Civil rights activists join fight over Michigan, Florida delegates

Two prominent activists want a decision on how votes will be counted in the Democratic race.

Published February 4, 2008 11:28PM (EST)

In the race for the Democratic presidential nomination this year, it may ultimately be that the number of votes is actually less important than how those -- and whether -- those votes are counted.

Specifically at issue is whether the states of Florida and Michigan, which were both punished by the national Democratic Party for bucking party rules about when to hold the primary, will get to seat delegates at the convention. (Both states were essentially stripped of their vote in the Democratic race, though they still held primaries that did not result in the awarding of delegates.) The campaign of Sen. Hillary Clinton has lately been vociferous in its support for getting Florida and Michigan a vote. The campaign's motives might be less than entirely pure, though, considering that Clinton won both states.

Now, though, two more independent observers have weighed in, sending a letter to Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean urging a quick resolution of the issue. And one of those observers is a prominent supporter of Sen. Barack Obama, who would have the most to lose if the nomination remained contested at the convention and delegates from the states in question were indeed seated. In the letter, Roger Wilkins -- a professor at George Mason University who has not endorsed either candidate -- and Mary Frances Berry -- the Obama supporter, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and the former chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights -- refrain from taking a position on whether Florida and Michigan should get delegates. They write, "We are not suggesting any particular way of deciding the issues. We are suggesting that the decision be made before the convention in an effort to avoid a floor fight. ... Resolution of this issue is a matter of fairness, justice and practicality."

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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