Driving to SMU in Dallas July 26 for Forum on Caucus/Primary System

July 25, 2008 by  
Filed under Blog

A couple of us will be driving to Dallas to attend a forum on the primary/caucus system Saturday, July 26 at SMU. The forum is celebrating the 160th Anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention, the first conference in the U.S. on women’s rights. The panelists will include David Van Os, Linda Burgess and and Dr. Dennis Simon, they’ll explore “The Texas Two Step – Trash it or Tweek it!” (10 a.m. to noon – SMU).

Some Texas Voters/ 2008 Democratic Convention participants will have 3 min to address questions, concerns, complaints or recommendations to the panel.

SPEAKERS SIGN UP AT 2008@norespectnovote.com no later than July24th.

Please include subject matter and senatorial district number.Because of time constraints, the number of speakers will be limited.

This is a separate forum from the committee hearings being held by the Texas Democratic Party

Join us at the 2010 TDP State Convention June 25, 26 in Corpus Christi

July 23, 2008 by  
Filed under Blog

The Texas Democratic Party will hold its 2010 State Convention in Corpus Christi June 25-26. ChangetheCaucus.org will have a booth in the exhibition hall of the convention, so be sure to look for us. Resolutions to change the caucus passed several county conventions in various Senatorial Districts on March 20, 2010, so we will try to get the resolution passed at the State Convention. It will first be referred to the Rules Committee and if passed by the rules committee it will be voted on by all the delegates on the floor of the convention.

Thank you to everyone who took a resolution to your precinct convention on March 2 calling for a change to the primary/caucus system in future presidential election years so that all pledged delegates are allocated based on the results in the primary, instead of allocating 65 percent on the primary results and 35 percent on the caucus results at the precinct conventions. All voters should count equally in the process to choose the Democratic presidential nominee. Many people are unable to return to attend precinct conventions on election night, but they are able to vote earlier in the day, by mail or during the early voting period.

Help us protect the voting participation rights of Democrats, who have a right to have their votes fully counted regardless of whether they are able to return to participate in the caucus system, including many elderly voters who can not drive after dark or have health reasons that prevent them from attending the caucuses, parents with young children who can not arrange child care, people who work late and do not want to ask off, people serving our country in the military, and others, who for reasons beyond their control are unable to return to attend the precinct conventions.

We should not penalize the voters who can not attend a precinct convention by giving them only 2/3s of a vote. ALL Voters should be treated and listened to equally.

See you in Corpus Christi!

SMU Forum July 26: Texas Two Step, Trash it or Tweak it

July 21, 2008 by  
Filed under Blog, Media Coverage

Dr. Lynette Long will be a special guest in Dallas at SMU July 26th at a forum celebrating the 160th Anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention, the first conference in the U.S. on women’s rights. Appearing with David Van Os and Dr. Dennis Simon, they’ll explore “The Texas Two Step – Trash it or Tweek it!” (10 a.m. to noon – SMU).

Some Texas Voters/ 2008 Democratic Convention participants will have 3 min to address questions, concerns, complaints or recommendations to the panel.

SPEAKERS SIGN UP AT 2008@norespectnovote.com no later than July24th.

Please include subject matter and senatorial district number.Because of time constraints, the number of speakers will be limited.

This is a separate forum from the committee hearings being held by the Texas Democratic Party

Many Texas Dems oppose caucus system in survey

July 13, 2008 by  
Filed under Blog, Media Coverage, News & Commentary

Gardner Selby reports in the Austin American Statesman that “Nearly half of respondents to a nonscientific survey by the Texas Democratic Party say the party should break from 20 years of selecting presidential delegates starting with primary-night caucuses.” Here is a link to the document from the Texas Democratic Party reporting the survey results. The Party is continuing to collect survey submissions. If you would like to fill out the survey, you can go to the form on the TDP website here. At the state convention in June, a group of Texas Democrats collected enough signatures to bring a resolution ending the Texas Two Step to the floor of the convention for a discussion and a vote, but the resolution was tabled so that a committee chaired by Senator Royce West could study the issue. The resolution at the state convention did not seek an end to precinct conventions, just a change to the system so that all pledged delegates in 2012 would be allocated based on the primary results while specific delegates would still be chosen through Texas’ three-tiered convention process.

Link to the article on the Statesman:

“Delegates should be elected according to the popular vote” at the polls on primary day, one respondent wrote, “not some chaotic second voting meeting.”

Last week, a party-appointed task force fielded the results, which include responses from delegates to the party’s state convention last month in Austin.

Asked what fraction of delegates should be awarded through the caucuses, 49 percent of respondents (1,367 of 2,784) said none. About 27 percent favored continuing to choose one third of pledged delegates at caucuses, with 9 percent saying half the state’s pledged delegates should be selected beginning with caucuses.

