Democratic advisory group reviews ‘Texas Two-Step’ voting system
Monday, July 7, 2008
AUSTIN — The complicated system of allotting presidential delegates swamped the Texas Democratic Party during record voter turnout in the spring and needs to be improved, party Chairman Boyd Richie told an advisory committee today.
Texas Democrats distribute the state’s 193 delegates to the national convention using a hybrid system that includes the primary election and a caucus, with distribution favoring state Senate districts that had high voter turnout in the most recent presidential and gubernatorial elections.
But precinct convention workers accustomed to just a trickle of caucus-goers were overwhelmed by this year’s record turnout of more than a million voters in a historic race between Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton for the party’s presidential nomination.
“No one … could have expected the record-breaking turnout that we saw 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 large numbers of people,” Richie said. “I do believe that updates and changes need to be made.”
Richie was addressing the Advisory Committee on the Texas Democratic Party Convention/Caucus System, which will convene several more hearings around the state to study the so-called “Texas Two-Step” and possibly make recommendations for improvement.
Clinton won the March 4 Texas primary, getting 65 delegates to Obama’s 61. Obama fared better at each stage of the state’s caucuses, which started at the precinct level immediately after polls closed.
The precinct caucuses quickly devolved into chaos in many parts of the state.
The process has been mired in complaints and allegations of mischief around the state, with caucus administrators overwhelmed and lacking experience to handle the record turnout.
Latino voting advocates filed a lawsuit alleging minority voting rights were harmed by the delegate distribution formula. The suit was thrown out.
Clinton’s campaign argued that Obama supporters had illegally obtained caucus packets in several precincts throughout the state and had locked Clinton voters out of several caucuses.
At today’s committee meeting, Richie suggested the state’s 8,000 precincts hold their caucuses on a Saturday rather than the night of the primary, to ease some of the load.
Before the hearing, one group of Democrats proposed changing the rules so that national delegates from Texas are awarded to presidential candidates based only on the results of the popular vote in the primary, rather than using a caucus.
“The current system is unfair because it dilutes the votes of people who vote in the primary but do not return for the caucuses,” said Scott Cobb, a Democratic activist who argued that caucuses create barriers for people who may have to work nights or have to be home to care for young children.