Key Points Of The DNC Staff Analysis

The Democratic National Committee released a staff analysis today of the challenges up for consideration by the rules and bylaws committee at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday. First up: the superdelegate challenge and the delegate challenge by DNC member Jon Ausman. As the DNC summarizes,

The first challenge requests the Rules and Bylaws Committee (“RBC”) to reinstate all of Florida’s unpledged delegates (also known as “superdelegates”). The basis for the challenge is that the Charter of the Democratic Party of the United States (the “Charter”) provides that delegates shall be chosen through processes which “provide for all the members of the DNC to serve as unpledged delegates,”1 and which “permit unpledged delegates” consisting of several other categories including all Democratic Members of Congress and Democratic Governors.

The DNC notes that, on a "plain reading" of the statute, all DNC members have the right to serve as superdelegates, though the DNC has the right to consider that status on members of Congress and Democratic governors. "Arguably, then, Rule 20(C)(1) of the Delegate Selection
Rules was invalidly adopted insofar as it provides that, if a State Party violates Rule 11 (the
“Timing Rule”), none of the members of the DNC from that state are permitted to serve as delegates to the Convention.

On the other hand, the DNC concedes that one can argue that the intent of the charter and the procedures set up to evaluate delegate selection plans "cannot fairly be read to require that any category of delegates actually be seated at the Convention if that category is chosen under a Delegate Selection Plan which itself violates the Delegate Selection Rules." The DNC lawyers seem to prefer an interpretation which preserves the greatest latitude for the DNC to interpret its own rules; "Indeed, it could be contended that the Charter language could not have been intended to mean that all DNC members are automatically entitled to serve as delegates even if they were chosen through a process or certified under a delegate selection plan that violates the Delegate Selection Rules or provisions of the Bylaws." In other words, even though the plain language of the rule suggests that the party cannot deprive its national committee members of their status as automatic delegates, the context within which the rules were written and amendment clearly give the DNC some discretion in the matter.

The second Ausman challenge holds that the DNC unfairly penalized Florida (and Michigan) solely because they violated the timing provision of the rules; if that was the only violation, then the DNC, under its rules, should not have reduced -- eliminated -- the delegation because that penalty is reserved for other violations.

The DNC's lawyers try to be neutral here, but they clearly don't see much to this challenge. The party's rules explicitly allow the DNC to impose sanctions "without limitation" as it sees fit on state parties that aren't in compliance with the rules -- including the timing rule. Judiciously, the DNC lawyers note that the RBC can impose additional sanctions, and it can lift additional sanctions. (It cannot lift automatic sanctions, like the 50 percent delegate penalty -- and this point is relevant to the Michigan challenge below.)

Part II of the second challenge asks the DNC to reduce the number of Florida pledged delegates in half, from 185 to 92, but, as the DNC notes, it's not clear whether the DNC rules provide any guidance as to how those delegates will be allocated, and it's not clear whether the rules allow delegates to cast half votes; in other words -- is the delegation size reduced? Or just its voting power?

The third challenge involves the status and seating of Michigan's delegates; the party argues that it has been punished enough, and that the DNC should consider a variety of remedies, including a compromise delegate slate wherein Hillary Clinton seats 79 delegates and Barack Obama seats 59. (The Clinton campaign wants all 128 delegates; the Obama campaign wants them split equally.) The DNC reiterates its view that the RBC cannot lift automatic sanctions, but it points out that the credentials committee, which takes over jurisdiction in early July.