It's time to declare an electoral Groundhog Day for Florida and Michigan and allow voters there another chance to help choose the Democratic presidential nominee. Ordinarily, this page objects to mulligans, do-overs and last-minute changes that erode respect for the rules of fair play. But there is a way to put the increasingly wacky nominating contest back on track, giving voters a say without rewarding the errant state politicians who broke the rules in the first place.
All sane Democrats now rue the day that Florida and Michigan officials decided to flout party rules and hold their primaries earlier than ever in history. The contests that were held were manifestly undemocratic (Barack Obama's name wasn't even on the ballot in Michigan), and National Committee Chairman Howard Dean has rightly refused to seat the two states' delegates at the convention. Now that the race to the nomination looks to be a photo finish, Florida and Michigan officials say they'd like to hold the contests again -- if someone else pays. If they do so before June 29, their delegations could be properly seated under existing party rules -- and could participate as they should in what may well be a brokered convention.
Money is the stumbling block. Guesstimates of the cost of a do-over range from $5 million per state for a mail-in contest to $18 million or new elections. But who said democracy should be cheap? That Hillary Rodham Clinton raised $3 million in a single day following her victories in Texas and Ohio shows how passionately many Americans feel about this presidential race. Dean has, again rightly, refused to pay for new elections, saying national committee funds must be spent to help elect the Democratic nominee this fall. It's the responsibility of the state officials who broke the rules to find the money to fix this problem -- and voters must demand they do it. Florida's Gov. Charlie Crist, mentioned as a possible running mate for presumptive Republican nominee John McCain, should be especially keen to avoid the appearance that his state has once again placed a heavy thumb on the nation's electoral scales.
The more important question is how the balloting can be conducted most fairly at this late stage. The least expensive and cleanest solution is a mail-in ballot, which could be sent to all Florida and Michigan registered Democrats in early June, after the other states have voted. Granted, this might have the perverse effect of giving the two states even more influence than anyone dreamed of when their politicians plotted to hold their primaries ridiculously early. But it's still better than silencing voters for the sins of their party leaders.