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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
More Coverage of the Democratic Rules Committee Meeting
Aired May 31, 2008 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SEN. BILL NELSON, (D) FLORIDA: We are all here to give voice to the people of Florida.
Now, in the midst of all of this, like all Americans, Floridians are mainly concerned about the war in Iraq, the sagging economy, the shocking rise in gas prices, the home foreclosure disaster and the soaring cost of health care. But I must emphasize that Floridians are also concerned about having their vote count and to have it count as they intended it. And that's the issue in front of the committee today.
To address this issue, the committee, in my humble opinion has to answer two questions. First, do you count the votes from Florida's January 29 primary? And my position on that is clear. We must uphold a sacred principle, and that's the principle of one person, one vote and honor the January election results. And the second question, before the committee, is how do you apportion the delegates based on that vote? And that decision, of course, is within the purview of this committee.
My preferred solution has been and still is that this panel seat the entire Florida delegation in accordance with the votes cast in January. At a minimum -- at a minimum, the Florida Democratic Party asks that this committee consider reinstating the maximum number of delegates Florida is eligible for under the rules. Democratic voters in Florida, like their Republican neighbors and friends, turned out in droves for the primary to exercise their civic duty and cast ballots in the most exciting presidential primary in recent history. Almost 2 million Florida Democrats voted. These voters violated no rule. They committed no crime. They did not move the election date forward.
The Republican legislature did. Yet they are the ones who would be unfairly punished and in my humble opinion, they do not deserve punishment. They deserve to be heard.
Now, I may not tell this committee that in Florida we're pretty sensitive about having our votes taken away. Our votes were disenfranchised during the 2000 recount and I see many of you nodding your heads, because we all went through this. Disenfranchised by what many believe were divisive and disruptive acts of the Republican Party aimed at preventing votes from being counted.
And in the weeks leading up to this year's primary, the 24-hour news cycle, the local and national media, repeatedly kept telling Florida Democrats that their votes would not count. Still they were determined to send a message. We will be heard. And as the election neared, and early turnout numbers rolled in, it became clear that something extraordinary was happening -- 20,000 Florida Democrats voted on the first day of the early voting.
By the end of the first week, over 100,000 had voted. And by the time you got to Election Day, 300,000 Florida Democrats had already voted, and then when the polls came in and closed on that Tuesday night, Democrats had voted in record numbers. The votes were tallied in an election pursuant to state law by the 67 supervisors of election, and that vote was certified by the secretary of state. And there is passion behind these high turnout numbers. And it's a deep desire for change in this country. A vast majority of Democrats said that they went to the polls in Florida despite what they had been told over and over that their votes didn't count. They said they went to the polls not because of anything else on the ballot, but they wanted to cast their vote for a presidential nominee. And without all of the national campaigns turning out the Democratic vote, there was a Democratic silence in our state which is a state that's so accustomed to high profile, high intensity campaigning. But members of this committee, the people in Florida took it to the streets.
Now, I want to give you some examples. Megan Foster, a mother of five from Tampa, frustrated by the incompetence and failures of the Bush administration organized her own campaign. She rallied friends and family to get out the vote for her candidate. Her energy and enthusiasm was infectious and helped inspire many others to become politically involved and help get out people to vote all over the state. And then Megan was elected a delegate. Give you another example. How about Mary Mooney? She's from north Florida. Mary was what you call a disillusioned and disaffected Democrat. She was disillusioned after America lost President Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and Dr. King in the '60s, and Mary gave up being an activist --
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: That's Senator Bill Nelson in Florida makes his case, why the delegates from Florida should be seated, the superdelegates as well as the pledged delegates. We'll break away momentarily. John Roberts is here at out so-called magic wall looking at some various scenarios that could unfold and the ramifications could be significant. John?
