Texas Two-Step Named “Turkey of the Year”

November 30, 2008 by  
Filed under Blog, News & Commentary

PoliTex, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s blog on politics, has named the Texas Two Step a “Turkey of the Year”.

They say, “this year’s high turnout overwhelmed the system and the caucus lasted for hours at many precinct locations. The district conventions later that month were even more disastrous. People waited hours in long lines to check in and were stuck in schools and coliseums all day, sometimes with no food or water. People got cranky, left early, vowed never to caucus again. Tempers flared.”

Written Testimony of Precinct Chair Reuben Leslie

November 25, 2008 by  
Filed under Blog, Testimony

Reuben Leslie, a Democratic Party precinct chair in Travis County, submitted the following testimony to the Advisory Committee on the Texas Democratic Party Convention/Caucus System.  If for some reason you are not able to attend any of the hearings, you are encouraged to submit written testimony by e-mailing it to the Committee at testimony@txdemocrats.org. If you send us a copy by using the form here, we can post it on this website.

Thank you for the continuing opportunity to offer comments on how to improve the Texas presidential delegate selection process.

I’ve heard it reported that the high level of participation in this year’s precinct conventions was because of the delegate selection process that left some of the outcome of the Texas delegate apportionment among candidates to the sign-up at conventions.  I think that’s a bit off.  The high levels of participation were the direct result of a highly competitive primary election for the presidential nomination, our great candidates, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.  We’ve had the same system since 1988, but the highest levels of convention attendance since then have been less than a tenth of this year’s.  The high levels of participation in the 2008 primary election voting and precinct conventions are to be celebrated, but analysis of the disparity between the outcomes of the election and the convention process reveals a serious set of flaws, all undermining fair play and democratic principles, that must be corrected.  Those principles threatened are “one person, one vote” and “equal opportunity to vote.”   Why should those attending a convention get a second chance to vote and sway the outcome when not everyone can attend a convention?  If you wonder who can’t, please consider our soldiers deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq or anyone traveling away from home on election day, or the thousands of frail elderly or people with disabilities or illnesses making an outing at a convention impossible. Some say participation through personal attendance encourages democratic and deliberative activism.  That may be true of discussion of issues and resolutions or even selection of individuals to represent the precinct or other level at the next level, but it certainly wasn’t true of the convention delegate selection process based on presidential preference as practiced in Texas.  In practice, the vast majority of convention “participants” just signed up and left, not participating in any deliberative process.  They merely “voted” again.  The highest level of participation in our 2-decade-old process exposed this fundamental unfairness.  The campaigns identified it and exploited it too, encouraging game-playing and manipulation rather than upholding democratic fairness and full participation for all.  The experience this year also exposed the lack of planning and preparation for full participation (insufficient supplies, facilities, and volunteers-staff to handle sign-in, parking, etc.) in nearly every convention location.  Many delegates and alternates who waited and some who gave up vowed “never again.”  The long waits in lines at the county convention just to get in disparately discouraged elderly and the disabled from participating at all.  Both the county and state conventions suffered from failure to plan for, with staffing and facilities, the crowd that the rules called for.

In using strictly convention sign-ups to apportion delegates, the aggregating and rounding at so many levels is unfair and capricious.  A candidate won 39.27% of the vote in our precinct, but was awarded only 33.33 % of the precinct’s delegates to the state convention.  Multiplied times thousands, the rounding error alone could have led to a different outcome.  Rules for delegate selection caucus voting defy easy description, being completely different at each level, which also caused many new participants to believe they were being unfairly treated. 

Practices were worse at the state convention.  Unequal facilities and access to microphones were provided to the two presidential caucuses for each senate district.  Bullying rather than orderly processes dominated…together and in separate caucuses.  The no-speeches edict from the SDEC was a disaster in the senate district caucuses, and every misguided parliamentary shortcut attempted backfired, wasting time, violating individual rights, and creating bad feelings all around.  The Presidential nomination outcome was ultimately determined by neither primary votes nor caucuses, but by the “super delegates” who responded to perceived momentum and other considerations. They were not necessarily democratic or fair in their judgments.  I feel strongly that Hillary Clinton did not receive equal treatment by the party or the press. Very seldom did the rampant sexist and disrespectful treatment of Hillary Clinton by her opponents and the press receive the condemnation such behavior deserved. 

