Hillsborough Latino group files federal suit to get Florida's RNC delegates back

01/31/12 Janelle Irwin
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The Hillsborough Hispanic Coalition is challenging the loss of 50 delegates at the Republican National Convention in August. Florida is supposed to have 100, but had that number slashed for holding its presidential preference primary early. Attorney Michael Steinberg has filed the case in Federal court because states the two major parties allow to have primaries or caucuses early don’t represent the Latino population and he says that is discriminatory.

“We’re asking the court to reinstate Florida’s full delegation of 100 delegates and if they won’t do that, we’re asking the court to order the Republican National Committee in the 2016 primary election, to schedule their primaries in a way that Hispanic’s representation, proportionate representation, in the earlier states, mirrors or closely mirrors the percentage of Hispanics nationally.”

Steinberg says Latino voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada consist of only 3 percent of those registered. He added the national average is more than 9 percent and Florida is even higher than that. Steinberg chose the week of Florida’s primary to file the lawsuit because of its growing Latino population.

“There’s more Hispanic voters in Florida than there are in the other four states combined by a great margin. So, by doing it today and the fact that there’s a primary election in Florida today, demonstrates how important the Hispanic vote is nationally.”

A similar lawsuit was filed by Steinberg in 2008 against the Democratic National Committee after Florida lost all of its delegates for fast tracking its primary. Current co-chair of the Hispanic Coalition, Victor DiMaio, was the complainant in that case. He said Hillary Clinton could have won the Democratic nomination instead of Barack Obama if Florida had not lost those delegates.

“It’s not right that the Democrats took away 100% of our delegates and it’s not right that Republicans have to suffer the loss of 50% or 50 delegates out of 100 that they deserve. It makes Florida the size of a much smaller state. So, we’re fighting for the rights of all citizens, all voters, regardless of your party affiliation.”

Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum have each won a state so far, but Florida’s 50 delegates could potentially seal the deal for front-runner Romney. If Florida had scheduled its primary according to law it would have been on the second Tuesday in March. But the Republicans may already have a presumptive nominee by that point. Steinberg wants a court to make sure Latino voters are either represented by Florida’s full delegation or by a rehashed primary order.

“We don’t have a problem with them saying six states go first, another six states go second, another six states go third and if you violate the schedule, you lose delegates. We have a problem with them saying, Iowa, New Hampshire, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana you go first because you don’t have a lot of Hispanics and Blacks in your electorate and all the other states have to go after you so that we already know who the nominee is going to be after the first six primaries. That’s the problem we have.”

Steinberg expects the case to appear before a judge in about 6 weeks. From there he said a decision could be made as early as June, but it is possible there won’t be a ruling until after the Republican National Convention in August. If a favorable ruling occurs after the RNC in Tampa it would change the presidential preference primary process for the 2016 election cycle.

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