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: As you heard David Osman saying, there are so many different scenarios that could unfold that we don't know which one the DNC is going to decide on today. Let's look at -- this is where we are right now, without including Florida and Michigan. 2,026 delegates needed to win the Democratic nomination. Hillary Clinton's got 1,782. Barack Obama has 1,984. Under the scenario that they're talking about currently for Michigan and Florida, if it were to apply to both states, it would half the number of delegates who are left in those two states and keep the number of superdelegates that are currently available. So you'd have 246 superdelegates left in the contests, 242 remaining delegates in the contest.
BLITZER: So it would move the goal post out further?
ROBERTS: It would move the goal post a little bit further to 2,131. You've heard the number 2210 banded around. Under the scenario, the finish line would be at 2,131.
BLITZER: Right now Barack Obama is only 40 or 45 delegates away from clinching the nomination. This would extend the process?
ROBERTS: He's currently 42 away. This would move the goal post a little further out. So if they got that scenario, if Hillary Clinton got that scenario where they included all of these delegates, the superdelegates and had the number of pledged delegates who were available, here's the argument that she would make. Let's take a look at the election map here. This is what we've seen so far on the county level. Let's put in the results here. You can see in this area, this the argument that she'll make. Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, the light blue all counties that Hillary Clinton won. The dark blue, little spots where Barack Obama won. Now why is that important? Let's switch back to the '04 election, all right. George Bush against John Kerry, it's almost all red in those rural areas. Hillary Clinton is going to argue I can win those rural areas. I can win in those white working class blue collar counties that are so important to winning the general election. The same thing with the state of Florida. Take a look here. It's almost all light blue. She is the light blue. Particularly significant when you look at the state map here, in this area, this is called the I-4 corridor. That's the big battleground for Florida. She won all of that area. And if you transpose the results from the '04 election, John McCain won that entire area. George Bush, I'm sorry, won the I-4 corridor. So let's bring it back to the level of Hillary --
BLITZER: This argument is, nobody campaigned in Florida. She was better known going into the process as a result, he didn't do as well in Florida as he could have done if he actually would have shown up and made his case.
ROBERTS: You're not going to hear the Clinton campaign making that argument. You're going to hear them making the argument that she can win in the state of Florida, she can win other states like perhaps Ohio and she'll be able to win in Pennsylvania as well. She'll make that argument to the superdelegates. So if we allocate the results from Florida and Michigan under the half scenario, that's a little too much. We'll take away just a couple of those if we could. She'll get a number of those delegates and we'll bring her to about here, and, therefore, then there's some delegates left for the remaining contest. But she's going to try to get the bulk of these superdelegates, and if she can get them and maybe even steal a few superdelegates away, from Barack Obama, she gets across the line. So that's the argument she's trying to make -- the math is still very, very, very difficult for her, but she's making the argument, if they can get the greater number of delegates out there, she has a better chance of being able to make it across the finish line. But again, the math is still very --
BLITZER: All right, you're not going anywhere, so stick around. I wan to get back to that hearing. The question and answer session is beginning for Senator Nelson. Let's listen in.
JANICE GRIFFIN, MD., OBAMA SUPERDELEGATE: I do have one question, though. You said that the voters were told over and over and over again that their votes would not count. Now, we know that not all voters are created equal, and we know that the less polled, the less savvy, the less informed may have been influenced by being told over and over again that their votes wouldn't count. Have you guys in Florida thought about what we say to those voters what you would say to those voters and how we make that piece of it right?
NELSON: Ms. Griffin, I don't agree with your argument. I would, perhaps, agree with your argument if we had had a poor turnout. But what we had was almost 2 million voters, which was far beyond twice whatever had turned out in Florida before. What I have been trying to pour my heart out to all of you on behalf of Florida that could well be critical later on this year. What I've been trying to pour my heart out is to tell you how enthusiastic and charged up these people are, and that's why they want to be involved in the process. They don't want to be pushed aside. You've got it in your hands, Ms. Griffin, as a member of this rules committee to change that today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: David McDonald, the next question?
DAVID MCDONALD, WASH., UNDECLARED SUPERDELEGATE: Thank you, Mr. Chair. And thank you for coming, senator. I have a couple of factual questions. Mr. Ausman's materials that he submitted to us, he submitted a number of additional e-mails, and in those e-mails there were many, many e-mails, when I read them which said that over and over and over again Democratic elected officials in the state of Florida voted in favor of this legislation to move the primary. Is that a correct statement?