To another question, 43 percent said caucuses, now held on primary night, should be held the Saturday after Tuesday primaries. Fifteen percent favored another time.

The tallies could change as more people fill out the questionnaire online at the Texas Democrats’ Web site, www.txdemocrats.org/page/s/primsurv.

Some delegates have been picked starting with caucuses since 1988, a feature adopted by party chiefs to stir grass-roots involvement.

The so-called Texas two-step — voting in the primary, followed by participation in caucuses open only to primary voters — came under scrutiny this year, partly because some caucuses proved chaotic in the face of record turnout and because the drawn-out approach left in question which candidate won the most delegates until the state convention.

Scott Cobb of Austin championed a resolution at the convention that would have ended the selection of delegates in caucuses; it was laid aside after the task force chairman, state Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, asked that members be given time to study the idea.

Cobb said Friday that the survey results showcase strong sentiments for not choosing delegates in caucuses, though he hopes the party conducts a scientific poll of Democratic voters as well.

Party leaders “should pay attention to it,” Cobb said.

U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in the primary, gaining a majority of 126 pledged delegates linked to primary results.

But Sen. Barack Obama, the presumptive nominee, will take a majority of Texas’ delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Denver next month. His support proved stronger at the caucuses, which accounted for 67 delegates.

West called the survey a useful tool, though he said it might have reliability weaknesses because one person could fill out multiple copies.

“We don’t know if that’s reflective of everyone in the state,” West said. He said he wants to hear from the public at upcoming hearings.

The task force could recommend abolition of the caucuses, he said, rather than reducing the share of delegates driven by them.

“I’m not going to diddle and daddle,” West said. “If we have a majority of people (on the task force) who want to go one way, that’s the recommendation I’ll put out there.”

Panel takes a look at Texas voting system

July 9, 2008 by  
Filed under Media Coverage

By Enrique Rangel | Lubbock Avalanche-Journal AUSTIN BUREAU

AUSTIN – Recognizing Texas’ Two-Step Caucus method of choosing presidential delegates left many Democratic voters unhappy, as state party leaders met here Monday to study changes to the confusing system.

“While I believe the current system is a good system that encourages turnout and participation and is a great party building tool, I do believe updates must be made,” said Boyd Richie, the state’s Democratic Party chairman, as he spoke to the Advisory Committee on the Texas Democratic Convention/Caucus.

The panel was created for an in-depth look at the party’s primary/caucus method.

The system, which is more than two decades old, was hardly noticed in past presidential elections. But it came under close scrutiny this year during record voter turnout and a split decision. Though Sen. Hillary Clinton edged Sen. Barack Obama in the popular vote in the March 4 primary, Obama won the majority of the state’s 228 delegates with his victory in the caucuses.

Moreover, the precinct caucuses were chaotic in many parts of the state.

That is why at the state party convention last month, many of the die-hard Clinton supporters – including hundreds from the Panhandle and the South Plains – said the Texas Two-Step is not only confusing but undemocratic and needs to go.

They were furious that Clinton won the popular vote but ended up losing to Obama in the number of delegates the Texas Democratic Party will send to the national convention in Denver next month.

A record 2.8 million Texans voted in the Democratic Primary and more than a million of them also participated in the caucuses. It was the high voter turnout that doomed the system, Richie said.

“No one could have expected the record-breaking turnout,” said Richie, who has since backed Obama. “And while this turnout was good for Texas, it was clear the current system that governs the Texas Democratic Party is not capable of handling such a large number of voters.”

Having the caucus immediately after the polls closed on March 4 added to the confusion, Richie said. He proposed the caucuses be held the Saturday after the primary in future elections.

Some party activists, however, wanted to get rid of the caucus system. They said the caucuses are unfair because most people can’t take the time to participate.

State Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, is a committee member. She said that though Clinton supporters make a strong argument, she will keep an open mind throughout the hearings.

“I want to see how we can do this better and how we can encourage more participation,” Farrar said. “I am looking forward to see how this develops. This is a good process for us to go through, to understand why it is what it is.”

State Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, chairman of the committee, said the panel will hold hearings throughout the state to give rank and file Democrats a chance to voice their opinion.

But except for another Austin hearing, he didn’t mention any locations or dates.

Lubbock Online article

Videos

July 8, 2008 by  
Filed under Blog

If you have a webcam, upload and add a video statement to the YouTube group “End the Texas Two Step. Count ALL Voters Equally” explaining why you think the Texas Two Step should be ended. You can also talk about your experience at your caucus on March 4.