We need to plan better for precinct conventions, and we need to start them at 8:00 PM if we keep them on election day.  County, senate district and state conventions need to be scaled to the capacity of facilities to house them (the numbers per precinct and SD were too great to have caucus space).  If nothing else, we at least need to make the apportionment of national delegates depend solely on the primary vote.  And if we keep the caucus system for any delegates, then we have to allow mail-in or other participation by absentees, including anyone out of town (like our soldiers and sailors), anyone hospitalized, anyone frail or taking care of someone who is, anyone unable to leave work or school for the specific time needed to be present to caucus, or anyone physically or mentally unable to spend hours standing or sitting uncomfortably in cramped spaces or anyone unable to hear in such a noisy din.  What we have without these reforms isn’t democracy, it is the dictatorship of the fit and free-time elite!  We must do better.

Thank you again for this opportunity, and please know that I am committed to working within our rule-making framework to build a stronger and more sustainable democratically controlled Democratic Party.

Reuben Leslie, Precinct Chair, Precinct 259, Travis County Democartic Party 
Austin, TX

Precinct Website: http://www.io.com/~rlsd/tcdp259.htm

Hearings In Dallas, Houston and San Antonio Set for Dec 17, 19, 20

November 25, 2008 by  
Filed under Blog

The following dates for hearings in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio have been posted to the TDP website. The actual hearing locations have not yet been annnounced.

December 17, 2008 Dallas, TX Thurgood Marshall Recreation Center, at 5150 Mark Trail Way, Dallas Texas 75232. 4 p.m.
December 19, 2008 Houston, TX CWA Hall ( at 1730 Jefferson Street, Houston, Texas 77002) 9 a.m.
December 20, 2008 San Antonio, TX San Antonio Area Progressive Action Coalition (at 7122 San Pedro, Ste 114 (rear of the building next to Ocean Dental) San Antonio, Texas 78216) 10:30 a.m.

Video: Tory Lauterbach Testifying at the TDP Hearing on the Primary-Caucus System in Austin

November 21, 2008 by  
Filed under Blog, News & Commentary, Testimony

Tory Lauterbach is president of the Texas College Democrats and a 24-year-old law student at the University of Texas at Austin. She testified to the committee in her personal capacity as a Texas Democrat.

Video of Jim Mattox Testifying Against the Texas Two-Step at Austin Hearing on November 14

November 21, 2008 by  
Filed under Blog, News & Commentary, Testimony

Five days before his death on November 19, Jim Mattox testified to the TDP Advisory Committee on the Convention/Caucus. He patiently waited more than two hours for his turn to speak. When his turn finally came, he strongly criticized the Texas Two-Step as an “unfair” system. The second part of his testimony contains some of his best points, so be sure to watch both parts.

Part 1/2

Part 2/2

From the Austin American-Statesman article, “JIM MATTOX: 1943-2008, Self-styled ‘people’s lawyer’ was hard-knuckle fighter in public office“:

Last week, Mattox spoke at an Austin hearing on the Texas Democratic Party’s method of awarding presidential delegates based on a primary vote plus evening caucuses.

“Now let me tell you, folks,” Mattox told a party-appointed panel. “This system we’ve got is an expensive system. It’s an unintelligible system. It is an acrimonious system across the board. It is subject to misconduct, it is subject to fraud, it is subject to manipulation. It’s unfair, it’s uncertain, it’s inaccurate, and it’s an embarrassment to our party.”

State Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas , chairman of the panel, had earlier shushed onlookers when they interrupted or made noise during testimony. But West didn’t object when crowd members rose and applauded Mattox’s remarks.

New Members of the SDEC Rules Committee

November 21, 2008 by  
Filed under Blog

Here are the new members of the SDEC Rules Committee, which is the committee that will probably be the one that deals with any recommendations from the TDP Advisory Committee on the Convention/Caucus that require changes to the TDP rules.

SDEC Rules Committee 2008-2010

The members of the 2008-2010 SDEC Rules Committee are:

Rules Committee Chair – Rose A. Salas
Senate District 6
(713) 303-0957

Rules Committee Vice Chair – Bill Brannon
Non-Urban/Ag Caucus
Sulphur Springs
(903) 439-1177