NELSON: No, sir. That is not.
MCDONALD: They never -- no Democratic official ever voted in favor of this, is that correct?
NELSON: I was not going to rehash this in the interests of party unity, but now that you've asked the question, and it seems to be an adversarial question, Mr. McDonald --
MCDONALD: The first question wasn't, the second question was adversarial, yes.
NELSON: All right, then I'm going to answer it for you.
MCDONALD: Go ahead, sir.
NELSON: The Florida legislature is controlled by the Republican Party over a 2 to 1 margin. The Florida governor is a Republican. They proposed in a bill that was like a motherhood bill, because it was a bill to reform election machines to have a paper trail, which we have had a problem with in the state of Florida. The Republican leadership in consultation with the Republican governor inserted January 29th. Now, I know you all have seen some movie about Democrats joking about it and you will point to the fact that there was a state senator that had filed January 29th, but when this election reform bill, which was a paper trail on electronic machines, got to the floor of both houses of the floor of the legislature, and had within it inserted moving the Florida primary from statutory old primary in March to January 29th, the Democratic leaders of both the house and the senate offered an amendment to comply with the DNC rules to put it back to February the 5th. Those amendments in both the house and the senate were defeated. The bill, of course, went to pass almost unanimously, because the prime issue there was election reform of electronic machines. It was then signed into law by the governor. Now it is the law of Florida. It is what it is. The elections apparatus of the government of the state of Florida conducted the election, and that election was certified. You have it in your power to determine as the rules committee how many delegates there are from Florida. But you certainly as a committee have to recognize a certified legal election having been conducted in the state of Florida.
MCDONALD: If I may and I do not want to be adversarial. I do not intend this to be adversarial and my first question was not intended to be I simply wanted to establish a fact. So let me see if I understand what you're essentially saying. The answer is, yes, people voted for it but there was an explanation for why they voted for it. And then as I understand the subsequent events, once that primary was called into law, the Democrats in the state of Florida, at least for a period of time, chose to use it, rather than use an alternative process. They did not continue to try too find a way to use another process, but, and this is an important question for some later discussions. So let me get to the third one. At some point in time, March, or whenever it was, people in Florida, Democrats in Florida, really seriously tried to get a compliant process inside the window, but circumstances just kept it from happening at that point. It's kind of a three-part question. The facts are, there was an explanation for voting for it, people made a choice to use it and then tried to actually do a different thing, but just couldn't get it accomplished for reasons that they couldn't control. And the end result of that was that voters got deprived of an opportunity to vote inside their window. Is that essentially the situation?
NELSON: No sir.
NELSON: And I came here, madam chairman and Mr. Chairman, I came here in the spirit of unity trying to bring us together. Mr. McDonald has asked a question and I did not intend to rehash the past events. I wanted us to look forward and all join together, and focus on November the 4th, but since he's asked the question, let me answer the question. If you will recall, as you stated in your opening comments that you had offered $880,000 to run a primary. Understand that Florida -- correction. To run a caucus. Understand that Florida has never had a history of a caucus. Understand that $880,000 in a state as large as ours with over 10 million registered voters would have not given the participation to people to feel that they were represented. Now, yours truly was involved ever since day one way back to last summer as I have discussed it directly with you, madam secretary, and you, Mr. Chairman, with regard to how we could reach a compromise. And then as it turned out later on after the primary we made a serious attempt at trying to have, since it was too late to have another primary election, conducted by the government of the state of Florida, since the voting machines in the 15th largest counties representing half the voting population had already been returned in order to get ready for the new voting machines that were coming in. So we couldn't conduct another election, like Florida's accustomed to. We proposed a mail-in ballot like the state of Oregon does. We felt like we could raise the money in order to do that. And yet there was too much disagreement, too much uncertainty over how this mail-in ballot would be calculated, tabulated and so forth and we couldn't get all the parties to agree. So we tried, Mr. McDonald, over and over and over.