Dems convene to talk about Texas two-step primary system

July 8, 2008 by  
Filed under Media Coverage

Some support change that will only count primary vote results
By: Ashley Crooks
The Daily Texan
7/8/08

Buttons and signs that read “Count ALL Votes Equally” worn by a group of Texas Democrats expressed their frustrations with the March 4 presidential primary elections.

The group convened to discuss the first meeting, held Monday morning, of an advisory committee appointed by the Texas Democratic Party to reconsider the logistics of the “Texas two-step,” the process by which Texas delegates are apportioned to candidates.

The 193 Texas Democratic delegates were alloted to Senate districts that had higher voter turnouts in past presidential and gubernatorial elections, which sparked controversy during the high voter turnout in the March primaries.

“This election, 2.2 million Democrats were involved in the primary. Our caucus system was overwhelmed, to say the least,” said Sen. Royce West, a Dallas Democrat and chairman of the committee.

West said the committee will keep an open mind as it hears testimony during four or five hearings similar to Monday’s to be held across the state.

The next hearing has yet to be scheduled.

The state caucus system allows Democrats to effectively “vote twice” – once in the primary election and again in the precinct caucuses on the evening of the primary. Approximately two-thirds of Texas’ Democratic delegates are decided by the primary vote and one-third by caucuses.

Some voters called the process undemocratic because it excludes voters who cannot make it to their precinct caucuses.

“It is an unfair system to parents with young children, people with two jobs, the elderly and the disabled,” said Guadalupe Sosa, a state delegate for Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Many voters who were present at caucus meetings in March said they were forced to leave before casting their votes because of a lengthy and disorganized sign-in process overwhelmed by a higher-than-usual voter turnout.

“I myself vote every time. I had to leave early because it was just too much,” Sosa said. “Delegates should be apportioned on straight votes.”

If the Texas Democratic Party were to change its rules for future elections, delegates could be allocated to candidates based solely on the results of the primary vote.

“Democracy works best when there are as few barriers as possible to participation,” said Sue Berkel, an Austin-area lawyer and national delegate. “The Texas system disenfranchises voters and dilutes our votes.”

Amy Esdorn, a Texas A&M graduate student, said she could not participate in a caucus because she had a class from 6:30 to 9 p.m. on the day of the primary.

“I feel my vote didn’t count as much as others who could stay out and vote for their candidate,” Esdorn said.

Despite a number of frustrations with the primary process, there are benefits to the caucus system: It serves to energize the Democratic base and allows for the discussion of ideas, Obama supporter Peter Nolan said.

“The meetings are about finding a way to keep the benefits of the caucus and lose the detriments,” Nolan said.

The Texas Misstep

July 8, 2008 by  
Filed under Blog, News & Commentary

A blogger named liberaltexan writing on the Burnt Orange report has this to say about the Texas Two Step:

One of the problems with the current primary system is that it dilutes votes, and it takes away from the importance of a voter casting their single vote. The saying is often heard: one person, one vote. By using this two part system you are penalizing people that in many cases cannot participate in the caucuses.

Another problem with the caucus system is voter disenfranchisement. The caucuses tend to lend towards participation by more affluent white voters. Caucuses are held in the evenings after the polls are closed, during which time those people that are employed in the evenings cannot attend. This also affects elderly voters, disabled voters, single parent voters, and voters living overseas just to name a few. Here in lies the problem; for a party that prides itself on being the party that defends the rights and liberties of minority groups they are same party that is stifling their voice.

Proponents of the dual caucus and voting system have used the argument that the system was created to increase voter turnout and encourage participation. This year 2,874,986 votes where cast in the Texas presidential primary, 839,231 votes where cast in 2004, 786,890 votes where cast in 2000, 921,256 where cast in 1996, and 1,483,047 where cast in 1992. The almost 3 million votes cast had nothing to do with the system used, and everything to do with the people of Texas (and the rest of that county) speaking out for change.

According to the United States Election Project, voter turn out in Iowa increased to 236,000 in 2008 from 122,193 in 2004 and 61,000 in 2000. However, caucus states had a lower percentage of voter turn out than non-caucus states. Iowa and New Mexico had the highest percentage in caucus states (16.3% and 11.2%), while New Hampshire and California had the highest percentage in non-caucus states (52.5% and 41.7%).

The sour grapes argument, that the opposition to the system is mainly Senator Hillary Clinton supporters who are bitter about the primary, is nothing but divisive and diversionary. Those who support Barack Obama, such as this blogger, should feel fortunate that the Democratic Party has been able to unite behind one candidate. Whether or not the primary system is right or wrong has nothing to do with whether or not you supported Senator Obama or Senator Clinton.

