PRESS RELEASE from Florida Democratic Party

Update on Signature Verification & Responses to Republican Questions on Primary

For Immediate Release: March 13, 2008

UPDATE: The Secretary of State's office has said that it could not assist with signature verification; however, Governor Crist informed Senate Democratic Leader Steve Geller today that he would instruct the Secretary of State to supervise access to the state's voter registration database. Florida law does not prohibit this (it only prohibits copying the database).

TALLAHASSEE - The Republican Party of Florida is emailing reporters demanding answers to questions about the Democratic primary. Why they didn't just ask us, we don't know. But here are the answers:

RPOF Question #1) According to the FEC, any activity relating to an election that has a Federal Candidate on the ballot is to be paid for with Federally raised dollars by a state party. How will the FDP legally pay for an election for President without paying for it completely with Federal Dollars?

This is a non-federal, party-building activity. The DNC's legal counsel has confirmed that non-federal funds can be used to pay for this election, just like anything related to our elections for county chairs, state committee people, DNC member, etc. Republicans have spent non-federal money on these type of elections as well.

RPOF Question #2) The FDP has $296K Federal cash on hand and admit that this election will cost, conservatively, $10 - $12 million dollars. How realistic is it to raise that much money in 30 days?

Fortunately, the energy and excitement is on the Democratic side. The Clinton and Obama campaigns have raised millions more than the Republicans - and that's in federal money. Governors Jon Corzine and Ed Rendell committed to raising $15 million to help Florida and Michigan pay for new elections. Obama supporters have also offered to raise money. This has been reported widely.

RPOF Question #3) The FDP insists that they can pay for this election with soft dollars and that Howard Dean, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama will help raise money for them, but is this even legal?

We have never said that Chairman Dean, Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama would help raise non-federal money. We have said that we would ask their supporters to help. Also, all three can raise federal money for the Party (and the limits are higher than federal campaigns).

RPOF Question #4) Is this plan something that will need to be approved by the Department of Justice? If so, how long does that normally take?

It's unclear whether it does, but we would submit it anyway to be sure. It takes up to 60 days, but the plan is very inclusive and does not inhibit minority voting rights.

RPOF Question #5) Don't FDP rules require a 30-day review period before this plan can be enacted? Don't FDP rules require a 30 day-window for voter registration to close? If so, doesn't this only give them 29 days to mail ballots, verify signatures and count votes, and is this enough time?

This makes no sense. DNC - not FDP - Rules call for a 30-day public comment period for the Delegate Selection Plan, not the actual proposal of how to conduct the election. This period would start Monday, if the people of Florida want us to propose a full Delegate Selection Plan. There are no FDP rules that would apply to this.

Both parties receive an updated voter file from the Secretary of State's office after the end of each month. We would close registration at the end of April, and the election would be June 3. We would actually send out ballots earlier than the state sends out absentee ballots.

RPOF Questions for Secretary of State's office:

1) State statute prohibits a mail in vote, correct?

No. It prohibits a state-run, mail-in vote with candidates on the ballot (it allows for ballot initiatives). It does not affect a party-run election, which is what we are talking about.

2) What about the FDP's statement that the only thing they will ask the state or the Supervisors to do is perform voter registration and signature verification, does this render the law against a mail-in vote null?

This doesn't even make any sense.

3) If they decide to do the process totally independently, how can they legally do voter registration and get a "close of books" list without the Supervisors of Elections?

Again, both parties - including the Republican Party - receive an updated voter file from the Secretary of State's office after the end of each month. RPOF is or should be aware of this.

4) How long do you think it would take to notify overseas voters of the creation of a new election on a date that isn't previously known to them, get them their ballots and then get their votes back?

We would send out ballots 45 days in advance, like the state does with absentee ballots. Unlike the Republican primary, the Democratic primary has made news around the world. And considering the number of foreign news outlets that call our office daily, we think that the news will spread quickly.

5) What would you expect turnout to be for this sort of mail in vote?

Probably 2 to 2.5 million.

6) Do you think this election loses its credibility if less than 1.75 Million Democrats vote?

No, but it wouldn't have less turnout.

7) Do you think the Democrats' plan is logistically feasible?

Yes, the Florida Democratic Party has researched this process for the past year, and the election would actually be run by election management companies experienced in these types of special elections. When the Republican Legislature moved up the state's primary and put it out of compliance with DNC and RNC Rules, we began looking at all of our possible options. Last summer, we proposed a vote-by-mail election to the DNC, and Rules & Bylaws Committee members were very interested in the idea. Unfortunately, there was no funding at the time. Recently, public and private commitments have been made to assist in raising the $10-12 million it would take to run the election.

Additionally, the Florida Democratic Party has accomplished numerous feats in the past three years that no one thought was possible, including paying off an inherited $1 million in debt; building county parties into functional, vote-building organizations; holding a successful state convention that raised nearly $750,000 despite no major presidential candidates in attendance; and picked up a Cabinet seat for the first time since 1998, nine State House seats and two congressional seats all previously held by Republicans (the GOP has had no net gain at any level of government).

Q. Will Republicans and independents who already voted in the January 29th Republican primary be allowed to switch their registration and vote in the new contest?
A. Rush Limbaugh shouldn't get too excited about messing with the Democratic primary. No one who voted in the Republican primary on Jan. 29 would be eligible to vote in the Democratic primary, even if they switch parties. Our voter file enables us to easily identify these voters.