MCDONALD: And my intent -- my intent in asking the question was to commend you for the effort mentioned. I commend you for the efforts that was my intent in asking the question. Thank you.
NELSON: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And let me just say, we have time for two more questions. I think it is important while we are all trying to be in a spirit of unity, it is important to get answers to the questions that may come up in the discussion this afternoon. So I appreciate your willingness to do that, senator.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Carol, it's your follow.
CAROL KHARE FOWLER, S.C. OBAMA SUPERDELEGATE: Thank you senator for being here, bringing us back to today's proceedings from last year's proceedings I just want to be clear before we deliberate, do you and you on behalf of the Florida Democratic party support the Ausman challenge?
NELSON: Yes I do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the final question is from Alice Huffman.
ALICE HUFFMAN: Mr. Chairman, I believe the senator answered my question. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Thank you senator very much for being with us today.
NELSON: Thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Appreciate it.
BLITZER: All right. Senator Bill Nelson representing the Florida Democratic Party, making his case why those delegates should be seated, and moving forward with the next witness who will be the Hillary Clinton supporter from the state of Florida. She will be followed by the Barack Obama supporter. We'll take a quick break. Remember, cnnpolitics.com is where you can see live coverage of this as well and get much more information. Our continuing coverage will resume right after this.
BLITZER: All right, Joyner, a state senator in Florida speaking on behalf of the Clinton campaign making the case for Senator Clinton's position. She is giving a little background on her own personal background right now. Let's go to Campbell Brown as we get through this process, Campbell I know you have the best political team on television there to assess what we've learned so far and where this decision day is going from here. CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: That's right, Wolf. Let me re-introduce everybody since we have a new addition to the panel as well. We've got Suzanne Malveaux, CNN correspondent with us, along with Jeff Toobin, our CNN analyst. Ron Kirk, who's the former Dallas Mayor is with us, an Obama supporter. And joining us now is Robert Zimmerman, who's Democratic strategist and supporting Hillary Clinton. Robert, let me get your take on what's been happening. We've been hearing primarily the folks in Florida making their case. One of the themes I think we've heard a lot of is the sensitivity in Florida especially, to being disenfranchised from that process and what that could mean in a general election regardless of who the nominee is.
ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, CLINTON SUPPORTER: That's really what's most important about this entire proceeding. What's great about this coverage, is that the doors have been blown wide open off of the, the deepest back room in Democratic politics, the rules and bylaws committee. This truly is a public discussion and exposure as to how the process works. And clearly as this process moves forward, Florida and Michigan's sense of involvement, keeping them part of the process is critical not only just to party unity but to having a nominee who's truly going to be empowered to move on to victory. Well I think it's most interesting to look at as you examine this process going forward, people are focusing on what the rules and bylaws committee will do regarding Michigan and Florida. It's also important when it comes to Michigan which is apparently the real difficult process, to watch the political leadership in that state, they are according to my sources, adamant about not accepting any penalties.
BROWN: Ok, before I hear from the rest of the panel, let's listen again to Senator Arthenia Joyner who's making a pretty passionate case right now.