The primary system needs to be changed. The Texas Democratic Party must adopt a system of primary voting only. Precinct conventions should be held on the Saturday following the election in order to give everyone an equal opportunity to voice their opinions on local issues and elect precinct delegates.

Democratic panel considers changes to primary-caucus hybrid

July 8, 2008 by  
Filed under Blog, Media Coverage, News & Commentary

By ELISE HU
KVUE News

An advisory panel of Texas Democratic leaders is reviewing the way the Texas party chooses its presidential nominee. Texas is one of a few states with a primary and a caucus. The primary results account for two-thirds of the state’s delegates, the caucus results account for the rest.
Video

The March 4th Democratic primary and caucus saw unprecedented turnout, as the contest between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton was still in full swing — 2.8 million voters took part in the primary and another nearly one million in the caucus.

“It’s an absolute, all time record,” said Boyd Richie, the Texas Democratic Party chairman.

But precinct convention locations — and workers — were overwhelmed by the record turnout, and complaints about the competing campaigns cheating the paper-based system popped up through the evening.

“It’s very unfortunate that they weren’t prepared this year for the amount of turnout,” said Scott Cobb, Texas delegate.

Cobb is hoping the so-called Texas two-step becomes just one step. He says the caucus should not go into the state’s delegate allocation, but instead be used for organizing resolutions and choosing the actual people who will serve as delegates.

He and other critics of the caucus say that too many people are left out by the caucuses because they are unable to devote the evening hours to go back and wait in line, sign-in, and elect county level delegates.

“We’re here advocating today for those people who didn’t go to the caucus who may have wanted to,” Cobb said.

Richie told the advisory panel that the system needs to be improved.

“This tremendous enthusiasm, tremendous turnout, showed the flaws in the system,” he said.

Richie made suggestions for fixing the current system. He said, for instance, that the state’s 8,000 precincts hold their caucuses on a Saturday rather than the night of the primary.

The 21-member panel is expected to hold several hearings throughout the summer. It will be headed by State Senator Royce West, D-Dallas.

“I think the last time that we looked at the primary caucus system was probably in the mid-eighties. So it’s probably time for us to look at it again to see whether or not it is in fact, working,” said West.

Texas Democrats consider changes to two-step primary system

July 8, 2008 by  
Filed under Blog, Media Coverage

By Brandi Grissom / El Paso Times Austin Bureau
Article Launched: 07/07/2008 04:11:31 PM MDT

AUSTIN – Texas Democrats’ election system was incapable of handling the millions of voters and caucus-goers who turned out to support presidential candidates in March, state party chairman Boyd Richie said Monday.

“This tremendous enthusiasm and tremendous turnout showed the flaws in the system,” Richie said.

The Texas Democratic Party’s Advisory Committee on the Convention and Caucus System held its first meeting Monday, launching a series of hearings statewide to examine whether the two-step primary system needs to change. The committee heard from party officials and experts about what went wrong in the delegate selection process this year and heard ideas for improvement.

“Were there problems? Yes,” said state Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, chairman of the committee. “Do we need to deal with some of those problems? Yes.”

About 2.8 million Democrats turned out in Texas to vote for U.S. Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. About 1 million came back to their precincts election night to participate in the party’s drawn out caucus process.

It was the first time in recent history that the presidential nominee had not been chosen before the Texas primary election, so predicting turnout was problematic, Richie said.

“We did everything we thought possible to prepare and anticipate before the primary,” he said.

In El Paso, he said, party officials conducted 80 training sessions to prepare election officials and volunteers.

Still, confusion abounded at precinct
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conventions and later at county conventions across the state.

Richie suggested perhaps separating the dates of the election and the caucus so that those with family responsibilities and other duties would not have to wait until late at night to participate in the caucus.

Maybe using more technology would help, too, he said.

He didn’t suggest scrapping the 20-year-old system and allocating all of Texas delegates according to the results of the primary election, as some have.

“It really works when people understand and participate,” Richie said.

He reminded the committee that whatever changes they make to the system will cost money. Implementing an electronic system in all 254 Texas counties, he said, would take about $2 million.

Yolanda Clay, an El Pasoan on the committee, was unable to attend the meeting but said she hoped at future hearings Democrats would air the many complaints of unfairness she has heard.

“This caucus system has got to be changed if we keep it all,” she said.

El Paso Democrat Don Williams said the current system is complicated and the party didn’t educate voters enough about how it works.

“A lot of people were caught off guard, because they didn’t understand,” Williams said.

The committee has not yet decided when and where its statewide hearings will be. Any recommendations would be acted on at the Texas Democratic Party convention in 2010 and would not be implemented until the 2012 election.

Brandi Grissom can be reached at bgrissom@elpasotimes.com; (512) 479-6606.

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