Testimony in front of party leaders
Friday, 14 Nov 2008,
Ellen McNamara reporting for KXAN
AUSTIN (KXAN) – Texas Democrats testify before party leaders Friday morning over the Texas two-step process. The advisory committee headed by Texas Senator Royce West has been listening to public testimony all across the state for the last few months, and eventually, the committee will make a final recommendation to the State Democratic Executive Committee.
When the Lone Star State votes in presidential primaries, delegates are assigned by the results of both a primary and a caucus. The majority of those that spoke out against the current system Friday said the two step process disenfranchises many voters who cannot caucus after the polls close.
“We discriminate against single parents who can’t hire child care,” Concerned voter Peter Nolan said. “We discriminate against firefighters and policemen and restaurant workers who can’t take off from work.” Others argue that the system keeps grassroots groups alive. Kirsten Gray with the Texas Democratic Party said without record voter turnout during the March 4 primary, concerns about the current system might not have come about.
Three more public hearings will be held after Fridays hearing in Austin. Those hearings will be held in San Antonio, Dallas and Houston. If the system were to change, only the legislature has the power to change the current election code. (Note from ChangetheCaucus.org: the reporter was mistaken. TDP does not need the approval of the Texas Legislature to end the Texas Two Step.)
Related To Story
News 8 Austin
11/14/2008 10:28 PM
By: Catie Beck
|Committee meetings about the Texas Two-Step have been going on across Texas since early September.|
Texas Democratic Leaders got an earful Friday about the Texas Two-Step. That would be the voting system, not the venerable traditional dance step routine.
There was celebration but none of it was to applaud the Texas Two-Step. It was in fact cheer for changing it.
Some voters said everyone will never completely understand the system and that ultimately is its fatal flaw.
Flaws were the main topic of discussion Friday before a panel of Texas Democrats. Primary problems and issues with how Texas uses a combination of popular vote and caucus vote to determine its leaders.
“With such turnout at so many precincts, clearly there have been some issues for some people,” Kirsten Gray of the Texas Democratic Party said.
Critics of it say it’s too confusing and that asking voters to return to the polls at night to caucus is not a good measure of commitment to a candidate.
“It alienates and disenfranchises certain segments of the population,” Opponent of the Texas Two-Step, Sue Berkel said.
Democrats say specifically it leaves out the elderly and minorities. Hays County Republican Party Chair Craig Young said the system is not broke so there’s no need to fix it.
“I didn’t see a discrimination factor this time at the polls and it seemed to turn them out more than turn them away,” he said.
But some state leaders say the system wasn’t ready for the massive turnout and either way the Texas Two-Step needs a review step.
“There’s some changes that need to be made if we do decide to keep the Texas two-step process,” Sen. Royce West (D) Dallas said.
It’s a process that is unique to Texas but this election cycle has seen some unique challenges.
Committee meetings about the Texas Two-Step have been going on across Texas since early Septembe
These meetings will continue throughout the year.
Some Texas Democrats took steps Friday to try to change the way the party allocates delegates for the presidential race. The process is known as the Texas Two Step and involves the Texas Primary and a caucus immediately after.
Most of the delegates go according to the popular vote during the primary, but the caucus also allocates a significant number. Last election, there were so many people wanting to participate in the caucuses, it exposed flaws in the system. Many had to start late, and many people couldn’t devote the time necessary to take part.
The Texas Two Step made news in March when Sen. Hillary Clinton won the primary vote but President-elect Barack Obama had better organization at the caucuses.
Protestors in Austin Friday, say they want the allocation of delegates to be determined solely by the popular vote in the primary. They say the two step, with the caucus, puts power into the party elite’s hands.
|From Change the Caucus – TDP Advisory Committee Hearing in Austin Nov 14, 2008|
“The purpose of the two step resolution is to take away from the minority people and the poorer people and give that power to someone else. I want to restore it to the voters in the democratic primary,” says Wendle Scott, an opponent of the two step, and supporter of the resolution to remove it.
Others disagree; saying the two step should be tweaked.
Norm Chafetz has been a Democrat for decade.
“Surely the system has some flaws, no question about it. I agree with some of the concerns people have about excluding people from work and so forth, I think the process could be tweaked, I think it has valute, at least the people I affiliate with feel it serves a purpose. People get to connect with their neighbors,” he said.
Texas Democrats began using the two step in 1988, as a way to stir up grassroots involvement.
Nov 14, 2008
Democrats Who Oppose the “Texas Two Step” to Hold Press Conference Friday, November 14, at 9:15 AM in Austin
For immediate release: November 14, 2008
Contact: Sue Berkel 512-689-8733
Democrats Who Oppose the “Texas Two Step” to Hold Press Conference Friday, November 14 at 9:15 AM in Austin
Group Members to Testify to Texas Democratic Party Advisory Committee for an End to the Texas Two Step Used by Texas Democrats to Allocate Delegates
A group of Democrats who are seeking an end to the “Texas Two Step” process of allocating delegates among the candidates for president will hold a press conference in Austin Friday, November 14, at 9:15 AM in front of the AFL-CIO building at 1106 Lavaca Street.
