Why stop the do-overs at Florida and Michigan?

As the Democrats plod on towards delegate disaster in Denver, more and more leading party members have begun floating the notion of do-overs in Florida and Michigan. New primaries or caucuses could bring back 350 delegates into the process and might help solidify support behind a single candidate, taking the pressure off of the superdelegates before the national convention. Methodology remains a big problem, although Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) tries his best to minimize it (emphasis mine):

And there is a practical and affordable way to conduct another election that would be fair to all involved, and should gain the support of state officials. It is this: Hold a revote via a mail-in ballot, and underwrite its cost with Democratic Party funds. I’ve already discussed the idea with Republican Gov. Charlie Crist and he is supportive.

A mail-in vote — which Oregon has used successfully for years — would be cheaper, less cumbersome and more inclusive than attempting at this late hour to stage a full-fledged return to the polls. It also would give voters enough time to take a closer look at the candidates, and further study their positions on the issues. A mail-in vote would also allow us to send ballots to military voters overseas. …

Mail-in balloting, of course, poses some challenges, including matching the signature on each ballot with the signature on a voter’s registration card.

Some challenges? What possible challenges could arise? Nelson doesn’t bother to address any of them, including the only one he mentions. A few more come to mind, and will come to be included in the inevitable lawsuits later:

  • Manual counting will take a lot of time
  • Ballot design
  • Confirmation of access (did all eligible voters receive a ballot?)
  • Confirmation of receipt (did all ballots mailed get received and counted?)
  • Postmarking criteria
  • Access for military personnel on overseas deployment

The lawyers will undoubtedly find more when the results get published, but those will do for now; it’s just a thumbnail sketch of the complaints Democrats leveled at the 2000 election results, which had a much more reliable system in place. Unfortunately, the Democrats won’t have many other choices. Caucuses won’t work because Hillary Clinton won’t agree to them. The states have already refused to foot the bill for a real primary vote, and the state parties can’t afford them and still have a budget for the general election.

However, another question arises with this concept. Why should Florida and Michigan be the only states that get to rethink their results? After all, both states held their contests knowing full well their delegates would not get counted. Michigan especially understood that as most of the candidates removed their names from the ballot. If Florida and Michigan get to hold brand-new elections with the race narrowed to two candidates, shouldn’t other states do the same?

Iowa, for instance, caucused on January 3 and gave John Edwards a second-place win. Shouldn’t Iowa have a re-caucus in order to keep from disenfranchising the Edwards contingent? In New Hampshire, 24% of the Democratic voters chose someone other than Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. Even in South Carolina, 18% chose John Edwards. If these states want to pay for new primaries, should they be allowed do-overs as well, especially if they can just mail out surveys and call them reliable?

The only reason Democrats want Florida and Michigan do-overs is because they find themselves in a tight spot and want some kind of Deus ex machina to rescue them from their own folly in both their penalties for violating scheduling rules and the superdelegate structure. Florida had all of the candidates on the ballot; if the Democrats want to seat the Florida delegation, they just need to do so. Michigan will learn a hard lesson in risk management for the 2012 primaries. No one needs do-overs — they just need to follow the rules the first time. The impulse to cover the collecteive DNC backside will otherwise result in the adoption of stopgap processes that will seriously undermine the credibility of the results.