ARTHENIA JOYNER, FLORIDA STATE SENATE: The people of Florida are no different from the millions of others who turned out to vote across our nation during this historic primary contest. We want access to quality, affordable health care. We want to improve our schools. We want affordable housing. We want to protect our environment, and, yes, we worry about the rising costs of gasoline and we worry about the men and women, so many of whom hail from Florida, who are serving in Afghanistan and Iraq and in other military posts here and abroad. We worry about our country's standing in the world, and we deeply care about who will be sitting in the White House come next January. In fact, Florida is a microcosm of this nation's diverse populous, and Florida, we are black, brown, yellow, red and white. We are young and old, male and female, rich and poor. We speak 50 different languages. We come from 90 different countries. And we count our ancestry from over 10 different ethnic groups. We cannot and should not ignore the will of these 1.75 million Democrats. We cannot and should not dismiss Edith Rosman from Boca Raton who at 94 years old waited in line to cast her vote. We cannot and should not dismiss Tabitha Burgos who cast her very first vote in Orlando thinking she was helping to select the nominee of the Democratic Party who would become the next president of the United States. And we cannot and should not dismiss north Florida farmer James Bullard, who went to the polls on January 29th to voice his concern over the economy that is making it impossible for him to take care of his family. Today you and you alone have the power and the ability to make sure that the voices of Edith, Tabitha and John are heard. Today you can and you should count Florida's votes. In 2000, I was a freshman member of the Florida legislature, and we all know what happened back then. My fellow Democrats, including Representative Joyce Cusack and I, we watched the system being manipulated and twisted. We committed ourselves to working towards creating a better system. We promised ourselves and the people of Florida that we would seize the opportunity when one would confront us to assure that every vote would always be counted. That moment came in 2007 when the Republican- controlled legislature created a bill which included a provision that established a verifiable paper trail.
This bill included the infamous provision to move up the Florida presidential primary date. In light of what happened in 2000, it was a priority of Florida's Democrats that this issue of creating a verifiable paper trail be passed. The Democrats in both houses moved to amend the bill, to move the date back to comply with the DNC rules, but we were out-voted by the Republicans.
However, we could not miss our moment to safeguard Florida voters by getting a verifiable paper trail bill passed, because never again did we want the people of the state of Florida and of this country to have to endure another 2000 debacle. So we voted for the bill. And the price that we paid for trying to protect our voters was that we were told that our votes wouldn't count. Despite this, Florida Democrats voted anyway. They followed the maxim of Maya Angelou who said, you may think you may not be heard, speak anyway. They spoke anyway. They spoke anyway, because they voted in record numbers with the belief that reason would prevail.
They did it because they knew deep in their hearts and souls that this Democratic Party, this Democratic Party, our Democratic Party, their Democratic Party, was not going to let their voices and their votes go uncounted. I do not take lightly the party's need to have and enforce rules that govern how we select our nominees, but nor do I take lightly the belief that this system, like our government, should be of the people, by the people and for the people. But right now, as it applies to Florida, we are missing the people.
Some insist that Florida's voters should be punished for the actions of the Republican-controlled legislature. I disagree. I do not think that the 1.75 million Democrats who came out on January 29th should lose their voice because of the actions of the other party, the Republicans in the Florida legislature who control by more than two to one. Moreover, I can assure you that my state has already suffered enough. One of the most exciting aspects of the electoral process is the voters' ability to meet the candidates face to face. But unlike the voters in other states, Florida's voters did not have an opportunity to look the candidates right in the eye and ask, what are you going to do to solve our problems? We didn't have that opportunity. There's a certain amount of excitement, joy, exhilaration, and an adrenaline rush that you get when you can look, reach out and touch the person, then you can go home and say, I touched, I looked, I got an autograph, I took a picture with the person who will be the next president of the free world, but we didn't have that opportunity in Florida. We didn't have candidates in our diners or on our college campuses. We didn't have the media, most of whom are represented in this room today, to come to our state so that the whole country could see us and know that we in Florida, too, have issues, concerns, ideas, energy and enthusiasm. You've heard from my fellow Floridian Jon Ausman. I applaud his effort in fighting on behalf of Florida voters and making a compelling case for why our delegation should be seated. More importantly, his challenge has served to bring us here today. Where we have no -- no reason why we should not come to a resolution.
This historic election and its outcome in November is our responsibility. Americans are asking for effective leadership and more responsible government. It is our responsibility to see that it happens. Florida Democrats are demanding that their votes be counted. It's our responsibility to see that it happens. As a party, we have to keep our eye on the prize, and elect Democrats from the top of the ticket all the way down. It's our responsibility to see to it that that happens. It's the responsibility of the party to seat these delegates and restore voter confidence so as a party we can work together towards the common goal of making America better. You have the ability to give voices back to the 1.75 million voters in Florida. That is an awesome responsibility. You have the ability to seat our full Florida delegation at our national convention. You have the ability to do this today. Not tomorrow, not next week, not six weeks from now. We need to leave this room today hand in hand, joined together and focused on victory in November.
