WASHINGTON - Now that Barack Obama has clinched the Democratic nomination for president, he wants convention delegates from Florida and Michigan to have full voting rights at the party's national convention.
Mr. Obama sent a letter yesterday to the party's credentials committee, asking members to reinstate the delegates' voting rights when the committee meets at the start of the convention in Denver.
The delegates were stripped because the two states violated party rules by holding primaries before Feb. 5.
The delegates from each state were given half-votes at a contentious party meeting in May as part of a compromise designed to give two important states some role at the convention.
Mr. Obama's former Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, had won both primaries, though Mr. Obama's name was not on the Michigan ballot and neither candidate campaigned in Florida.
"I believe party unity calls for the delegates from Florida and Michigan to be able to participate fully alongside the delegates from the other states and territories," Mr. Obama said in the letter.
Some of Mrs. Clinton's supporters were outraged that the delegates were not fully reinstated in May. They were also angry that Mr. Obama claimed some of the delegates won by Mrs. Clinton in Michigan.
Party leaders in Michigan had developed a plan to award Mr. Obama delegates even though he wasn't on the ballot. Their plan served as the basis for the eventual compromise approved by the party's rules and bylaws committee.
Mr. Obama clinched the Democratic nomination three days later and he has been working to win over Mrs. Clinton's supporters ever since.
Florida has 211 delegates, including super delegates, and Michigan has 156. Both states are expected to be contested in the November election.
Mr. Obama's endorsement virtually guarantees the delegates will have full voting rights. Mrs. Clinton, who also has supporters on the credentials committee, had lobbied to reinstate the delegates.
"Senator Obama's action today will help unify the Democratic Party," Sen. Carl Levin (D., Mich.) and Democratic National Committee member Debbie Dingell said in a statement.
"It also underscores the need for a fairer and more sensible process for selecting presidential nominees, as well as the critical role of Michigan and Florida - two representative swing states - over the efforts of Iowa and New Hampshire to perpetuate their privileged position in that process."
The three co-chairs of the credentials committee said the issue of Florida and Michigan would be a "top priority" at their meeting.
Granting full voting rights to the delegates could raise questions about whether the party will be able to control its own nominating process in the future.