They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it; for it is money they have and peace they lack.
  -James Earl Jones "Field of Dreams"
and don't go mistaking paradise for that home across the road
  -Bob Dylan "Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest"

Sunday, March 16, 2008

What can go wrong in the 're-do'? Only everything

By CARL HIAASEN (Miami Herald)

Ten most-asked questions about a possible re-do of the Florida Democratic Primary.

1. This whole thing is just a gag, right? Somebody's lame idea of a joke?

If only it were.

Acting with unfathomable haste and stupidity, the National Democratic Party stripped Florida of its convention delegates when the state decided to move up the date of its presidential primary.

About 1.7 million loyal Democrats showed up on Jan. 29 and voted anyway, though they were basically tinkling into the wind.

As fate would have it, the race between Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama is now so tight that Florida's delegates could be crucial in deciding the nominee. That's why some party leaders wanted to ''re-do'' the primary by mail, a long-shot idea that terrifies supporters of both candidates.

2. Does anyone in their right mind believe that Florida could conduct postal balloting without a major screw-up or scandal?

Heavens, no! The whole country is keenly aware that our state is a sump hole of incompetence and corruption.

Submitting fraudulent hand-written ballots has always been a favored method of rigging elections here, and there's no reason to think the tradition wouldn't continue.

3. Why not just seat Florida's 211 delegates based on the results of the Jan. 29 vote?

That would be a windfall for Clinton, who easily won the balloting here that day. However, Democratic voters had been told far in advance that the primary wouldn't mean anything, and there's no telling how many didn't bother to go to the polls.

Lots of Obama supporters would be seriously ticked off to hear that January's so-called straw vote was now going to stand as the real deal. It's like Major League Baseball waiting until midseason and then declaring that spring training games will count in the final standings.

4. So why doesn't the party schedule a second presidential primary in which Florida Democrats go back to their polling places and re-vote?

Holding a full, nonpretend primary would be expensive and, inevitably, chaotic.

In almost every election since the 2000 fiasco that sank Al Gore, one or more Florida counties have experienced serious problems with new voting machines. Due to the high risk of either equipment malfunction or citizen malfunction, these tricky devices should be avoided whenever possible.

Hence, the controversial push for a secret vote-by-mail.

5. Exactly how would that work?

Ballots would be sent to all registered Democrats about three weeks before the June 3 deadline.

(If you've moved since registering to vote, a note would be mailed to the forwarding address asking you to go update your information so that you may obtain a new primary ballot. This wouldn't be the least bit inconvenient or time-consuming, unless you happened to have a day job).

Under one proposal, the state Democratic Party would pay elections officials 10 cents per name to validate the signatures on completed ballots. Presumably the price would be higher if the signature belonged to a dead person or a fugitive.

6. Isn't there any sort of plan to protect against fraud and ballot-stuffing?

One suggestion was to appoint a supervisory panel of ''respected and knowledgeable leaders.'' In Florida such a committee would fit easily inside a phone booth.

7. If a new primary is held, how can I be sure my primary vote would count?

Pack up and move to Pennsylvania, fast.

Just kidding! By now, most Floridians know the election-day drill: For every ballot that doesn't get counted, another ballot will accidentally be counted twice.

So it pretty much evens out.

8. After what happened here in 2000, why would the Democratic leadership jeopardize its chances to win back the White House by putting Florida in such a pivotal position?

That would be a good question for Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democratic Party. Another good question for Dean is: When are you going to stop acting like an addled hamster and do something smart?

9. If another primary were approved, is it true that the Democratic candidates would be allowed to campaign and advertise throughout Florida?

Tragically, yes. After months of peace and quiet, the Sunshine State finally would be invaded full-bore by the Obama and Clinton forces.

Remember back when Rudy Giuliani was the only one hanging around? Heck, we hardly knew he was here.

Those were the days . . .

10. What's the worst that can happen if Florida insists on holding a new Democratic primary?

You mean, besides paralyzing the nomination process, turning the presidential campaign into a legal mud bath and embarrassing ourselves again before the whole nation?

Not a thing!


Hiaasen discusses Florida politics on the Colbert Report

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