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Obama: Seat Michigan, Florida Delegates: Don’t Penalize Voters, He Now Urges

August 4, 2008

By Kathleen Gray and Todd Spangler, Detroit Free Press

Aug. 4–Like Hillary Clinton before him, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is now supporting full voting rights for Michigan’s 157-member delegation to this month’s national nominating convention in Denver.

It was two months ago when Democrats agreed to give the members of Florida and Michigan’s delegations a half-vote each. Obama’s supporters agreed to go along, though Clinton’s were howling — especially when they split Michigan’s tally from the Jan. 15 primary 69 for Clinton and 59 for Obama, even though his name wasn’t on the ballot.

“As these delegates go about the important business of the Convention, I believe Party unity calls for the delegates from Florida and Michigan to be able to participate fully alongside the delegates from the other states and territories,” Obama wrote in a letter to the chairmen of the party’s credential committee.

His plea came a day before an expected stop in Lansing today to talk about energy.

He urged the committee to pass a resolution when it meets Aug. 24, the day before the convention begins, to give the delegates from the two states full voting rights.

The Democratic National Committee’s rules committee voted last year to strip both states of all their delegates because they held primary elections before Feb. 5, in violation of party rules. In a contentious meeting in late May, the DNC voted to seat both delegations, but with only half a vote each.

U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Democratic activist Debbie Dingell, who pushed the early primary as a way to break the hold Iowa and New Hampshire have on the first contests in the nation, said Sunday that Obama’s actions will help to unify the Democratic Party.

“This underscores the need for a fairer and more sensible process for selecting presidential nominees,” the two said in a statement Sunday. “We have always been confident that Michigan would have a full delegation and a full vote.”

Members of the credentials committee released a statement Sunday, saying the matter will be a top priority for the committee on Aug. 24.

The move isn’t surprising, given Michigan’s role as a key battleground state in November. Neither Obama nor Republican candidate John McCain wants to alienate voters in the two states. The Republican National Committee also punished Michigan and Florida by stripping half the states’ delegations to the convention.

McCain, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, has said he’d like to see both delegations fully seated at the Republican National Convention, which begins Sept. 1 in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Contact KATHLEEN GRAY at 313-223-4407 or kgray99@freepress.com.

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