Dallas Morning News Editorial: Trash Democrats’ Texas two-step
The confusion that reigned during the March 4 Democratic primary continues to reverberate across Texas. A conference at Southern Methodist University July 26 designed to discuss what went wrong – and how to fix it – provoked emotional discussions, some tears and general agreement that the party’s primary system doesn’t work.
The SMU meeting was one of several around the state this summer to decide the fate of what’s known as the “Texas two-step.” Most participants at the SMU meeting felt that it’s beyond salvaging. We agree.
The primary got its nickname from the cumbersome, two-step voting process Texas Democrats endure in choosing presidential candidates. First they vote in the state primary, then they’re asked to vote again a few hours later at a precinct convention. Selected delegates go to a district-level convention. Complicated formulas are applied to determine the apportionment of delegates to the state Democratic convention. Further adjustments occur before Texas delegates go to the national convention.
All of this tweaking leads to distortions: Even though Sen. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in the primary, most Texas delegate votes at the national convention will go for Sen. Barack Obama.
It left many Clinton supporters feeling the democratic process had failed them. The chaotic scenes at many precinct conventions on March 4, including one in Dallas where a caucus organizer was chased to a police station, were an embarrassment to American democracy.
“There’s no question that people … felt disenfranchised,” says Boyd Ritchie, the state party chairman. “Do I think that the system needs to be changed? Yes, I do. But do I think it needs to be thrown out altogether in favor of a [one-person, one-vote] primary system? I don’t think so.”
American citizens rank among the lowest in the developed world for electoral participation. In the Texas primaries this year, barely 28 percent of registered voters participated – up from a paltry 15.4 percent in 2004.
Complicating the process only discourages participation even more, and it’s hard to imagine a process more complicated than the Texas two-step. Trashing it would do Texas Democrats – and American democracy – a world of good.