Thursday, March 13, 2008

Another Primary Election in Florida?

With Ohio’s primary having been concluded with some issues, albeit not to the extent that many had expected, it seems that Florida is back in the limelight as being one of the states, along with Michigan, with election related issues that may play a major impact on this November’s Presidential election. Both Florida and Michigan have held their primary elections earlier than allowed, invalidating the results in which Senator Clinton was originally declared the victor. In order to ensure that the citizens of Florida have their votes counted, the state is now considering redoing the primary election, primarily with mail-in ballots.

As the current race to be named Presidential candidate for the Democratic Party is so close, the 38 delegates that Florida would provide to Senator Clinton would enable her to cut the lead currently held by Senator Obama by approximately one-third. As Senator Clinton would greatly benefit from receiving these delegates, she has refused an initial plan where Florida’s delegates would be apportioned between the two candidates; Senator Clinton has stated that, "In my view there are two options: Honor the results or hold new primary elections."

Senator Obama’s campaign manager has stated that he feels that holding another primary election with mail-in votes may be problematic. Concerns raised by the Senator’s campaign include fairness to voters and Florida’s inexperience, concerns mirrored by Dan Tokaji of the Election Law @ Moritz Project. Professor Tokaji worries about security issues with mail-in votes, stating that most election fraud occurs with mail-in ballots, mistakes by voters that can be more easily corrected with current election technology, not available with mail-in votes, and the fact that mail-in votes are more likely to be submitted by certain demographic groups.

The key issue is ensuring that Florida’s citizens have their votes counted accurately and that Florida’s delegates are allocated to the proper candidate. This year, many states wanted to be the first primary, an honor usually reserved for New Hampshire. However, in fighting to be first, Florida’s and Michigan’s election results were declared invalid and at present neither state’s delegates have been awarded.

It is not the citizens’ fault that their votes were not counted. Those that wished to vote showed up at the polling place, or voted via another available method, and cast their ballots for the candidate they wanted to represent them in the Presidential election. Due to the state government’s error, a way must be found now to ensure that these people’s votes actually count and are heard. Unfortunately, this error along with past election law errors in Florida may cause some to not wish to participate in anticipation that something else will go wrong or thinking that their first vote should count. Those that do wish to participate in this new primary may not have an opportunity or may not have their vote counted properly due to issues in mail-in elections in general.

It is unfortunate that states such as Ohio and Florida are regularly looked at as the most common source for election law issues; it is even more unfortunate that these issues are more often found than not. With elections in other states being run without such major problems, it is sad to see that voters in Florida and Ohio have to endure the possibility that their votes may not be properly counted.

For the complete story from the Washington Post, click here.

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