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Florida Dems to Dean, Back off

Sounding infuriated, members of Florida's Democratic congressional delegation are firing off a letter to national party chair Howard Dean, accusing the DNC of being "poised to assault" Floridians' right to cast their ballots.

And they're threatening a voting rights probe should the DNC sanction the state.

At issue is the likelihood that the national party Saturday will vote to punish the state for leapfrogging its presidential primary to Jan. 29.

The members of the delegation, who have met privately with Dean in an effort to fend off a clash, say in the letter it was their "understanding the Democratic National Committee intended to satisfactorily resolve any potential rules problems arising from the decision by several states to move up their 2008 primary dates.

"Yet it was reported just today the DNC still appears poised to assault this basic right," says the letter signed by Sen. Bill Nelson, along with Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Alcee Hastings, Kathy Castor and Kendrick Meek.

"If true - and if the DNC strips Florida of all or some of its delegates to the national convention - we would ask the appropriate legal officials to determine whether this could violate any state or federal laws governing and protecting individual voting rights."

Furthermore, the letter says the delegation will recommend that Florida Democrats "send the party's entire delegation to the national convention in Denver next year anyway."

The committee, seeking to bring order to an unruly presidential primary season, has suggested it will punish the state by taking away half of its delegates to the 2008 convention, weakening Florida's clout in the presidential primary.

The letter suggests an "easy compromise" has been discussed: states with governors or others empowered to do so could move their primaries up seven days from when they were originally planned.