When he became chairman, Governor Dean correctly said you don't win a state if you don't show up. He insisted that our party adopt a 50- state plan that meant that we showed up in every state. Worked for every vote, and fought to protect every vote. We can't do that if we leave uncounted the Democratic votes in two states. You have a unique opportunity right here and right now to write the people of Florida back into this historic election story. You have the power to say, yes, their votes count. Yes, their delegates should be seated. Yes, their Democratic Party believes that their voices should be heard. America's --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let me ask you to -- one more minute.
JOYNER: Thank you. America's promise to her state and her citizens is embodied in the United States constitution, and the right to be heard by 1.75 million voters in Florida believes in that and they exercise that right to vote. The denial of the right to have your vote counted is in essence a theft of the people's right to be heard which produces a profound deafening silence. Yesterday I talked to Charlotte Jennings from Boynton Beach, Florida. She's 82 years old and has been a Democrat for 60 years casting her first vote for Harry Truman in 1948. She told me Arthenia my vote is my own. No one should be able to take it from me. I feel like my vote has been stolen from me and no one has that right. You have the opportunity to right to wrong, to correct that injustice, to bring Florida back into the Democratic fold. I understand that the decision you have to make today is not an easy one. But I remind you of what my parents taught me. Anything in life worth having is worth fighting for. Let's count every vote and win in November. BLITZER: All right, Arthenia Joyner, the state senator from Florida representing the Clinton campaign making her case. Making the case of Hillary Clinton why the delegates from Florida should be seated. Hillary Clinton won that primary in Florida, decisively, even though none of the candidates could campaign there. We're going to listen to the Q&A with Senator Joyner and others. Much more of the coverage. We're still waiting to hear from the representative from the Obama campaign as well. Remember, cnnpolitics.com is where you can see all of this. We're streaming it at cnnpolitics.com. We'll take a quick break.
BLITZER: Donna Brazile, a superdelegate, a member of the rules committee, is now asking a question of Senator Joyner. Let's listen in.
DONNA BRAZILE: -- God bless all of y'all. First of all, I want to say to Senator Joyner how deeply appreciative I am of your leadership. Not just in the state of Florida, but across the country as it relates to civil rights and equal justice under the law. Your record will always be one that we hope others in the legal profession will follow. I also want to say as someone who is in the state of Florida, I don't know if I was in your particular district on the day, that horrible day that we all witnessed on November 7, 2000. I had an opportunity to place a call to you at 6:40 a.m. and you took my call because I was concerned after listening to many of your constituents in that district that they had arrived at their polls and some polling sites that you well remember were not open and others, of course, someone had selectively purged their names from the voter rolls. We do know that disenfranchisement has taken place and I know that you all are making every attempt in Florida to clean up your electoral system to become a model for the country. My question does not go to restoring votes. The voices that were heard by those who appeared at the ballot boxes, the voices that were not heard because they thought their votes would not count that day. My question goes to another issue that we take to heart on this committee. And that is the diversity of every delegation that we seat at our national conventions. We have other rules other than timing, 11a, rule 509, discrimination, rule 6 on affirmative action and rule seven on inclusion. To your knowledge, senator, I'm sure that you have participated in all of these processes as voters have slated delegates, to your knowledge, have we met all of those criterias as well as it relates to the broad inclusion, the participation of people, and when I say this, I mean it. Justice to me doesn't roll down one stream. It rolls down all the mighty streams, and when justice rolls, we have to make sure that when we restore or discuss restoring the rights of those who voted that day and those who may not have voted, that it reflects the broad diversity of the great state of Florida and that everybody had an opportunity to have their voice heard, even those who didn't show up that day, because they, too, deserve to be represented that day. So my question, as I said, to the outreach that many of us care about, black, brown, gay and lesbian, disabled, elderly, youth, veterans, and, of course, half the delegation must be female. Will everyone be represented? JOYNER: Please know that the Florida delegation is in full compliance. Our chair Karen Thurman is a stone's throw from the capitol and I want you to know that she hears from me each and every day. I am there participating as are the other African-Americans I'm certain the black caucus of the Florida legislature we're in sync with her. We check on her. We also have Representative Cusack who is a DNC member and Janae Murphy who is the secretary and they make sure that the party does everything right. We met all our numbers overwhelmingly, and even in our local Hillsborough county DEC, we have a diversity of group there and we have it. It is hot, and it is right. Florida is coming up 100 percent.