The press conference is being held immediately before the final meeting of a committee set up by the Texas Democratic Party and chaired by Senator Royce West that, according to TDP Chair Boyd Richie, “has been charged with studying the current convention/caucus system. Furthermore, based on the testimony taken at these meetings, the committee will then consider this feedback and possibly make recommendations for changes.”
The group, whose website is ChangeTheCaucus.org, wants the Texas Democratic Party to change its rules, so that all national Texas pledged delegates are awarded to presidential candidates based only on the results of the popular vote in the Primary. In 2008, pledged delegates were chosen through a complicated “Texas Two-Step” process that allocated 126 delegates based on the primary vote and 67 through the caucus system.
At the Texas Democratic State Convention in June, the group collected signatures from more than 30 percent of the number of delegates to the convention on a resolution calling for an end to the “Texas Two-Step”. When the resolution was brought to the floor of the convention, it was tabled without discussion on a motion by State Senator Royce West on the grounds that his committee will be looking into the caucus system.
Critics of the Texas Two-Step include former Texas Supreme Court Justice Bob Gammage, who wrote a letter saying he wants the TDP to “abolish the Texas Two-Step process and restore the democratic integrity of our ballot and our delegate selection process”.
Gammage’s letter says, “Texas Democrats have taken a giant step back from the fight for ballot equality by adopting the so-called “Texas Two-Step” system, which enables undemocratic caucuses to determine a third of the delegates who attend our presidential nominating conventions, regardless of the democratically expressed will of the voters who participated in the election itself. This system ignores the very purpose of all the preceding ballot expansion and democratization efforts, by giving an unfair weighted numerical advantage to a small percentage of voters who find it convenient to show up on a single night, after the polls have closed, for a limited number of hours to determine fully one-third of the delegates who will move to the next step of the presidential delegate selection process”.
“We believe ALL voters should count equally”, said Scott Cobb, one of the organizers of ChangeTheCaucus.org, who has attended hearings held by the Advisory Committee in Harlingen, El Paso, Arlington and Nacogdoches.
The meeting of the TDP advisory committee will begin shortly after the press conference at the AFL-CIO Building in Austin on November 14, 2008 at 10:00am. The address is 1106 Lavaca Street, Austin, Texas 78701.
From Robert “Bob” Gammage
November 11, 2008
To: State Democratic Executive Committee of Texas:
Through most of the last 40 years as a lawyer, lawmaker and judge, I have fought along side many other loyal Democrats in Texas and nationally to see that every qualified voter in our state and country is given the opportunity to vote, and to have their vote count equally with those of every other voting citizen.
In 1971 we expanded the franchise to permit young people between 18 and 21 years of age, many of them serving in the military and others exercising all other adult responsibilities, to join their fellow citizens in voting on significant public issues and choosing their elected public officials.The poll tax had already been abolished and the unit rule for selecting delegates had been done away with. Since then, our state has appropriately and proudly expanded the election period and increased the locations in which citizens can cast their ballots, to assure that as many voters as possible have the opportunity to fully participate in our electoral system, and to circumvent the hazards of weather, job-related responsibilities, family obligations, physical infirmities, unavoidable election day absences, and other impediments or inconveniences which historically so often prevented citizens from voting on a single election day
In recent years, however, Texas Democrats have taken a giant step back from the fight for ballot equality by adopting the so-called “Texas Two-Step” system, which enables undemocratic caucuses to determine a third of the delegates who attend our presidential nominating conventions, regardless of the democratically expressed will of the voters who participated in the election itself. This system ignores the very purpose of all the preceding ballot expansion and democratization efforts, by giving an unfair weighted numerical advantage to a small percentage of voters who find it convenient to show up on a single night, after the polls have closed, for a limited number of hours to determine fully one-third of the delegates who will move to the next step of the presidential delegate selection process.
I strongly urge you to abolish the Texas Two-Step process and restore the democratic integrity of our ballot and our delegate selection process.
Justice, Supreme Court of Texas (Retired)
Captain, JAGC, USNR (Retired)
Democrats in the Austin area will have the opportunity to participate in a TDP Advisory Committee Hearing on the Primary/Caucus system this Friday, November 14, 2008, in Austin at the AFL-CIO Building (at 1106 Lavaca Street Austin, TX 78701) at 10 AM.
The committee will be taking public testimony, so if you want to speak, when you get there, look for the yellow postcard size forms that they are using for people to sign in to testify. You can also fill out the form, if you just want to register that you are for or against the current system but do not want to speak. You can also bring written testimony and submit that to the committee. If you speak, you do not have to provide a written copy, but you can, since that will help the committee be able to re-read your testimony later. They seem to prefer that people do not read their testimony, but just speak to them as if you are talking to them one one one, but you can still submit a written version after you speak.
Democrats in the Lubbock area will have the opportunity to participate in an Advisory Committee Hearing on the Primary/Caucus system this Saturday, November 8, 2008, in Lubbock at the Science Spectrum (at 2579 S Loop 289 #250, Lubbock, Texas 79423) on at 10:00 a.m.
The meeting in Austin on November 14 has not yet been given a time or location.