Salena Zito

It's one more quirk in a presidential election year that has begun with many of them: Votes cast for Democratic candidates in Michigan -- and in Florida's upcoming primary -- will not count.

And that's causing bitterness and blame, say political analysts and party faithful.

"The seeds of a massive fight have been planted," said Larry Sabato, political science professor at the University of Virginia, who thinks, in the end, two large swing states won't be underrepresented at the Aug. 25-28 Democratic National Convention in Denver.

"One way or the other, delegates will be seated," he said in an interview this week. Nevertheless, "this could cause great controversy if the Clinton-Obama race is still close."

New York Sen. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in the Nevada caucus, but Illinois Sen. Barack Obama won the national convention delegate count, 13-12. Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina finished a distant third.

The Democratic National Committee sanctioned Michigan and Florida by stripping them of their delegates when the states ignored committee rules and moved their primaries ahead of the committee-approved Feb. 5 "Super-Duper Tuesday." Twenty-four states will hold primaries and caucuses on that date.

The Republican National Committee has been less aggressive about punishing states that are holding contests outside the window. The RNC executive committee voted in the fall to withhold half the delegates for those states that went before Feb. 5, including New Hampshire, Florida, South Carolina, Michigan and Wyoming.

Michigan, which held its primary Jan. 15, would have sent 174 delegates to the convention. Florida, whose voters go to the polls Jan. 29, would have sent 210.

"We thought it was important to take a stand," said Mark Brewer, Michigan State Democratic Party chairman. "We did this on principle, and the principle is that it is unfair that small, unrepresentative states like Iowa and New Hampshire always get to go first. That is why we moved up."

But, he acknowledged, "Plenty of people complained to me that they felt disenfranchised."

Sabato concedes the two states' Democratic voters are disenfranchised, "but only temporarily -- and for a good cause."

Officials in those states indeed stood up "for the rights of larger states to have proportionate influence in the selection of presidential nominees," he said.

Yet, he understands the Democratic National Committee's position. "Why bother to have rules if you don't enforce them?"

In Florida's Alachua County, people aren't as forgiving about the stripped votes, said county Democratic Party Chairman Jon Reiskind. Where they place blame might surprise some.


Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.