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Mail-in ballot suggested as possible Florida-Michigan fix

  • Story Highlights
  • Florida, Michigan stripped of delegates for scheduling primaries too early
  • Dems trying to figure out solution to delegate dilemma
  • DNC Chairman Howard Dean says mail-in ballot is one option
  • Problems arise over who would pay for it
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(CNN) -- Political leaders on Sunday debated the idea of again holding votes in Michigan and Florida using a mail-in ballot to resolve the issue of delegates from those states being barred from participating in the nominating process.

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DNC Chairman Howard Dean says a mail-in ballot could be one way to deal with the delegate dilemma.

The Democratic National Committee stripped both states of their delegates for violating party rules by scheduling their primaries too early.

Michigan and Florida held Democratic primaries, but the candidates agreed not to campaign in either state, and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, who won both states, was the only top-tier candidate on the ballot in Michigan.

Also, some people chose not to vote because they knew their state's delegates wouldn't count.

Democrats agree that new voting is needed to determine convention delegates for Florida and Michigan, but the question is how.

Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama are running such a tight race that it looks like neither candidate will get the 2,024 delegates needed to clinch the nomination. If Florida and Michigan count, they could put either candidate over the top. The states have 366 pledged delegates and superdelegates between them.

The governors from both states have said it would be "intolerable" to not count their residents' votes, but Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, argues that the states knew the rules before they scheduled their contests.

Dean on Sunday said a mail-in ballot is "not a bad way to do this."

"Every voter gets a ballot in the mail. It's comprehensive. You get to vote if you're in Iraq or in a nursing home," he said on CBS' "Face the Nation."

The problem, Dean said, is figuring out who would foot the bill.

"The two things, I think, that are established is [Florida] isn't going to pay for it because their governor, who is a [John] McCain supporter, has said they won't pay for it," he said, speaking of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist.

The DNC is not going to pay for it, he said, because it must devote its resources to running against presumptive GOP nominee McCain.

But Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida, said now is not the time for a mail-in ballot.

"We have never conducted a mail-in ballot in Florida, and in an election that is this important, an experiment like that is -- now is not the time to test that," she said on "Fox News Sunday."

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, has also said he doesn't think there is a fair way to redo the vote in his state.

"There's no way to have a primary. That's state law. That can't be changed, and that can't be paid for," he said on ABC's "Face the Nation."

Levin said a mail-in caucus is one possibility, but "there's some real problems with that, too."

"Not just cost, but the security issue. How do you make sure that hundreds of thousands, perhaps a million or more ballots, can be properly counted and that duplicate ballots can be avoided," he said.

Levin added that he thinks it would be "outrageous" to not seat the delegates in Florida and Michigan.

A source close to the discussions told CNN that the state party agreed not to spend any taxpayer dollars on a revote, which in Michigan could cost $10 million or more.

Another contest in Florida could cost as much as $20 million, said Sterling Ivey, spokesman for the Florida Department of State. He said Florida would need at least 90 days from the time a decision is made to set up any new election.

Dean says Florida and Michigan cannot be given passes for violating rules that were clear to them.

"The rules were set a year and a half ago. Florida and Michigan voted for them and then decided that they didn't need to abide by the rules. When you're in a contest, you do need to abide by the rules," he said last week.

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"You cannot violate the rules of the process and then expect to get forgiven for it," he said.

Dean said he has to run a process that yields an honest result. "The only way to do that is to stick to the rules that were agreed to by everybody at the beginning," he said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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