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Morning Feature – Florida’s 2012 Democratic Caucuses

March 21, 2012

Morning Feature

Morning Feature – Florida’s 2012 Democratic Caucuses

Florida Democrats did not hold a presidential primary on January 31st, and not only because President Obama was unchallenged. Our caucuses begin on May 5th. (More)

Florida’s 2012 Democratic Caucuses

If the 2012 Republican primary season has seemed endless, that was by design. But the voting started early.

Although a long series of debates was scheduled, actual voting was to begin in February under rules set by the Republican National Committee in August 2010. The Democratic National Committee adopted similar rules for timing. The traditional early states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina would vote between February 1st and March 8th. Other states voting in March were required to award delegates proportionally. States that wanted to award delegates on a winner-take-all basis could not vote until April.

While many of us sometimes wish for a one-day national primary, in fact that would greatly favor candidates with enough money to campaign nationwide. So did the GOP’s previous system of winner-take-all voting on Super Tuesday. By giving five weeks to concentrate on the four early states, the parties hoped to limit the advantage of well-funded establishment candidates. Limiting states to proportional delegate allocation through the rest of March would ensure that candidates had to campaign in more states to secure the nomination, allowing more voters to participate in choosing their parties’ nominees.

But Florida Republicans jumped the gun, announcing they would hold their primary on January 31st. This forced the four traditional early states back further into January, with Iowans holding their caucuses on January 3rd. As a penalty, the Florida delegation to the Republican National Convention was cut by half.

An exercise in confusion

New Hampshire, South Carolina, Arizona, and Michigan were also penalized for holding their primaries too early. To avoid the delegate penalty, the other states who voted before March 3rd held non-binding primaries or caucuses. So no one really knows how many delegates each GOP candidate has secured, as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow explained last night:

For Florida Democrats, this confusion evokes cringe-worthy memories. In 2008, the Florida primary was also scheduled too early for the parties’ rules. The Democratic National Committee declared that Florida’s primary would not count, and only Hillary Clinton campaigned here. She won, and her campaign then petitioned the DNC to award her Florida’s delegates. That led to a messy, public hearing and a clumsy compromise that left many dissatisfied.

We learned from that mistake, and in 2012 the Florida Democratic Party will elect our delegates in a clear and transparent process that is consistent with DNC rules.

Florida Democratic Executive Committee county caucuses – May 5th

President Obama has no Democratic challenger in Florida this year, so whether or when we held our primary may seem like a moot point. Regardless, the Florida Democratic Party wisely chose to follow the rules. As a result, we will have extra delegates at the Democratic National Convention in September.

We will select those delegates in a series of caucuses that begin on May 5th. Each county Democratic Executive Committee will host its caucus. Counties with more than one U.S. House District may hold a separate caucus for each district, or hold a single county caucus with separate ballots for each district. Any registered Democrat may file between April 2nd and May 3rd to run as a county delegate.

All registered Democrats are eligible to vote in the county caucus. Voters will first sign a statement of support for a presidential candidate. Each voter will then be given a ballot listing county delegates who have pledged to support that candidate. County delegates may greet and campaign with voters, in a separate area from where the voting takes place. Voters then take their ballots into the voting area and select their county delegates.

Each county is allocated a number of delegates for each U.S. House District in the county, and the county delegations must be divided equally among men and women. Thus, for example, if your county is allocated eight delegates for District 1, the delegates will be the four men and four women who received the most votes. These delegates – 1500 in total – will attend the Florida Democratic Convention in Tampa.

Florida Democratic Convention state caucuses – June 2nd and 3rd

County delegates who wish to be district delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte must file between May 5th and May 10th. The presidential campaigns – in 2012, the Obama/Biden campaign – may review district delegate candidates who have pledged to support that presidential candidate.

County delegates in each district will vote in caucuses on June 2nd at the state convention to select Florida’s district delegates to the national convention. Again, each district is allocated a number of delegates, in proportion to Democratic voters in 2008 and 2010. The 184 district delegates elected at the state convention will comprise 61% of the Florida delegation in Charlotte.

The district delegates will next meet to elect 31 PLEO delegates: party leaders and elected officials who have pledged to support a candidate. The district delegates will also elect 61 at-large delegates and 23 alternates, to ensure the Florida delegation mirrors the demographic makeup of Florida Democrats. At-large delegate candidates and alternates will be nominated by the presidential candidates they have pledged to support.

Finally, on Sunday, June 3rd, all of Florida’s elected delegates will meet to elect a delegation chair and nine members each to serve on the DNC Platform, Rules, and Credentials Committees in Charlotte.

Each step in that process is democratic, fully transparent, and designed to ensure that Florida’s delegation in Charlotte will reflect both the voices of our voters and the diversity of our party. For Democrats, “We the People” means all of us.

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Happy Wednesday!

  • winterbanyan

    This is very complex, but you had me with you at the point you said that county delegates must be divided evenly between men and women. After all, the population is. :)

    I like that the party is trying to acurately reflect our demographic makeup, and that the process will be transparent. No smoke-filled rooms!

    Thanks for explaining all of this. I like the way it works.

    • NCrissieB

      The 2008 Republican National Convention was famously “pale, male, and stale” … with delegations comprised largely of older, white men. The 2012 GOP convention may not be much different.

      The Democratic National Convention of 2012, as it did in 2008, will reflect the diversity of our party and our nation. “We the People” means all of us … at least to Democrats.

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::

  • Gardener

    I don’t know Ms. Crissie….. We only disagree enough to keep it interesting, BUT it seems to me that if you are going to use “cringe-worthy” and “Florida Democrats” in the same sentence, you also ought to include, “butterfly ballot,” and/or “2000 Election.”

    As is current…..”Just sayin’.” ;-) ;-)

  • addisnana

    Thanks for the explanation, Crissie.

    Watching the GOP recounting Iowa and a couple of other states I can’t help but wonder if GOP primary voters and caucus goers aren’t going to think they got rolled. The perception of openness and transparency isn’t there. Contrast that with the Florida Democratic Party approach and the two parties look very different yet again.

    • NCrissieB

      Sometimes rules are complex because the situations they govern are inherently complex. Law is one such example. But when a situation is not inherently complex – like voting – complex rules are usually written because insiders want to game the system.

      Although Illinois Republican Party ballots seemed complex, their system was fairly transparent. Illinois Republicans voted for their presidential preference – a non-binding beauty contest – and also for named delegates who had pledged to support a specific candidate. Thus, 51 of Illinois’ 69 delegates were elected last night. The other 18 will probably be state GOP leaders and elected officials, but I don’t know how they’ll be nominated or selected.

      I like that, in Florida, even the party leader and elected official (PLEO) and at-large delegates will be elected. It won’t matter in the primary outcome this year, as President Obama will get all of Florida’s delegates because no other Democrat qualified to challenge him. But I hope we use the same process in 2016 to choose a nominee … after President Obama’s second term….

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::