Dems, seeking unity, give full votes to Michigan, Florida

McClatchy NewspapersAugust 24, 2008 

DENVER — The Democratic Party on Sunday ended a year-long rancorous debate about how to punish the Florida and Michigan state parties for holding primaries too early by agreeing that delegates from those states would have full voting privileges at the party's national convention, which begins here Monday.

The step won't make any difference in the outcome, even though most of the delegates' involved are pledged to Hillary Clinton; Barack Obama already has enough delegates to win the nomination.

But Democrats said the decision was important to party unity and closes the door on a bitter year-long dispute that divided the party.

"Thank you for bringing the sunshine back ... for Florida,'' said Scott Maddox, a former Florida Democratic Party chairman and credentials committee member.

"Full inclusion of all our state delegations is of paramount importance,'' said Susan Carroll, a conventions committee member from Arkansas.

The national party stripped Florida and Michigan of their delegates to the convention last summer. In late May, when Obama was on the verge of claiming the nomination, the DNC relented and agreed at a sharply contentious meeting to allow delegations to go to the convention — but with only half a vote. They also awarded some of Michigan's delegates to Obama, even though he wasn't on the ballot.

Unlike the May meeting, when Clinton's supporters vociferously opposed the actions and vowed to protest at Denver, the morning meeting in a cavernous hall in the Colorado Convention Center was largely a staid affair.

"I've seen the struggle and I want to see it through till the very end,'' said Rick Perry, a 54-year-old lawyer and delegate from Ocala, one of a smattering of Florida Democrats in the audience. "I just think it's historic.''

Florida Republicans — who delighted in poking fun at their rivals' outsider status — also lost half their delegation. They still plan to send the full slate of delegates next week to the Republican convention in Minneapolis in the belief they all will be seated.

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