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Civil Rights leaders press Dean on (Florida) delegates

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Filed: Timeline

Two civil rights leaders -- one a prominent Obama supporter -- have written DNC Chairman Howard Dean to press him to resolve the looming conflict over Florida's and Michigan's role at the Democratic National Convention, in a letter (.pdf) obtained by Politico.

"We are deeply concerned about the prospect of a Democratic Party convention fight over the seating of delegates elected in the Michigan and Florida primaries," wrote Mary Frances Berry and Roger Wilkins, making pointed reference to "disenfranchisement of Older Americans, Latinos, and African Americans in Florida during the 2000 election and the subsequent issues of disenfranchisement in Ohio and elsewhere in the 2004 election."

The pressure to recognize Florida and Michigan -- which Clinton won -- has come largely from the Clinton campaign.

But this letter is notable in part because one of its signatories, Wilkins, a former assistant attorney general who was the first black member of the Washington Post editorial board, is a prominent Obama supporter.

Berry was Bill Clinton's appointee to head the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and hasn't endorsed either candidate.

The letter does not press "any particular way of deciding the issues," only urges Dean to work this out before the convention. The association of the party's rules fight with the 2000 Florida debacle, however, raises the stakes in a conflict that has been viewed largely as a matter between the party and the states, without ideological content or reference to the rights of Florida and Michigan voters.


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