Testimony of Pam Durham Given at the Arlington Meeting

October 23, 2008 by  
Filed under Blog, Testimony

As a service for those people who have been unable to attend any of the meetings of the Advisory Committeee on the Primary/Caucus, we will post any written testimony that is presented to the committee if we are given a copy of the testimony. If you have presented testimony to the committee and would like us to post it, just send us a copy. We will post all testimony, whether it agrees with our position to End the Texas Two Step or not.

We also call on the committee to put the recordings of the testimony online, so that people who were not present can listen to the recordings.

Below is the testimony of Pam Durham given at the Arlington meeting.

To: the Advisory Committee on Texas Convention/Caucus process

From: Pam Durham, SD 10 National Delegate, Fort Worth

October 17, 2008

Thank you for the opportunity to examine the State Convention/Caucus process for the state of Texas.

I have had the privilege, honor and responsibility of participating in the entire cycle from precinct elections to the national convention.  It is indeed a historical year.  Yet, some of the history that we have made, I do not look forward to repeating to future generations of voters.  As with all flaws and mistakes and errors and abuses, we do now have an opportunity to learn from the errors of our ways and reform our actions for the greater good of the voters of our illustrious state.

I first want to report how proud I am of the Texas delegation of the National Convention.  Throughout the process of the Convention and the preparatory time leading to the convention in Denver, we were able to treat our equally divided group with respect and allow each of us to honor our commitment to the voters that we represented.  Through diligence at the grassroots level, the Texas delegation voted as we were sent to vote for the nominee of our electorates choice for the top of the ticket.  There was no arm-twisting, or acrimony or pressure to change our vote.  We were respected for our opinions and our duty to represent those that sent us.  And, as a result of the hard work at the grassroots level, the pledged delegate count for each of the Presidential candidates rose above the 100% mark! The process worked for the Texas delegation although the final result was not reported on national television.

However, the road leading to the Convention was rocky and full of potholes that derailed too many Texas democratic voters.  Much talk has been raised about the Texas hybrid system stirring up unprecedented voter participation this year.  I beg to differ.  The voter participation surge was prompted by the fact that for the first time in primary history, the Texas voters had an opportunity to impact the primary decision.  The decision of the Presidential nominee wasn’t already a done deal by the time our primary was held as has always happened in the past.  Texas voter opinions counted this time, so Texas as with the rest of the nation, wanted to express our opinion through our vote and have our voices heard and we did that in record numbers.

Therein lies the problem with the Texas two-step, the uniquely Texas hybrid system with both a primary and a caucus.  The voters voices were undermined by an apportionment system that allows certain voters to have not only 2 votes for their Presidential nominee but 3 or more votes for their choice.  The democratic process is built on the principal of one person, one vote.  Yet, in Texas we allot 33 % of our delegates based on the number of voters that participate in the caucus process. In some precincts, 100 participants had the opportunity to elect the same number of delegates that 1000 participants had in another precinct.  Does that mean my precinct convention vote is worth one vote or 10 votes?  How do you reconcile that a select group of voters gets to carry the weight of 33% of the delegates when they are not truly 33% of the total number of voters? There is no practical logic to link apportionment to one person, one vote.

Then, we have the problem of system abuse and gaming.  Yes, we had record numbers of voters in this primary election as well as in the precinct caucuses.  In my own precinct we had 10 times the number of people at our precinct caucus than at any number of caucuses since their inception.  But, how many were left out of the process?  Just on election day, I talked to many voters who were not able to return for an evening caucus—the handicapped and elderly who do not leave their homes after dark, the single parents of school children that could not be gone from home for the 3 or more hours that my precinct caucus demanded or the shift workers who have no control over their schedule, including police and firefighters, or our active military that are away from home attending to our national security.  How is it fair to exclude voter participation by setting up a one time opportunity to have a second chance to pump up the votes for your candidate?  What is democratic about voter exclusion?

On the national level, the response to the caucus system is keep it intact as long as you give the same Federal election voter protection and rights as mandated for the voters at the polls—equal access.  My mandate to Texas Democratic Party is revise the system so that all can participate which would include early voting, mail-in voting, handicap access and bi-lingual, multi-lingual access.

Yes, I have heard the argument that the Texas hybrid system is in place to encourage and reward political activism. It does not hold water for me.  Our hybrid system is yet another way to abuse the power of the vote by focusing it on a favored few.  All too often, this year included, back room political decisions rule over the voters voices.  All too often, this year included, the tawdry practices of political deceit and fraud, override the will of the voter.  We saw the abuses at each and every level of this election cycle in Texas.  Fist-fighting at precinct caucuses, Churches locking precinct caucuses out of the facility, handicapped and elderly left to stand in the cold and dark for hours before being allowed to sign in; not enough paper work to document the precinct convention; not enough voters educated in the process for the documents to be completed correctly and fairly; campaigns teaching voters to bully election officials for the documentation; precinct notes with the candidates name all in the same handwriting—the old sign here and we’ll fill in the blanks later; voters being told we’ve taken the count, you can go now before all the voters are verified and counted;  Then, we move on to Senate District Conventions where convention minutes were stolen; elected state delegates recordings were “lost” in transit and committee member family members for the opposite candidate were written in; electronically scanned precinct minutes at the State level were late in getting back to local level and were so incorrect they could not be used leading to a Credentials nightmare for the Senate District Convention; campaigns dictating to State committees who to nominate and being held hostage in closed door sessions; leadership in the delegation leaving the floor of the State Convention hours before the Convention ended leaving the grassroots to fend for themselves for a very important vote. It was ugly, undemocratic and a Texas voter travesty.

We have lost Texas democrats over this process this year.  Yes, they participated early on.  But, too, too many have said they will not participate as a Democrat again.  The hybrid system has helped to create a new Texas independent of some of our most ardent grassroots workers that were exposed to the ugliness of politics at its worst.  It did not have to happen this way.

It is now time to become the Texas Democratic Party of the 21st century where we do not leave even the appearance of impropriety, where we are transparent and accountable and provide an experience that is equal for every voter.  No excuses about too many people, broken systems, just not prepared.  Take us back to the core values of the democratic process—one person, one vote with all the protections of the Federal election laws.  In the words of our Democratic Party nominee—provide the change we need—to an inclusive, transparent and accountable Texas Democratic Party that respects each and every Texas voter voice.


One Response to “Testimony of Pam Durham Given at the Arlington Meeting”

  1. Update: “End the Texas Two Step” « Grab and Keel on October 23rd, 2008 10:08 pm

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