Sen. Nelson sues his party over Fla. primary

ByEun Kyung Kim, Gannett News Service

WASHINGTON -- Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida has followed through on his threat to sue his own party.

In a lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court in Tallahassee, Nelson accuses the Democratic National Committee and its chief, Howard Dean, of voter "disenfranchisement on a massive scale" for stripping Florida of its 210 delegates to the national convention next summer.

The DNC penalized Florida Democrats for moving its presidential primary to Jan. 29, a violation of national rules requiring states to hold their elections or caucuses no earlier than Feb. 5. Only four states are exempt from that rule: Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

The lawsuit contends that after the 2000 presidential election, where authorities questioned thousands of Florida ballots, Democrats made every effort to assure residents such a fiasco would never happen again.

"It is thus truly a monumental irony for the Democratic National Committee to replace its own commitment to assuring that every vote must be counted with a decree that no Florida Democrat's vote will count," according to the claims in the lawsuit.

The DNC also violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which protects voters from racial discrimination, because the party's penalty will have a disproportionate affect on black voters, most of whom are Democrats, according to the lawsuit.

Nelson filed the lawsuit with another Florida Democrat, Rep. Alcee Hastings.

"It's a case of fundamental rights versus party rules," Nelson said. "As to our right to vote, and have that vote count, there can be no debate."

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