Young voters in Michigan may get a chance to redeem themselves if the race for the Democratic presidential nomination remains tight and state officials decide to redo the primary held on Jan. 15.

Brian Merlos
(SOURCE: ASSOCIATED PRESS)

In a primary season with record-breaking turnout from 18- to 29-year-olds nationwide, young Michigan voters went to the polls in considerably smaller numbers than in other states. Just 14 percent of registered 18- to 29-year-old voters voted in Michigan. In contrast, the same demographic in New Hampshire voted at a 43 percent rate.

The Democratic Party stripped Michigan of its delegates for moving its primary forward, violating Democratic Committee rules. Ever since the Democratic Party’s decision made the voting results moot, party officials have been discussing ways to make the voices of Michigan voters heard.

The options include hosting a “do-over” nominating contest or simply allowing the state’s delegates to participate in the convention as they are currently allotted. If a new contest is held, college students could play a decisive role, as they have in other states.

Negotiations between state officials and Democratic National Committee officials have intensified since Tuesday, when Hillary Clinton’s victories in the Ohio and Texas primaries tightened the race.

Barack Obama currently leads Clinton 1,360 delegates to 1,220, according to The Associated Press.

LSA sophomore Tom Duvall, chair of the University’s chapter of Students for Obama, said students didn’t vote on Jan. 15 because they didn’t think their vote would matter.

“People had a very cynical attitude, especially students,” Duvall said. “They were disgusted with the entire process.”

After the DNC stripped the state of its 156 delegates, many Democratic candidates pledged not to campaign in the state. Clinton was the only major candidate not to remove her name from the ballot.

Florida, which held its primary on Jan. 29, was also stripped of its 210 delegates. It now faces a decision similar to Michigan’s.

In a joint statement Wednesday, Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Florida Republican Gov. Charlie Crist asked that their states’ delegates be seated at the Democratic convention in Denver this September to “ensure that the voters of Michigan and Florida are full participants in the formal selection of their parties’ nominees.”

If the DNC were to validate the Jan. 15 primary, Clinton would receive an additional 73 delegates. The remaining 55 Michigan delegates would go to the convention “uncommitted” and could choose which candidate to support.

Obama supporters oppose that option because his name was not on the ballot.

The DNC has suggested that Michigan hold a new contest to determine the distribution of delegates to the national convention.

“The Democratic National Committee has been advocating that we do a caucus for quite some time,” said Liz Kerr, spokeswoman for the Michigan Democratic Primary. “They’ve said that if we do, they’ll seat our delegates.”

Duvall said a new contest could help the Illinois senator.

“A true primary or caucus would show the strong level of support Obama has,” Duvall said.

If another caucus was held, it might not occur until late in the spring or summer, when many students won’t be in Ann Arbor. Duvall said holding the contest during spring or summer terms might “dampen turnout” and make it more difficult for the University’s chapter of Students for Obama to campaign for their candidate.

Kerr said the state party is in private negotiations with the national party and both the Obama and Clinton campaigns. She declined comment concerning the specific terms of the options.

Megan Brown, a spokeswoman for Granholm, said a taxpayer-funded primary has been ruled out. The Jan. 15 primary cost the state about $10 million.

If a caucus were held it would follow the format of a “firehouse primary,” Brown said. Voters would cast ballots but the contest would not be funded by the state.

Kerr said the estimated costs for such an election would be between $2 and $8 million. The state party would need to raise the funds, she said.

Clinton has asked for the Michigan and Florida’s delegates to be seated as they were first determined in the Jan. 15 primary.

Obama’s campaign has rejected this option, but has said the decision will be up to those states and the DNC.The campaign also said it is open to seating Michigan delegates at the convention if another election is held.

Although he has advocated for new elections, Howard Dean, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, was shown little sympathy for Michigan and Florida’s predicament.

“The rules were set a year and a half ago,” Dean said. “Florida and Michigan voted for them, then decided that they didn’t need to abide by the rules. Well, when you are in a contest you do need to abide by the rules. Everybody has to play by the rules out of respect for both campaigns and the other 48 states.”

LSA sophomore Kelly Bernero, chair of the University’s chapter of Students for Hillary, said she thinks the Michigan delegates should be seated, or the Democratic Party will risk alienating voters.

“People have become so disillusioned with the party, that they won’t vote, or they’ll vote for the Republican,” Bernero said. “I’d like to see the DNC give a public slap on the wrist and say ‘Okay, you were really bad, never do that again, but we’re going to seat your delegates anyway.’ “

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