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Obama Lawyer Questions Wisdom of Michigan Revote

By Shailagh Murray
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. -- Sen. Barack Obama's campaign has raised questions about a possible June 3 revote in Michigan, although the Democratic National Committee seems fine with the idea.

"We have recently been asked whether the legislation as proposed by Michigan would fit within the framework of the National Party's Delegate Selection Rules," DNC officials said in a statement. "Our review of this legislation indicates that it would, in fact, fit within the framework of the Rules."

But Obama lawyer Robert F. Bauer raised several potential problems in a campaign memo released this morning, noting that the primary would be "unprecedented in conception and proposed structure," as no other states has ever "re-run an election in circumstances like these."

Like Florida, Michigan violated Democratic Party rules by moving up its primary date to the early weeks of the nominating process. The candidates declined to campaign in both states, and in Michigan, Obama went even further by removing his name from the ballot.

Searching for ways to close the delegate and popular-vote gap with Obama, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has actively sought revotes in both Michigan and Florida, although Sunshine State Democrats already have concluded that a second primary is unworkable. The Obama campaign has long held the position that it would abide by whatever party leaders decide -- although it would prefer a solution that seats Michigan and Florida delegates at the Democratic National Convention without requiring voters to return to the polls.

Michigan state leaders are now awaiting Obama's okay. Clinton is campaigning in Michigan today, seeking to pressure her rival to make a move.

But Bauer raised a series of legal concerns, including:

Voter Disqualification: Voters who participated in the Republican primary in January could not vote in the June election under the current proposal, including Democrats and independents.

Voter Protections: The new primary would be subject to pre-clearance under the federal Voting Rights Act, and Bauer noted the Justice Department may not be able to conduct a timely review. He also questioned whether military ballots could be distributed and collected in time.

Private Financing: Michigan's plan to raise private funding to pay for the new primary may or may not be legal under federal election law, Bauer argued, raising possible liability issues for both candidates.

The Clinton campaign refuted each of Bauer's points in its own lengthy memo, asserting, "We must either honor the original vote or hold a state-run primary that doesn't leave the taxpayers footing the bill."

By Web Politics Editor  |  March 19, 2008; 11:45 AM ET
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