is as succinct as I've ever seen. And he points to further analysis to one of his other bloggers who wrote Do Florida and Michigan Primaries Really Reflect the Will of the People? Nope.
Bottom line: As these numbers clearly show, if these two states had held recognized contests with turnout in line with the best-fit curve for the other states, it seems likely that many more voters would have turned out -- possibly as many as one million in Florida, and over half a million in Michigan -- and we simply can't know how those people would have voted. These simple facts render both contests, especially Michigan, seriously dubious as actual measurements of the will of each state's electorate.
I did see it mentioned today at the DNC Rules Committee meeting - I don't remember by whom - that FL was the only state in which more Republicans voted than Democrats. In every other state contest, the Democrats total voting numbers have not only exceed Republicans, but often times smashed them. This is one reason Republicans are so uneasy. In my view, this is mostly due to Obama's efforts to register new voters (blacks and young people). And for those who don't know, in 1992 Obama himself worked to register new voters in the South Side of Chicago, so he knows how to get it done and values that effort. He did so for the benefit of Bill Clinton's campaign.

There's the added difficulty that if the Rules committee changes the rules now, it undermines their authority should problems arise with states mucking around with the schedule in 2012. That is surely to weigh on their minds.

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