BRAZILE: Thank you ma'am.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The last speaker for this round will be Tina Flanoi.
TINA FLANOI: Thank you, senator. Like everyone else here, it's just been a privilege to listen to you. I just have a question, because I think a few questions have been asked getting to a particular point and I just want to pose this question to you. And I'll use smaller numbers. You talk about the 1.75, which is phenomenal in Florida. If 10 people voted or 20 people voted, does it matter to you the difference, should all of those votes count equally? If 10 turned out or 20 turned out?
JOYNER: Absolutely. Every vote should count. It's the fundamental bedrock of Democracy, the right to vote, and inherent in voting is counting, because without it being counted, you have nothing. It's emptiness, it's meaningless, but it can be one or 1 million. Every vote should count.
FLANOI: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator, thank you very, very much. As always, your eloquence and your determination has certainly moved this room. Thank you for being with us. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Before my co-chair recognizes the next speaker we have a point of information question from Don Fowler.
DON FOWLER: Madam Chair, the senior senator from Florida responded to a question about his endorsement in support of Jon Ausman's challenge, and he responded in the affirmative. I assume, senator, that if this committee in its wisdom restored 100 percent of the delegates to Florida, that you would approve of that, correct?
FOWLER: All right. The final -- you responded to a question -- about your support of Jon Ausman's --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don, this is out of order. You're asking another question beyond the question and answer period.
FOWLER: It's a one - UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's one question, I know, but it's -- another question. It's out of order.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The final intervener with regard to Mr. Ausman's challenge is the Obama for president campaign. On behalf of the campaign, they have selected Congressman Robert Wexler to speak, and we want to welcome you here, congressman.
REP. ROBERT WEXLER, OBAMA SUPPORTER: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. Governor Dean, Ms. Herman, Mr. Roosevelt, committee members, my senior senator, Senator Bill Nelson, State Senator Joyner, our committee chairperson, extraordinary committee chairperson, Congresswoman Thurman, and our senior statesman who all Floridians love and admire, Senator Bob Graham. Good morning. I am Congressman Robert Wexler. I have the privilege of representing the 19th congressional district located in Broward and Palm Beach counties in Florida. I represent a group of Floridians that take their civic responsibility very seriously. And I, too, want to thank the Floridians that are here today that care so passionately about this election. Our Florida Democratic voters are frustrated by the decisions that have been made that diminish our primary. And we today must address this frustration and reconcile with them to improve the climate for Democrats in Florida. The Obama presidential campaign supports a resolution today that will allow the Democratic National Committee, the DNC, to preserve its nominating process and at the same time enable Democrats in Florida to participate in choosing our party's nominee and allow elected delegates from Florida to be represented at the Democratic national convention. We understand that when the rules committee reviewed the Florida primary last year, that the committee was acting in good faith to prevent other states from moving prior to super Tuesday. We understand the rules committee goal of acting to prevent a stampede of states to hold early primaries, and not cause chaos in the previously sanctioned primary schedule. Following a DNC application process, the rules committee had selected the states of South Carolina and Nevada to join Iowa and New Hampshire in holding early contests to diversify the beginning of the nominating process to include African-Americans, Hispanics, organized labor and voters in the south and the west. Adding diversity to the early nominating contests was a worthy goal, and this committee is to be commended for selecting Nevada and South Carolina to the early calendar.
