October 10, 2007, 1:24 pm
The Presidential Primary. We Michiganders have sure gotten
ourselves into a pickle again.
The Legislature enacted a January 15, 2008 presidential primary,
defying the schedule laid down by both national parties. In compliance
with national Democratic Party rules, it's a choice-of-ballot primary.
But the lists of voters who chose the Democratic and Republican ballots
would be disclosed only to the state party chairs, so as to mollify people
who didn't want to leave a public record of which party's primary they
For a little while, it looked like Michigan and Florida had won the
game by scheduling such early primaries. But New Hampshire still has a
lot of leverage, so pledges were extracted from the candidates not to
campaign in either state. Of course, that didn't stop candidates from
visiting Michigan and Florida for "fundraising".
Then, the national Democratic Party decided to punish Florida (and
presumably Michigan too) by taking away all delegate seats. This was
widely seen as an empty threat. The two unauthorized primaries might be
zero-delegate "beauty contests", but given the timing and the expected
large participation, they could have a huge impact on the race. And by
convention time, with the primaries over with, Michigan and Florida
delegates would surely be welcomed back.
But our presidential primary law has an escape hatch for candidates.
Five of the eight Democratic presidential candidates (under pressure from
New Hampshire and the national party) filed papers by the deadline
yesterday to remove their names from the ballot. Dennis Kucinich's filing
lacked his signature and was rejected, so he remains on the ballot, along
with front-runner Hillary Clinton, and also-rans Mike Gravel and Chris
The Michigan presidential primary law has had that escape provision for
some time; that was the mechanism by which the Democratic presidential
primary was all but cancelled most years from 1980 to 2004. In
retrospect, it was a big mistake to leave it in the law this year.
Florida has a no-escape presidential primary, and we could have done that,
I suppose the Legislature could retroactively remove the escape clause
and force the four candidates back onto the ballot. That would smack of
changing the rules during the game, but stuff happens when everybody plays
hardball. On the other hand, the candidates who withdrew their names will
be portrayed as having spat in the face of Michigan voters; it might seem
awfully mean-spirited to drag them back to be humiliated in the "beauty
Technically, Michigan has not yet suffered any formal sanctions from
the national party, and will not until a delegate selection plan is filed.
Quite possibly, the state party could quietly abandon the primary for
delegate selection, and go back to the February 9 caucus date that was
Even if that happens, the primary will not be modified or canceled
unless both parties agree to it. We election officials will still have to
do election preparations during the holiday season. Not only that, we
will still be required to print two (or three) different ballots per
precinct, and will still be required to ask every voter which party's
ballot they want, all to comply with Democratic Party rules — for a
primary rejected by the national party, and perhaps also abandoned by the
Since the Democratic front-runner will be essentially unopposed, the
action will be on the Republican side. And the "closed primary" that was
demanded by the Democratic Party will instead protect the Republican
primary from crossover votes for Ron Paul.
That is, unless the early caucuses and primaries shake up the
Democratic race, in which case we will have hundreds of thousands of
write-in votes to deal with.
Legislate in haste, repent at leisure.
....Posted by Lawrence Kestenbaum —
October 1, 2007, 11:50 am
From the Clerk-Register. This morning's message to my staff:
about the state budget brinkmanship.
The Legislature was up all night, last night, working out the budget
deal. This morning, Michigan is a little less of a national disgrace
because they succeeded.
But the details are still not entirely clear. Were school elections
moved to November? Neither the Bureau of Elections nor the WISD
superintendent knew the answer to that this morning. I'm guessing
that many desperate and sleep-deprived state legislators barely
grasped the details of what they were voting on.
And it almost didn't work!
Last night, the lobbyists who represent Washtenaw County's interests in
Lansing warned us that "the agreement is extremely fragile and could
fall apart over the slightest misstep." And they were right. The
necessary tax increases would both have failed on 19 to 19 votes in the
Senate, were it not for the Lieutenant Governor's authority to cast a
In other words, even at that desperate hour, there was no ability for
the parties to join together on an agreement. A shutdown of state
services was averted because a handful of gutsy mavericks broke ranks and
supported a compromise.
Term limits, by weakening individual members, have made Lansing more
partisan, and sharply reduced the number of independent voices in the
Legislature. I'm very grateful there are still a few left.
And let's be clear on what was at stake last night. Had our state
government shut down today, we wouldn't just have been a national
laughingstock. We would have been sending a signal that Michigan's
leaders are unable or unwilling to work together and cope with problems,
even at the brink of disaster. The blame game in Lansing would have
gotten national attention, and underlined the image of Michigan as an
economic sinking ship. How likely is it that someone is going to want to
bring their company to Michigan under these conditions?
It is a great relief not to have to wake up to that kind of debacle
And it's even better to hear the (unspecific, but reliable) report
that some good news for our local economy will be announced soon.
Let's have a great week!
....Posted by Lawrence Kestenbaum —
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