Michigan/Florida Myths, Mistakes and Misinformation

I wanted to set a few things straight prior to the May 31 RBC meeting. There has been a lot of bad memes and misinformation floating around regarding all that has happened and I thought I should clear up a few of the larger ones.

     Obama could not remove himself from the Florida ballot

The Huffington Post

According to Ballenger, the senator could not have done the same thing in Florida -- the other state whose primary was unofficial -- as there was no state law there that allowed a candidate to remove his or her name.

This excuse more often appears as the urban myth that he couldn't remove his name because he wouldn't be able to be on the general election ballot. Both are wrong. A candidate only signed the affidavit after the list made it to the Department of State. So here's how it works:

October 9, 2007

Some of the candidates removed their name from the Michigan ballot.

October 26-28, 2007

FDP has state convention. At the end of the convention the ballot list is voted upon. Any candidate could have contacted the FDP prior to this to ask to be removed from consideration. The state is NOT involved at this point.

October 31, 2007

The list of candidates from each party is due to be turned into the Secretary of State.

November 6, 2007

The Presidential Candidate Selection Committee meets. Any candidate can be added or deleted via a unanimous vote by those members of the same political party. For a Dem that would be the FDP chairperson, the minority state Senate leader and the minority state House leader. Any candidate could have contacted the Secretary of State or a member of the committee prior to this date to ask to be removed. No affidavit would have been required.

From the statutes

Each person designated as a presidential candidate shall have his or her name appear, or have his or her delegates' names appear, on the presidential preference primary ballot unless all committee members of the same political party as the candidate agree to delete such candidate's name from the ballot.

November 7, 2007

The PCSC turns over the list to the Department of State. The Department of State notifies by mail each candidate. Only at this point, the affidavit would come into play.

So the candidates had a month and 2 separate ways to remove their names from the Florida ballot.


Florida Statutes regarding Presidential Preference Primary

2008 Federal Qualifying Handbook from Florida's Division of Elections

     Clinton only candidate on Michigan ballot.

     Candidates asked to remove names from the ballot.

California Progress Report

There's the fact that Hillary Clinton's name and the uncommitted slate was the only thing that was on the ballot in Michigan because the Democratic National Committee asked the other candidates to withdraw their names from the ballot. So, here you have the institution itself asking people to pull their names off the ballot.
[Fellow panel member says: "Not the other ones; they asked all of them.]

All of them, yes. That's what--I don't know what I just said-But, OK, that's what I thought I said.

This covers two mistakes. First of all, Clinton was not the only candidate on the ballot.

Michigan ballot:

Hillary Clinton

Chris Dodd

Mike Gravel

Dennis Kucinich


Secondly, the DNC did not ask any of the candidates to withdraw their names. Nor did the writers of the 4 state pledge. Which is why its important to note the first item in my list - they could have withdrawn from the Florida ballot but didn't even try.

     Millions of people didn't vote

This report - A Problem with Seating the Florida and Michigan Delegates Based on Existing Primary Results - was quoted far and wide in the blogosphere. The authors claim:

Democratic voters should have numbered 2.85 million and 1.305 million in Florida and Michigan, respectively. Given actual numbers of 1.7 million and 590,000, an estimated 1.15 million Floridians and 715,000 Michiganders stayed home on primary day, who otherwise would have voted had they behaved like voters in other states.

I wrote a diary at MyDD debunking this. I won't repeat it all here but I'll quote this:

Let's look at that with the other closed primary states.
Average Dem Turnout 40.74%

Median Dem Turnout 41.75%

Actual Florida Dem Turnout 42.30%

Projected Florida Dem Turnout based on Repub Turnout 68.89%

No closed primary state came close to the turnout these authors decided Florida should have had.  


I may add a few more to this diary later today, but I wanted to post it as soon as possible since the RBC meeting is Saturday.

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    I have a related question. (none / 0) (#1)
    by MarkL on Fri May 30, 2008 at 03:23:18 PM EST
    In reference to MI, I believe someone was saying that Obama's campaign didn't put his name on the ballot in the beginning---local people did.
    Sorry I can't remember where I read this.
    I was thinking that it is probably not unusual for this to happen. The writer was "exonerating" Obama for registering in MI, which he "shouldn't" have done.

    I don't see how it matters (none / 0) (#2)
    by Step Beyond on Fri May 30, 2008 at 04:36:29 PM EST
    I don't know how common it is, but in Florida the candidates did not have to do anything to get onto the ballot either. Of course, they didn't do anything to try to get off the Florida ballot either.

    The first link in my diary from the Huffington Post makes that claim - that Obama didn't put himself on the ballot.

    But there is another facet to the story that -- while it doesn't change the basic facts -- adds a ripple to the debate surrounding who is to blame for Michigan's quandary.

    Obama never actually put his name on the ballot.
    Clinton, for instance, has argued that, "There was no rule or requirement that he take his name off the ballot." This statement, while true, glosses over the path that led Obama to ultimately remove his name.

    But does it really matter? No one told the candidates they couldn't be on the ballot. A fact the author admits. Obama voluntarily, without anyone asking him to, did not appear on the ballot. Would it matter if this failure to be on the ballot was from declining to submit paperwork to be added or from submitting paperwork to be removed? Both paths would have lead to the same conclusion - a candidate deciding on his own to remove himself from a ballot.


    Yes, that's where I read it. (none / 0) (#3)
    by MarkL on Fri May 30, 2008 at 06:14:45 PM EST
    I didn't think it mattered, but I also thought it was probably typical practice.

    Thanks for the diary (none / 0) (#4)
    by Radiowalla on Fri May 30, 2008 at 10:58:53 PM EST
    and the needed perspective.

    I have to admit that the arcana of the Democratic primary has my eyes rolling around in their sockets.  It's all too much for someone who isn't a lawyer.

    I will say, and I've said this before a million times, that the Democratic Party must urgently reform this fractured, nonsensical primary system.

    I hope they listen (none / 0) (#5)
    by Step Beyond on Sat May 31, 2008 at 10:25:07 PM EST
    and work on fixing the primary system. I'm not holding my breath though.

    Exactly! (none / 0) (#6)
    by ding7777 on Sun Jun 01, 2008 at 09:05:54 AM EST
    From the day Obama took his name off the MI ballot, Obama had over 3 weeks to notify the FL Democratic Executive committee to un-considered his name for the FL ballot without penalty.

    I notice you don't attempt to refute... (none / 0) (#7)
    by Don in Seattle on Thu Jun 05, 2008 at 10:21:55 PM EST
    the claim that turnout in the Michigan Democratic primary was much, much lower than it should have been -- than in a "real" primary it would have been.

    I think that shows admirable inellectual honesty on your part.

    But (none / 0) (#8)
    by Step Beyond on Sat Jun 07, 2008 at 10:55:35 PM EST
    Obviously, at least to me, if the writers of that "study" were wrong on Florida than I give no credence to their conclusions for Michigan either.

    But I didn't address Michigan because it was a different system than Florida (I'm a Floridian). It would have required another set of data from open primary states. Plus the voluntary name removal of Obama and Edwards may have had an impact. Of course that didn't make their primary not "real."