Florida, too, wanted to add its voice to the early calendar for the sake of our voters, who also wanted to play an important role in the process. I fervently wish that Florida also had chosen to apply to be considered as an early voting state. As a large diverse and important state, Florida certainly deserves to play a key role in our nominating process. Unfortunately, our state acted outside the rules of this committee, and you subsequently imposed penalties on our state for moving our primary prior to Super Tuesday. We cannot reverse the fact that this election was held months ago without a compliant delegate selection plan. Both Senator Obama and Senator Clinton pledged not to campaign in Florida. And both agreed at the time that the primary would not count. This contest was not a normal primary election. Senator Obama's decision to respect your rules certainly affected the outcome of the primary in Florida. He was not as well known as Senator Clinton and not campaigning in the state undoubtedly hurt his vote totals. We must also remember that the presidential candidates were told by this committee that Florida's non-compliance with delegate selection rules meant that the delegates selection and presidential candidate approval process for delegates was non-binding. The Obama campaign respected this rules committee policy. I also -- I also want -- I also want -- I also want to address a canard I have seen in some reports concerning our primary that Senator Barack Obama was somehow the cause of our state's failure to properly hold a primary during the window for such contests. This is completely untrue. There was ample opportunity during 2007 to consider an alternative nominating process to be held within the approved window. Which was encouraged by the DNC and this committee's leadership, but that course of action was not taken.
Then late in the spring of 2008, as the primary season was coming to a close, the possibility of holding a second primary was raised. The Democratic leadership in Florida discussed this possibility, but ultimately, rejected it. The entire Democratic United States house delegation from Florida both supporters of Senator Clinton and supporters of Senator Obama and the uncommitted issued a public statement calling upon the Florida Democratic Party not to hold a second primary, due to strong concern that a hasty election could not be properly implemented under the circumstances. All of us believe that the last thing Florida Democrats needed was to end up before this committee with two disputed elections instead of one. I have here -- I have here the statement from our house delegation to our state Democratic Party chair informing her of our unanimous opposition to holding a second presidential primary this year. I'm happy to submit this to the committee, if it pleases the chairs. Senator Obama was in no way responsible for this decision by Florida leaders, and I am here today before you to testify to this fact and answer any questions on that subject. Keeping all of this in mind, we must find a way as Democrats, as members of the same political party seeking to bring change to the ways of Washington to resolve this situation so that Florida may participate in this historic nominating process that will soon come to a close. The standing rules of our party provide for a standard 50 percent reduction of the pledged delegates from a state whose primary or caucus is scheduled earlier than allowed under the delegate selection rules. This is the identical penalty that is provided for under the national Republican Party rules, and was, in fact, imposed on Florida Republicans. Jon Ausman, our Democratic National Committee man from Florida has petitioned this committee to reconsider its decision to increase the standard 50 percent penalty to a 100 percent reduction in delegates and to reinstate 50 percent of the Florida delegation.
As the designated representative of the Obama campaign, and as an elected representative from the state of Florida, I ask this committee to restore Florida to representation at the Democratic National Convention in accordance with the Ausman petition. This will involve -- this action -- this action will involve extra delegates, up to 19 delegates being awarded to Senator Clinton. Senator Obama should be commended for his willingness to offer this extraordinary concession. In order to promote -- Senator Obama --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please do as this committee is doing and show respect to all of our speakers here today. Congressman?
WEXLER: Senator Obama offers this concession in order to promote reconciliation with Florida's voters. Please, committee members, take notice of what you what you have heard today. Senator Bill Nelson came up here and applauded an endorsed the Ausman petition. Senator, state senator Joyner applauded the Ausman petition. I'm the representative of the Obama campaign and I'm endorsing the Ausman petition. If we in Florida can get it together and be unified, if we can keep our eye on the ball in November, so can you, let's get this done today. Ladies and gentlemen, I also ask that you please reinstate the unpledged superdelegates from Florida with a partial half vote for each, the same as for the pledged delegates. This would be -- this would be fair and promote unity amongst Florida Democrats and the national party. We are now well past the 11th hour in this year's nominating process, and we must resolve this situation without disrupting that process for the sake of the voters in Florida.