Lenora Sorola-Pohlman
Officer – Vice Chair
(713) 861-7766

Ruby Jensen


Steve A. Tillery
Senate District 2
(214) 534-7973

Dr. Martha Williams
Senate District 2
(214) 384-1039

Kathleen Hawkins
Senate District 3
(409) 994-3565

Allan Jamail
Senate District 6
(713) 674-2847

Joy Demark
Senate District 7
(713) 467-3056

Farrukh Shamsi
Senate District 7
(713) 468-6447

Dee Jay Johanneson
Senate District 10


Mary Seymore
Senate District 13
(713) 728-1353

Ken Yarbrough
Senate District 15
(713) 869-6868

Theresa Daniel
Senate District 16
(214) 327-4424

Don Bankston
Senate District 18
(281) 341-5489

Diana Salgado
Senate District 19
Del Rio
(830) 775-0241

Danny Trull
Senate District 22
(214) 267-6550

Kenneth Molberg
Senate District 23
(214) 824-1097

Yoli Clay
Senate District 29
El Paso
(915) 203-6341

A.J. Durrani
Asian American Democrats
(713) 702-2377

Bill Holcomb
County Chair Association
( 936) 544-7127

Alieca Hux
Non-Urban/Ag Caucus
Sulphur Springs

Shondra Wygal
Young Democrats
(713) 433-4320

Austin Chronicle Coverage of Austin Hearing on Two-Step

November 20, 2008 by  
Filed under Blog, Hearings, Media Coverage, News & Commentary

If the panel of Texas Democratic Party leaders gathered at the AFL-CIO hall last Friday wasn’t clear on what’s wrong with the party’s dual primary/caucus system, Amy Wright gave them a good visual to work with. It was a chair. She had to sit in the chair to give her testimony because of a devastating car wreck months earlier.

“February 16 was a pretty memorable day for me,” Wright told state Sen. Royce West of Dallas and a collection of county party chairs and other party dignitaries. “I spent the day at a party event learning about caucuses. … And then on the afternoon of February 16, I was involved in a pretty horrible car accident.” The tragedy left three people dead and Wright in Brackenridge.

Amy Wright Testifying. From Change the Caucus – TDP Advisory Committee Hearing in Austin Nov 14, 2008

“I watched the Democratic primary debates from my hospital bed,” Wright said. “My husband brought the forms to send for an absentee ballot so I could vote in the primary election. And then I watched … as the Democratic caucus system became the focus of our primary election in Texas. I couldn’t go to the caucus in my precinct; I was in one of the many hospitals in our state that night, along with many other patients, doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff.”

Wright was one of a long line of people testifying to the advisory committee, most of them opposed to the Democrats’ so-called “Texas Two-Step.” Perhaps you were sleeping under a rock last March; otherwise, you probably recall that presidential delegates to the Texas Democratic Party Convention are allocated according to a bizarre, unique system in which two-thirds are decided by the primary popular vote and the other third are selected by those who attend precinct caucuses immediately after the polls close on election day.

The system has had little consequence in the past, as the Democratic nomination was often wrapped up by March, but this year it was crucial to the Clinton/Obama contest, and it resulted in the odd situation of Sen. Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote but Sen. Barack Obama winning a majority of the state’s delegates.

Many of those testifying complained that the system favors the physically fit with enough free time to attend the caucuses – and dilutes the influence of the elderly, the ill, single parents, and those in the military.

Members of the panel, however, were surprisingly defensive in their reactions, and some insisted that the system was essential to building the party. Reacting to comments that the system just benefited party insiders, Cameron Co. Judge Gilbert Hinojosa replied that “people who had never been insiders before came into the system. Noninsiders had bigger involvement than ever before.”

“I don’t know were the influx of new blood is going to come from in relation to party operations,” said Hopkins Co. party Chair Bill Brannon. “Some of these people that participated this year will run the party for a long time.”

A few attendees made similar testimony in support of the two-step, but they were far outnumbered by opponents. Some pointed out the obvious: The big flood of new party activism this year came not because of enthusiasm with the caucuses but because of the heated passions around the two candidates in play.

The hearing was the final of seven held around the state. Opponents of the two-step have organized a website, www.changethecaucus.org.

Austin Chronicle
News: November 21, 2008


Fate of the Texas Two-Step
By Lee Nichols

Vote for David Mauro to Help Him Win $10,000 Blogging Scholarship

November 16, 2008 by  
Filed under Blog

UPDATE November 23: David won the $10,000 scholarship!

David Mauro, a critic of the Texas Two-Step who writes on Burnt Orange Report, is a leading candidate for a $10,000 blogger scholarship. PLEASE click here to vote for David Mauro. Davis has written several times on BOR about the Texas Two-Step.  He is in first place now, but it is a close race. Voting will be closed on November 20th, 2008 at 11:59pm PST.

