Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Judge rules Michigan's primary law unconstitutional

WE'VE MOVED! Democratic Convention Watch is now at

This is yet another hit for any chance of Michigan's January primary results counting

A federal judge on Wednesday ruled Michigan's presidential primary law unconstitutional and blocked the state from giving voter lists from the Jan. 15 election to the state's major political parties.

U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds in Detroit ruled that the law's provision giving the list of voters' partisan preference only to the Democratic and Republican parties violated the rights of several small parties, who argued that the information should be distributed to all who wanted it or to no one.


But the ruling likely further damages the already small hope that the Democratic Party would honor the Jan. 15 results. It is unlikely that national Democratic officials would relent in their opposition to seating delegates based on a disputed vote that has now been declared flawed under the constitution. - Detroit News

You can see what the outcome would be of several MI and FL scenarios in our FL and MI By The Numbers page

Update: Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic has posted a PDF of the ruling
Ambinder's take on the ruling:

I see this is as a small political victory for Clinton and a larger one for Obama; the ruling today means nothing more than a chance for her to make the case again for a re-vote, as campaign manager Maggie Williams does in an e-mail to reporters:

"In the wake of today's court ruling regarding Michigan’s January 15th primary, we urge Senator Obama to join our call for a party-run primary and demonstrate his commitment to counting Michigan's votes."

An Obama aide said the ruling speaks for itself. They avoided the worst: where the Clinton campaign had hoped that the judge would order a revote as the remedy, she simply ordered the state party to share its lists. Since the legislature is no longer in session, the notion of a re-vote is moot at this point, anyway.
David Plouffe, Barack Obama's campaign chairman, weighed in on the MI ruling in a statement released by the campaign ... “As we’ve said consistently, we think there should be a fair seating of the Michigan delegates. The Clinton campaign has stubbornly said they see no need to negotiate, but we believe that their Washington, my-way-or-the-highway approach is something voters are tired of." - The Page


Jon W. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jon W. said...

Take cover, ye fellow demconwatch commenters! Yamaka's about to charge into this thread and there will be no survivors!

Also, to derail this back: may want to adjust the By The Numbers page for Lipinski's endorsement. ;)

DocJess said...

John -- I'm with you....

But to all (Scott, if you're out there, maybe you know this....) did the court invalid all of the primary law, or only the provision relating to dispensation of the voter lists?

That is, it doesn't seem clear to me (but maybe I'm missing something) that they invalidated the WHOLE law. If they did, wouldn't the state be obligated to run a legal primary?

Not trying to be difficult, I want to understand.

portia said...

check dry_fish comment

Yousri said...

John W. said...

"Also, to derail this back: may want to adjust the By The Numbers page for Lipinski's endorsement. ;)"

FL & MI By The Numbers has been updated.

phrigndumass said...

With Michigan's seating being ruled unconstitutional, your table that includes Florida and Michigan delegates is now defunct. Maybe update it to include Florida delegation only?


Matt said...

Sven - The convention can seat the Michigan delegates as is regardless of this decision. (I'm not saying they will, just that they can). The Credentials Committee and the Convention are the sole determinees of what delegates get seated. Until some other decision is reached, we'll continue to show this option - it provides informational value if nothing else.

Dink Singer said...

docjess asked "did the court invalid all of the primary law, or only the provision relating to dispensation of the voter lists?"

The court declared unconstitutional only the section of the law dealing with the party preference of the voters and specifically enjoined the distribution of the lists to the party chairs. Since the lists already exist, but were unlawfully collected, it is not clear what should happen to them now.

The court also noted that the act amending the Michigan statute contains a nonseverability clause stating if any portion is found invalid the whole amending act is "without effect". The court did not address this and further action would be required in the Michigan courts, but it would seem to restore the Michigan primary to its original date.

The court also noted in passing that the Michigan statute was inconsistent with the Democratic Delegation selection rules which require that "Democratic voters shall be those persons who publicly declare their Party
preference and have that preference publicly recorded." The statute required that declaration of party preference remain confidential.