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Florida's Mail-In Primary Plan Opens Rifts in Washington and Tallahassee

The cost, estimated at $10 million, would probably be picked up by "soft money" donations largely banned from federal elections but allowed for some party functions.

With the contest between Obama and Clinton so close, a resolution of the controversies in Florida and Michigan, which have 366 delegates between them, could be critical to identifying a nominee who could win those vital swing states in the fall. Yesterday, Geller released the results of a poll of the voters who participated in the Jan. 29 primary that indicated 59 percent favor a mail-in revote. More troubling, he said, a quarter of those polled said that without a resolution of the standoff, they would either not vote for president or consider voting for the Republican nominee in protest.

"The people in Washington should take heed," Geller said. "If they continue to ignore the people's will, it will cost Democrats at all levels."

The revote plan has the backing of Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.). "At this late hour, mail-in balloting would be the most practical and fair way to let Florida voters have a full say in the selection of their Democratic nominee," he said yesterday.

But after a three-hour meeting with Nelson on Tuesday night, all nine Florida House Democrats -- including Clinton supporters, Obama supporters and unaligned members -- declared the plan unworkable, especially if the ballots are sent out in June. That month, many Florida senior citizens will be traveling. Students will be out of state. And African American members worry that a vote-by-mail effort will penalize low-income voters, who may not receive ballots sent to outdated addresses.

"You've got people in my district who would absolutely not trust this," said Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.), who has endorsed Clinton.

Above all, House members said, Floridians do not want to be burned again. "There are very raw nerves in Florida," said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), a Clinton supporter.

"We'll end up with not one contested election but two," said Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), an Obama supporter.

Florida's House delegation would like to see some negotiated apportionment of its delegates, based in part on the Jan. 29 results and in part on other factors, such as the popular vote totals after the primaries end in June.

"The only way the voters will feel the results are credible is if both candidates stand next to each other and say this is legitimate," said Rep. Ron Klein (D-Fla.), who is unaligned.

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