Michigan primary law ruled unconstitutional

The decision is likely to have little practical effect on chances for a revote.


Alex Koppelman
March 27, 2008 2:06AM (UTC)

In a decision that has perked up the ears of political observers everywhere, a federal judge has ruled Michigan's presidential primary law unconstitutional. That's potentially significant because Michigan was sanctioned by the Democratic National Committee for moving its primary ahead of the date prescribed by the party, and will currently not be allowed to seat any delegates at the Democratic convention this summer. (Hillary Clinton, who was all but unopposed, won the state's primary, which was held in January.)

However, it seems unlikely that the decision -- which was about a provision of Michigan law that would give lists of voters' political preferences only to the Democratic and Republican parties -- will affect the already very slim prospects for a revote. The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder notes that the "ruling DOES NOT order a new primary," and writes, "where the Clinton campaign had hoped that the judge would order a revote as the remedy, she simply ordered the state party to share its lists. Since the legislature is no longer in session, the notion of a revote is moot at this point, anyway."

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Both the Clinton and the Obama campaigns were quick to respond to the decision.

In a statement, Clinton campaign manager Maggie Williams wrote:

In the wake of today's court ruling regarding Michigan’s January 15th primary, we urge Senator Obama to join our call for a party-run primary and demonstrate his commitment to counting Michigan's votes.

Senator Clinton has consistently urged that the more than 600,000 votes cast by the people of Michigan be counted and if that is not possible, that a new election be held.

Michigan voters must not be disenfranchised and the Obama campaign must not continue to block Michigan's efforts to hold a new vote. Rather it should move quickly to announce its support for a party run primary.

Michigan will be a key battleground state in November. Disenfranchising Michigan voters today will, in the heat of a general election, provide Senator McCain with a powerful argument to use against the Democratic nominee. We cannot allow this to happen.

The people of Michigan must be counted and their voices finally heard. What the people of Michigan need now is just action, not just words.

In a decidedly more concise statement, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe wrote, "As we've said consistently, we think there should be a fair seating of the Michigan delegates. The Clinton campaign has stubbornly said they see no need to negotiate, but we believe that their Washington, my-way-or-the-highway approach is something voters are tired of."


Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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