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Florida's Democratic lawmakers reject do-over primary plan

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Lawmakers say they remain opposed to any new primary election of any kind
  • Proposal calls for primary to be held again with mail-in, in-person votes
  • State was stripped of its 210 delegates when it moved its primary to January
  • Clinton has advocated do-over; Obama has said DNC should formulate plan
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TALLAHASSEE, Florida (CNN) -- Florida Democrats want a do-over, but the state's Democratic congressional delegation on Thursday rejected a plan for recouping the 210 delegates the state lost when it moved its primary ahead of the approved time frame.

State Democratic officials knew voters' ballots wouldn't count when they were cast January 29.

The proposal -- floated earlier by state party officials -- called for a combined mail-in and in-person election to be held on June 3.

But House Democrats remained opposed to any revote -- particularly one involving mailed ballots.

"After reviewing the party's proposal and individually discussing this idea with state and local leaders and elections experts, we do not believe that this is a realistic option at this time and remain opposed to a mail-in ballot election or any new primary election in Florida of any kind," read a statement released Thursday afternoon by the state's Democratic congressional delegation.

Under the state party's plan, fundraising and public comment would begin immediately.

The plan would be "inclusive of all Democratic voters," according to a memo accompanying the draft plan that was sent Wednesday night to party leaders, including Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean and Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the party's candidates for the presidential nomination.

Any plan would need the blessings of the DNC and the Clinton and Obama campaigns.

"We really believe that all Floridians deserve to be heard," said state party Chairwoman Karen Thurman, but "if this is not what the people of Florida and our presidential candidates want, then we're not going to do it."

The proposal could prove problematic because Florida law bans the state from conducting elections by mail.

State party officials could outsource the election operations to a third party, but the company would need voters' signatures to verify the voter rolls. In Florida, it is illegal to sell voters' signatures.

Dean said Thursday he hadn't seen the proposal, but he acknowledged that it wasn't perfect.

"Of course there are going to be problems," he said, explaining that is why state party officials floated a proposal -- to get the kinks out. Video Watch how a mail-in vote could affect the race »

The cost for the proposed elections would have been between $10 million and $12 million, according to the state party memo.

The DNC stripped Florida of its delegates when the state moved its primary to January 29, ahead of the DNC-approved time frame. The DNC also stripped Michigan of its delegates; voters there cast ballots January 15.

Florida's Democrats knew when they cast ballots in January that their votes would not count because the primary date violated party rules. Neither candidate campaigned there, though Clinton held a few permitted fundraisers.

Clinton handily won Florida, winning not only most of the counties but also every county in the lower three-quarters of the state. She took 50 percent of the vote to Obama's 33 percent. Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, who has since dropped out of the race, snared 14 percent of the vote.

As the race for the Democratic presidential nomination nears its finish -- 42 states have already voted -- Obama leads Clinton in the delegate count, 1,611 to 1,480, according to CNN estimates. Clinton has the slight edge among superdelegates, 237 to 207.

If Florida were permitted to vote again, its 210 delegates could prove integral in determining the party's choice to challenge the presumed GOP candidate, Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

Currently, 2,025 delegates are needed for a Democratic candidate to secure the party nomination. That number would increase if Florida and Michigan delegates were accepted at the convention.

"We are committed to working with the DNC, the Florida state Democratic Party, our Democratic leaders in Florida, and our two candidates to reach an expedited solution that ensures the seating of our full delegation in August," the House Democrats' statement said Thursday.

In Washington on Wednesday, Clinton said the results in Florida and Michigan were fair and should be counted. However, she would be open to new elections if the DNC won't honor the January results.

"There are two options: Honor the results or hold new primary elections," she said. "If you're a voter from Florida or Michigan, you know that we should count your votes."

Obama said Thursday that the notion of counting the January results "just defies logic" because he didn't campaign in either state and his name wasn't on the ballot in Michigan.

"I think you could ask my 6-year-old whether that was fair, and she would probably be able to say, 'No, that isn't,' " he said.


As for the Florida proposal, Obama reiterated his concerns -- chiefly about security -- regarding a mail-in vote, but said his campaign is "not going to make the final decision on it, and I'll abide by whatever rules the DNC lays out."

Dean said the DNC would work to find an option amenable to both candidates, "something that puts the vote back in the hands of the people of Florida and Michigan, but that is not easy to do." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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