Here is an excerpt from what David blogged after the initial TDP Advisory Committee meeting last July in Austin, TDP Primary/Caucus Committee Holds First Hearing:

The movement to end the Texas Two-Step, as many have been saying for a long time, is about a lot more than Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

For those who were still trying to paint this as Clinton “sour grapes”, the first speaker at the “End the Texas Two-Step” press conference was quick to put that to rest.

“I’m not sure that it matters,” Peter Nolan began, “but I am and was a supporter of Barack Obama.”

Nolan is right: it doesn’t really matter. His support of Obama is only relevant because some have tried to dismiss those opposed to the Two-Step as bitter Clinton supporters. That is just not the case, and anyone who attended the hearing can attest to that.

And Nolan wasn’t the only Obama supporter at the hearing. I happened to be sitting next to Amy Esdorn, a graduate student who was unable to attend the caucus because of her class schedule.

Esdorn conceded that while Obama may have benefitted from the two-step system in the short run, the results of the primary were really irrelevant at this point.

“[Ending the caucus] is exactly the kind of change Barack Obama stands for,” she said.

“My vote should not count more than someone from the Rio Grande Valley or El Paso just because I’m from Travis County,” Martha Smiley said during the press conference.

Johnnie Limon of Austin held one of the more humorous signs to be seen at the hearing. “Two-Step at the Broken Spoke, One Step at the Polls,” his sign read.

Wendell Scott, a Gonzales County resident who wrote the anti-Two Step resolution and voted for Barack Obama, held a sign that said, “TDP leaders violate their own rules.”

Sue Berkel, a Clinton national delegate, stressed that the caucus could stay in place as a means for delegate selection, even if popular vote became the only means for delegate allocation.

TDP Does Not Need the Approval of the Texas Legislature to End the Texas Two-Step

November 16, 2008 by  
Filed under Analysis & Research, Blog, TDP State Convention

The Texas Democratic Party could stop using the Texas Two-Step system without seeking a change in the Texas Election Code through the Texas Legislature. TDP could adopt a system of allocating all pledged delegates based on the results of the popular vote just by changing its own rules and adopting an appropriate National Delegate Selection Plan for 2012. It is not necessary to go through the Texas Legislature to end the Texas Two-Step.

The relevant section of the Texas Election Code says

§ 191.007. ALLOCATION OF DELEGATES. Each political party holding a presidential primary election shall adopt a rule for allocating delegates based on the results of the presidential primary election. At least 75 percent of the total number of delegates who are to represent this state at the party’s national presidential nominating convention, excluding delegates allocated among party and elected officials, shall be allocated in accordance with the rule among one or more of the candidates whose names appear on the presidential primary election ballot and, if applicable, the uncommitted status.

There are a total of 228 delegates from Texas to the National Democratic Convention. 35 are superdelegates and 25 are pledged party and elected leaders. 228 minus 60 leaves 168 delegates who are not allocated among party and elected officials. 75 percent of 168 is 126, which is exactly the number of delegates currently elected at the senatorial district level based on the popular vote in the senatorial district.

The key phrase in the Election Code is “at least 75 percent.” The TDP could simply change its rules if it decided to raise the number of delegates that are allocated based on the results of the presidential primary election to 100 percent of the total number of delegates who are to represent Texas at the party’s national presidential nominating convention.

Article VII of the TDP Rules state:

8. (a) At least 75% of the base number of Delegates, not including designated Party and Elected Official Delegates, shall be elected by Senatorial District Caucuses at the State Convention. The exact number (between 75% and 100%) to be so elected shall be determined by majority vote of the SDEC at its meeting in January of presidential years and shall be included in the official Call to the State Convention of that year.

Some voters want Texas’ primary-caucus system to end

November 15, 2008 by  
Filed under Blog, Media Coverage

The Austin American-Statesman reported on Friday’s hearing of the Advisory Committee on the Convention/Caucus System.

Gardner Selby writes:

Participants in the hearing at the Texas AFL-CIO Building in Austin cheered former Attorney General Jim Mattox , who said the caucus feature needs reform.

“You’re not dealing with a Gordian knot here,” Mattox told the panel. “This is not something you can’t untie.”

Mattox, a Clinton delegate to the national convention, called the caucuses an embarrassment to the party.

From Change the Caucus – TDP Advisory Committee Hearing in Austin Nov 14, 2008

Jennifer Alaniz-Zoghby of the Circle C Ranch subdivision, with her son, Quintyn Zoghby, 3, told a panel in Austin on Friday that Texas caucuses should not award delegates to presidential candidates.

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