It's April Fool's Day but Florida voters were fooled back in 2007 when Gov. Charlie Crist signed into law legislation banning electronic voting machines. The bill passed unanimously in the House and drew just two nay votes in the Senate.
Voting rights advocates (including the writer) cheered that Florida was ending its experiment with unreliable paperless voting machines. But we did not know that buried in the legislative boilerplate was a provision that would disenfranchise millions of voters:
Each political party other than a minor political party shall, on the last
secondTuesday in January Marchin each year the number of which is a multiple of 4, elect one person to be the candidate for nomination of such party for President of the United States or select delegates to the national nominating convention, as provided by party rule.
In plain English, the presidential primary was moved from March 11 to Jan. 29. And the rest is history.
Investigator reporter Wayne Barrett writes:
The Republicans don't just control both houses of the Florida legislature. Their combined 103-to-57 majority allowed them to dictate the terms of the bill that moved the primary to January 29. It is true that all but one of the state's Democratic legislators supported the bill. But a closer look reveals that vote to be more an indication of a realistic and productive compromise with the ruling Republicans than any intent to breach Democratic rules.
Florida's leading news outlets, just like Michigan's, converted an early primary into a matter of state patriotism, and that point of view, coupled with the mathematical inability to even slow the Republican push, forced Democrats to roll over.
Barrett reports that Democrats did try to adhere to national party rules:
Martin Kiar and Mary Brandenburg, House Democrats who were cosponsors of the bill, tried to amend it. "We offered an amendment on the floor shifting the date to one within the Democratic Party rules," said Brandenburg. "The Democrats all voted for it, and Republicans all voted against it." Actually, the Kiar/Brandenburg proposal did not completely comply with DNC directives, but it was a signal of the concerns Florida Dems had about the move-up legislation. Said Kiar: "No matter what, whether we supported it or cosponsored it, the Republican majority was going to push it through."
Barrett’s piece is headlined “Could the Republicans pick the Democratic nominee?” Yes, they could. The question is: Should Democrats let them?