Florida Democrats now like mail-in ballots

In 2000, the Democrats in Florida fought to keep out military absentee ballot sent in by mail from determining who would be the next President. Eight years later, Florida Democrats want to conduct an entire primary by mail. What’s changed? Oh, yes — their own incompetence:

[T]he disqualification of Florida and Michigan has created a headache for the Democratic party due to the unexpected closeness of the race between Obama and Clinton. Officials from both states are trying to figure out how best to resolve the issue before the national convention in August.

DNC Chairman Howard Dean said a mail-in primary is “actually a very good process.”

“Every voter gets a ballot in the mail,” the former Vermont governor said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “It’s comprehensive, you get to vote if you’re in Iraq or in a nursing home. It’s not a bad way to do this.”

As for who pays, Dean said, “That is a problem,” reiterating that the party needs its money for the general election campaign against Republican John McCain.

He also ruled out the state of Florida, where Republican Gov. Charlie Crist has nixed the idea. Dean suggested the state Democratic party might foot the bill. Florida’s political parties, unlike the DNC, can accept unlimited contributions.

Let’s recap.  The state Democratic parties in Florida and Michigan deliberately break the rules to bump up their primaries.  The DNC and Howard Dean react by stripping them of all their delegates and demanding candidates stop campaigning in those states, but in Michigan failing to have all of them take their names off the ballot.  Not only does it turn out that both states could have played a much more effective role if they had kept their original primary dates, but now they don’t have the money for proper do-overs.

And now?  The same state that complained about the complexity of butterfly ballots and the computation of punch cards that had been in use for decades (with a ballot designed by Democrats) now wants to use an unprecedented, hand-managed mail-in election to ensure fairness in the nominating process.

Did Alan Funt decide to do a new, political version of Candid Camera?  Is this a new edition of the Dick Clark/Ed McMahon show, Practical Jokes?  If not, then perhaps its aftermath will qualify.  What happens if the race becomes close in Florida?  Thousands of people will complain that they didn’t receive the ballots, or that the ballots never got counted.  Rather than have a state elections board manage the process, the Democrats will have to do it themselves, lending all kinds of possibilities for conspiracy theorists.

The end result will have little credibility and will make the morass over the Democratic nomination even uglier.  It will clarify nothing except that more than checks get lost in the mail.  Lawsuits will abound, and the DNC will still have the same problem it has now about seating a Florida delegation at the convention — except that they may have competing delegations now.

Had Dean imposed the same kind of penalty that the Republicans did on Michigan and Florida — stripping them of half of their delegates — the problem would not exist.  Now all of the solutions will cost an astronomical amount of money to implement, and that means money from their general-campaign funds against John McCain.  They now have to adopt a method they fought eight years ago and use a system with far less reliability than that they have demonized ever since.  Welcome to Democratic consistency and character.