The Democratic National Committee acted with "proper authority and jurisdiction" earlier this year when it stripped Michigan and Florida of all of their presidential convention delegates as punishment for scheduling their primaries before party rules allowed, a DNC staff analysis has concluded.
A 17-page memo outlining the findings was sent last night to the 30 members of the party's Rules and Bylaws Committee, who on Saturday will consider the two states' appeals of the sanctions. The finding repudiates at least one of the states' claims—that the committee overstepped its authority. And the report contains possible compromises that would seat only half the states' delegations. Hillary Clinton, in her last-ditch effort to remain a viable contender, has been fighting to have all of the states' delegates recognized.
In the analysis, staffers examined two compromise scenarios: One would allow the states to seat half of their delegates at the convention; the other would allow all delegates to be seated, but each would get a half vote. A statement released this afternoon by the DNC says the "staff analysis is intentionally neutral; it does not make specific recommendations. The analysis lays out a rules framework for each challenge, and the issues raised with each challenge."
But it is how those delegates could be divvied up between Clinton and Barack Obama that will have all eyes on the committee on Saturday.
Clinton and Obama pledged to boycott Michigan and Florida after the states were sanctioned for jumping the primary-season gun. Clinton won in Michigan, where her name appeared on the ballot but Obama's did not; and she also took Florida, where both candidates were on the ballot but neither campaigned. With no delegates at stake, those primaries were considered beauty contests.
But Clinton, though she endorsed the DNC sanctions at the time, now is agitating to have those delegates seated. Clinton has gone so far in recent days to liken the standoff to historic voting rights battles. Obama and his supporters don't want his primary success undermined by a committee decision that punishes him for accepting the DNC rules that existed at the time of the primaries.
In the memo to committee members, staffers, anticipating various efforts at compromise, delved into usually arcane delegate seating rules. In Michigan, for example, 40 percent of Democratic primary voters marked their ballots for "Uncommitted." What to do with those delegates? One consideration included in the staff analysis: Grant all of the Democrats who withdrew their names from the Michigan ballot, and that includes Obama, the right to pick delegates for the uncommitted slots.
"It is possible that these candidates," the analysis says, "could work out among themselves the mechanics of approving the persons to be considered for the 'Uncommitted' pledged delegate positions."
Florida is asking the committee to reinstate all of its superdelegates and has claimed that the committee did not have the authority to go beyond party rules that say states should automatically be stripped of half their delegates if they defy the party's primary schedule. The state wants 50 percent of its pledged delegation restored and allocated according to the state's January 29 primary results.
Committee members have said they expect to reach a compromise. But nobody is expecting everybody to be happy with the result.