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If allowed, Florida, Michigan could tip nomination

  • Story Highlights
  • Florida, Michigan stripped of delegates for scheduling primaries too early
  • States have 366 Democratic delegates -- enough to put a candidate over the top
  • Clinton, Obama running tight race; likely won't clinch nomination before convention
  • Party leaders fighting to get their state delegates seated
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(CNN) -- Florida and Michigan could go from having no say in the Democratic nominating process to deciding the nominee if their states' political leaders succeed in getting their delegates seated.

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Florida Gov. Charlie Crist says "common sense would dictate that every vote should count."

The Democratic National Committee stripped both states of their delegates for violating party rules by scheduling their primaries too early.

But Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are running such a tight race that it looks like neither candidate will get the 2,024 delegates needed to clinch the nomination.

If Florida and Michigan count, their delegates could put either candidate over the top. The states have 366 pledged delegates and superdelegates between them. Allocate delegates and see what happens »

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist says "common sense would dictate that every vote should count.

"The argument that we are making is that the people of our respective states voted. They cast that precious right. They made their voice heard, and those delegates who represent them should be seated at both conventions," Crist said on CNN's "American Morning." Video Watch Florida's mounting frustration »

Crist, who is a Republican, says he wants the votes that were already cast to be counted because the "people should be heard and not party bosses in Washington."

He and Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, on Wednesday called on the Democratic National Committee to seat their states' delegates.

They accused the party of silencing "the voices of 5,163,271 Americans" who voted in their primaries.

"It is intolerable that the national political parties have denied the citizens of Michigan and Florida their votes and voices at their respective national conventions," they said in a statement.

Clinton on Thursday said she thinks "it would be a grave disservice to the voters of Florida and Michigan to adopt any process that would disenfranchise anyone."

"I'm still committed to seating their delegations, and I know that they're working with the Democratic party to determine how best to proceed," she said.

But DNC Chairman Howard Dean points out -- Florida and Michigan both knew the rules and agreed to them.

"The rules were set a year and a half ago. Florida and Michigan voted for them and then decided that they didn't need to abide by the rules. When you're in a contest you do need to abide by the rules," he said on "American Morning." Video Watch Dean explain what Florida, Michigan can do »

"You cannot violate the rules of the process and then expect to get forgiven for it," he said.

Dean says he has to run a process that yields an honest result, and, "The only way to do that is to stick to the rules that were agreed to by everybody at the beginning."

But if the party decides the votes should count, the next question is how to count them.

The Democratic candidates agreed not to campaign in either state, and Clinton, who won both states, was the only top-tier candidate on the ballot in Michigan.

E-mails have poured in to CNN from people who say they decided not to vote because they knew their vote wouldn't count.

A complete primary do-over is another option, but no one wants to foot the bill. Another contest in Florida could cost as much as $25 million, and the taxpayers have already paid for one primary.

Dean says having the DNC pay for a new primary is not an option because they have to focus their resources on the general election against presumptive Republican nominee John McCain.

The states have two options, Dean said.

"They can come back to the DNC with a set of delegate selection procedures that do comply with the rules of the 48 other states, or they can appeal to the credentials committee at the Democratic National Convention," he said.

"It's not the voters' fault in Florida and Michigan that they didn't get included, so we think it's a good thing to have these discussions going on."

Democratic House members from Florida and Michigan met for about an hour in Washington Wednesday night to discuss ways to handle the delegate dilemma.

"Both delegations feel very, very strongly -- adamantly -- that our delegations be seated at the national conventions," said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shultz of Florida.

Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan said he's not sure of the best way to resolve the dispute.

"I think the key is the voice of Michigan and Florida is heard and there's a procedure that is fair to the residents and fair to the two candidates," he said.

Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan suggested Wednesday that his state could hold caucuses to select its delegates.

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Participants declined to say whether there is general agreement on a way forward -- for example, whether the two states should redo the votes there or use results from the previous primaries. They pledged to continue discussions, though no formal meeting has been scheduled.

The national Republican Party also penalized Florida and Michigan, but cut each state's allocation in half rather than stripping them entirely. Because McCain clinched the GOP nomination Tuesday night, any fight over seating Florida and Michigan's delegates will matter little in the GOP race. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Ted Barrett contributed to this report.

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