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Michigan and Florida get full voting rights

Democratic delegates from Michigan and Florida were awarded full voting rights at the national convention Sunday, despite holding early primaries against party rules.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Democratic delegates from Michigan and Florida were awarded full voting rights at the national convention Sunday, despite holding early primaries against party rules.

The convention credentials committee voted unanimously to restore the voting privileges at the behest of Barack Obama, the party's presumptive nominee for president. The states were initially stripped of delegates for holding primaries before Feb. 5. The party's rules committee restored the delegates in May, but gave them only half votes.

Democrats hope the gesture will strengthen their standing in two important battleground states while ending a contentious chapter of the nominating process.

"The only way we will be successful is if we are unified as a party and all Democrats know we are full partners," said Chris Edley Jr., a committee member from California who introduced the resolution to restore Florida's votes.

Questions about primary calendar
The party's move raises questions about whether it will be able to control its primary calendar in the future. A commission will work on the issue over the next two years.

Representatives from Florida and Michigan said they were penalized enough. None of the major candidates campaigned in the states before the primaries, and the delegates' votes weren't restored until after the nomination was decided.

"We realize that mistakes have been made, but we're excited in Florida," said Scott Maddox, a former Florida Democratic chairman and a member of the credentials committee. "We have suffered enough."

Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan called Sunday's vote "a victory for change in the system."

Levin has been working to challenge the early voting status of Iowa and New Hampshire.

"We had the guts to take the system on, and we made progress this year," he said.

Obama's former Democratic rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton, won both primaries. Obama's name was not on the Michigan ballot and neither candidate campaigned in Florida.

Some of Clinton's supporters were outraged that the delegates were not fully reinstated in May. They were also angry that Obama claimed some of the delegates won by Clinton in Michigan.

Obama trying to win over Clinton backers
Obama clinched the Democratic nomination June 3 and he has been working to win over Clinton's supporters ever since.

The credentials committee's work is expected to win ratification by the whole convention Monday.

Florida has 211 delegates, including superdelegates, and Michigan has 157. Both states are expected to be battlegrounds in the November election.

Restoring their voting rights increases the total number of delegate votes at the convention to 4,419. It will take 2,210 delegates to win the nomination.

Obama ended the primaries with a 365-delegate lead over Clinton. Reinstating the Florida and Michigan delegates will not affect that lead because Obama has more endorsements from the states' superdelegates.

Both parties struggled to control their primary calendars this year as states jockeyed to increase their influence by moving their nominating contests earlier. The Republicans penalized five states for holding contests before Feb. 5, stripping them of half their delegates: Florida, Michigan, New Hampshire, Wyoming and South Carolina.

Republican presidential candidate John McCain has not publicly pressed for their reinstatement, though many GOP insiders expect them to have full voting rights as well.