Judge: DNC has right to penalize Florida
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12/05/07 Mitch E. Perry
WMNF Drive-Time News Wednesday | Listen to this entire show:

A federal judge ruled today that the Democratic National Committee can penalize Florida Democrats by stripping the state of its convention delegates because it is holding an early presidential primary.

District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled in favor of the DNC in a lawsuit brought by Florida congressmen Bill Nelson and Alycee Hastings. Nelson and Hastings arguing that state Democrats were being illegally penalized scheduling a primary earlier than national rules allow.

But Hinkle said the political parties have a First Amendment right to set and enforce their own rules. The national party did that, which means that Florida will not have a say in picking the Democratic nominee.

Nelson spoke to reporters after the judge threw out his case.

Recent polls have indicated that this story resonates with voters. A Quinnipiac Poll taken last month showed more than 20 percent of those surveyed said they were thinking of not voting for a Democrat next November because of the fracas.

But others don’t think that’s the case. Aubrey Jewett, a professor of political science at the University of Central Florida, doesn’t see any negative fallout over the primary. But Jewett does think it will hurt next November.

In addition to the state losing its delegates, Florida Democrats has suffered in another way. All of the candidates have honored a pledge to Howard Dean in Washington not to campaign in Florida, though they can come down to raise money.

Sen. Bill Nelson, says that after South Carolina votes in late January, the Democrats will have three days to to campaign in Florida.

Nelson’s lawsuit is the second such case that has been rejected by a judge. Recently, Tampa political consultant Vic DiMaio had his case thrown out. A third case has been filed by Florida DNC member Jon Ausman, who is arguing that the state should go back to its old primary date in March while suing to ensure that the DNC recognizes Florida’s delegates.

DNC spokeswoman Karen Finney said the following in a statement released after the ruling: “We're pleased the court ruled in our favor, recognizing the constitutionally protected right of the Democratic National Committee to enforce its rules and treat all state Democratic parties in a fair and equal way…The DNC is committed to protecting the right to vote for every American, and we look forward to continuing to work together to ensure that Florida turns blue in 2008."

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