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Senator calls for sweeping election overhaul

  • Story Highlights
  • Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, will propose six interregional presidential primaries
  • Nelson wants presidency based on popular vote, not Electoral College
  • Senator says, "The blessings of liberty cannot wait"
  • Lawmaker, who backs Sen. Hillary Clinton for president, has sought Florida revote
  • Next Article in Politics »
From Alexander Mooney
CNN Washington Bureau
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(CNN) -- Sen. Bill Nelson on Thursday proposed an overhaul of U.S. presidential election laws, saying the dispute over delegates in Florida and Michigan has exposed a flawed nominating system.

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Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida proposes getting rid of the Electoral College system.

In a speech on the floor of the Florida state Senate Thursday, Nelson said he formally will introduce legislation that will attempt to fix many of the problems exposed by this cycle's round of presidential primaries, adding that the "time for reform is now."

"This country cannot afford to wait that long before we fix the flaws we still see in our election system," Nelson said. "The blessings of liberty cannot wait."

Specifically, Nelson said he will propose six rotating interregional primaries that "will give large and small states a fair say in the nomination process."

These primaries would be conducted on dates ranging from March to June, Nelson said, taking the place of the current early-voting states Iowa and New Hampshire -- which critics long have argued aren't representative of the American electorate.

The dates initially would be set by a lottery system for the 2012 election and would rotate positions in successive elections.

Nelson called for early voting in every state and the elimination of voting machines that do not produce a paper trail. Video Watch more on voting problems »

The Florida Democrat also said all citizens should be allowed to vote absentee if they so choose, and he is pushing for a federal grant incentive program to help develop voting by mail and via the Internet.

Nelson also formally will seek to award the presidency based on the popular vote instead the Electoral College -- a move that would require a stand-alone bill since it would require an amendment to the Constitution.

"The goal is simple: one person, one vote," Nelson said in his speech Thursday.

Nelson's Senate office said he is working to gain support for the bill and indicated it could be ready for a committee hearing in the coming weeks.

Previous electoral reform efforts, especially those seeking to eliminate the Electoral College, have failed to gain widespread support.

Last fall, three senators also introduced a proposal for four regional primaries, but the legislation failed to gain traction. Nelson, along with Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, also proposed a regional primary plan last fall.

Nelson, a supporter of Sen. Hillary Clinton's White House bid, has been at the center of election overhaul efforts for much of last year since leaders in his state voted to move up the presidential primary ahead of the approved date by the Democratic and Republican parties. Video Watch more on the challenges Clinton faces »

The Democratic National Committee stripped his state of all convention delegates, while the GOP penalized Florida by cutting its delegate strength in half.

Last fall, Nelson unsuccessfully sued his party over the sanction, saying the lawsuit "is about the right of every American to have access to the ballot box, and to have that vote count -- and to have it count as intended."

The DNC took similar action against Michigan, and both states' convention delegations are the subject of a heated back-and-forth between the two Democratic major presidential candidates and local party leaders.

Nelson, a strong proponent of a mail-in revote in Florida earlier this month, has warned of a "train wreck" for the Democratic Party should it snub his state at the national convention in August.

But the revote efforts in Florida and Michigan, which Clinton campaign strongly has championed, failed to gain approval.

Neither state will be awarded seats at the convention unless the two candidates and the DNC can agree on a compromise that satisfies all parties.

"If nothing else, this election has provided further evidence that our system is broken," Nelson said Thursday.

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"My fight has been based on the principle that in America every citizen has an equal right to vote.

"It is based on a premise that Floridians are entitled to have their votes count as intended. And it is based on a belief that we all deserve a say in picking our presidential nominees." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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