Over the last two weeks, pressure has been building to get both Michigan and Florida’s delegations seated at the Democratic National Convention. Florida has set a self-imposed deadline of Monday to sort itself out, while Michigan has to reach a resolution by Thursday (before the state legislature goes on vacation). People have been proposing all sorts of solutions, from splitting the delegates to mail-in revotes. Because we can barely keep track of the proposals ourselves, here’s a guide to what’s on the table:
1) A Florida in-person primary. A classic do-over. Democrats show up to a polling place, vote for somebody, and go home.
Cost: An estimated $25 million. That’s a serious chunk of change for a state that has already paid for a primary. The only way that they could come up with the money is if Clinton supporters and Govs. John Corzine (New Jersey) and Ed Rendell (Pennsylania) followed through on their promise to raise money .
Whom it helps: Hillary Clinton. That’s why her campaign is the only group who wants this to happen.
Why it won’t happen: Nobody wants to shell out $25 million for a vote that’s likely to look very similar to the last one. On Jan. 29, Clinton won 55 percent to Barack Obama’s 33 percent. (John Edwards—remember him?—was still in the race at the time.) Currently, polls say she pulls 59 percent of voters and Obama grabs 39 percent. With other options on the table, Obama will never agree to this one.
2) A Florida mail-in primary. All registered Democrats would be sent a ballot in the mail at least two weeks ahead of the June 3 primary date. Ballots must be received by June 3, not postmarked by then. There would be only 50 in-person polling places across the state.
Cost: Originally, the plan was quoted at $4 million to $6 million. Now it’s inflated to $10 million to $12 million because of security precautions. The funding would almost certainly have to come from soft money , which means Corzine and Rendell may be involved, again.
Whom it helps: Clinton, but Obama could live with this option. For Obama, it gets the delegations seated and the mail-in procedure favors fervent supporters who will remember to mail in the ballot. For Clinton, she gets to grab the delegates she thinks have always rightfully belonged to her.
Why it won’t happen: It’s still unclear whether an all mail-in primary is even legal. There’s a huge hang-up on how to verify voters’ signatures that would take an emergency piece of legislation or an executive order to mollify. The Miami Herald has a great article on why that probably won’t happen. Plus, the people who like the idea—GOP Gov. and possible McCain VP Charlie Crist, Sen. Bill Nelson, and the state Democratic Party—are outnumbered by the nine Florida congressmen who don’t like the idea.
3) A Michigan in-person primary. It’s the same story as it was in January, except this time both Obama and Clinton are on the ballot.
Cost: It could run as high as $12 million, which would be paid for by soft money in one way or another. Corzine and Rendell could get tapped, or Obama and Clinton’s campaign could go dutch and split the bill 50-50.
Whom it helps: Obama. He’s already polling at a tie with Clinton, and he hasn’t stumped there. (Neither has she.) If he wins a populous swing state like Michigan, it would help him make the case to superdelegates that he’s the stronger November candidate.
Why it won’t happen : If Michigan Democrats can’t agree on the best approach , then it could fall apart. Otherwise, the outlook is good.
4) Seating Florida’s current delegation and arbitrarily tying Michigan. Everybody would agree to give up on the revote idea and come to a compromise. Florida’s delegation would be seated at the convention based on January’s vote, but each delegate would cast only half a vote as lingering punishment for cutting the line in the first place. Meanwhile, Obama and Clinton would agree to split the Michigan delegation 50-50. If you’re thinking that that doesn’t make any sense, you’re right. More on why below.
Cost: The best part of this plan: It’s free!
Whom it helps: Obama more than Clinton, most likely. He gets the Florida/Michigan monkey off his back and takes half the vote in Michigan. Obama’s campaign is on the record in favor of a 50-50 split. Plus, he gets to limit the damage in Florida, which Clinton would have won again.
Why it won’t happen: This is actually somewhat likely to happen if Michigan can’t figure out a way to stage a revote. But that doesn’t make it a good option. The idea behind seating these delegations was to make sure the two states’ Democrats weren’t disenfranchised. But splitting the vote 50-50 in Michigan essentially does disenfranchise them. Michigan would then have no impact on the race; its delegation would be window-dressing at the convention. Heck, even if you gave Michigan a bajillion delegates, it still wouldn’t matter if the candidates split its delegates 50-50. (See Slate ’s delegate calculator for an illustration on how this would work.)