Yesterday, I had a guest post from Mark Miller called Michigan Presidential Primary Follies”. In it, Mark describes how the Michigan Republicans basically forced a Democratic candidate (Barack Obama) to appear on the February primary ballot as a way of making it look like Dems shared blame for the expenses incurred by having a primary instead of a caucus. The Dems asked the Republicans not to do this but were rebuffed.
The Michigan Democratic Party had decided on a state-wide caucus, to be held on the morning of May 5, long before the Republicans in the state legislature figured out what they were going to do. This caucus will determine the presidential preference of (Congressional District-allocated) Michigan delegates to the 2012 Democratic National Convention. This plan was approved by the DNC, and it is the way we will be doing it. You can pretty much figure that all delegates will be going to Pres. Obama.
Some time later, the Republican legislature decided (PA 163, pdf) to hold a Presidential Primary. But because this would involve spending some $10 million of state taxpayers’ money, they thought it would be better to ‘spread the blame’ for this expenditure by including the Democrats — even though MDP did not want to be included, is not participating, and will not use the results to allocate delegates.
The legislation included a provision that Secretary of State Ruth Johnson would include on the ballot any candidates who were being talked about in the media — and that a person could be removed from the ballot only by stating that they were not a candidate for President. Since Pres. Obama is obviously not going to say that, he will be on the primary ballot.
This created some confusion from some folks that commented and emailed me so I thought it would be useful to say a bit more about the caucus vs. primary issue.
It turns out that national Democratic Party rules say you may not vote in both a primary AND a caucus. Obviously Republicans are working hard to create confusion for Democrats. Not because it will change anything but just because, frankly, they are being dicks.
Democrats are asking their voters NOT to vote in the primary unless there are other things to vote on. If you DO vote in the February primary, your best bet is to NOT vote for a Democratic presidential primary candidate (i.e., Barack Obama.) Rather, wait until the May caucus to do so. A big part of this is so that Republicans can’t later point and say, “Look! See how many Democrats voted for a presidential candidate in the primary? That proves that they are responsible for the millions of wasted tax dollars as much as we are.” Which is, of course, false. It may also allow them to accuse Democrats of voter fraud [gasp!]
At the end of the day, the Michigan Democratic Party urges you NOT to vote in the primary unless there is some other issue or candidate on the ballot that needs your vote.
Bottom line: this was a huge dick move by the Michigan Republican Party. They know it and they are counting on the lack of knowledge by the electorate to slip it past people. What a surprise.
UPDATE: I have spoken with Michigan Democratic Chair Mark Brewer to ensure that this information is correct. He told me (and this is breaking news) that he will be proposing that the Michigan Democratic Party leadership vote to either not enforce or to waive the rule saying that Democrats may not vote in both the February primary and the May caucus. “What [Republican Secretary of State] Ruth Johnson has done has created far too much confusion for Democrats. I will be recommending to the State Central Committee that they waive, or at least not enforce, this rule.”
By the way, Jack Lessenberry, who should know better, has written that Barack Obama will not be on the Democratic primary ballot. He is wrong about this. Public Act 163, passed by the GOP-controlled legislature and signed into law by Republican Governor Rick Snyder says:
Sec. 614aa (1) Not later than 4 p.m. of the second Friday in November of the year before the presidential election, the secretary of state shall issue a list of the individuals generally advocated by the national news media to be potential presidential candidates for each party’s nomination by the political parties for which a presidential primary election will be held under section 613a. The secretary of state shall make the list issued under this subsection available to the public on an internet website maintained by the department of state.
(2) Not later than 4 p.m. of the Tuesday following the second Friday in November of the year before the presidential election, the state chairperson of each political party for which a presidential primary election will be held under section 613a shall file with the secretary of state a list of individuals whom they consider to be potential presidential candidates for that political party. The secretary of state shall make the lists received under this subsection available to the public on an internet website maintained by the department of state.
(3) After the issuance of the list under subsection (1) and after receipt of names from the state chairperson of each political party under subsection (2), the secretary of state shall notify each potential presidential candidate on the lists of the provisions of this act relating to the presidential primary election.
Sec. 615a. (1) Except as otherwise provided in this section, the secretary of state shall cause the name of a presidential candidate notified by the secretary of state under section 614a to be printed on the appropriate presidential primary ballot for that political party. A presidential candidate notified by the secretary of state under section 614a may file an affidavit with the secretary of state indicating his or her party preference if different than the party preference contained in the secretary of state notification and the secretary of state shall cause that presidential candidate’s name to be printed on the appropriate presidential primary ballot for that political party. If the affidavit of a presidential candidate indicates that the candidate has no political party preference or indicates a political party preference for a political party other than a political party for which a presidential primary election will be held under section 613a, the secretary of state shall not cause that presidential candidate’s name to be printed on a ballot for the presidential primary election. A presidential candidate notified by the secretary of state under section 614a may file an affidavit with the secretary of state specifically stating that “(candidate’s name) is not a presidential candidate”, and the secretary of state shall not have that presidential candidate’s name printed on a presidential primary ballot. A presidential candidate shall file an affidavit described in this subsection with the secretary of state no later than 4 p.m. on the second Friday in December of the year before the presidential election year or the affidavit is considered void.
In other words, as Mark Miller correctly indicated, the only way for Barack Obama’s name NOT to appear on the ballot would be if he sent the Secretary of State a signed affidavit saying he is not a presidential candidate. Obviously that isn’t going to happen!