ROY MAYNARD, Tyler Morning Telegraph
Sunday, March 09, 2008
There’s a rule in logic called “Occam’s Razor.” Essentially, it says that all things being equal, simplest solutions are best.
The two-tiered primary system devised by Texas Democrats is anything but logical, and a long, long way from simple.
The confusion seen at the polls Tuesday night is clear proof that when Democrats gather this summer for their state convention, they should scrap the system. They should stick with something simple, like “one person, one vote.”
Here’s how the system is supposed to work:
Voters who participated in the Democratic primary, whether they voted early or on Election Day, could also participate in a precinct convention that will eventually lead to the awarding of additional delegates to the candidate of their choice.
The conventions took place after the polls closed Tuesday at each voting precinct (those who voted early were supposed to go to their neighborhood voting precinct, no matter where they cast their ballot early).
The votes of Democrats who didn’t attend the conventions still counted; they went toward awarding 126 pledged delegates.
But an additional 42 delegates will be awarded based on caucuses.
I began to realize something was wrong on Monday; I received three calls from people who had been “told at church” that if they didn’t attend the precinct conventions, their votes wouldn’t count.
That’s not true, I tried to explain.
Another call came in, this time from a Republican, asking if it was true Democrats could vote twice.
Not really, I explained…but because of their party’s primary system, they could exert additional influence if they attend their precinct conventions.
But on Tuesday, the confusion system led to, well, confusion.
“Chaos is how some voters described it,” reported The Associated Press. “Bedlam and kookiness also came to mind.”
Thousands of voters showed up across the state – including many in Smith County – and “found themselves confused,” the AP said.
Smith County Commissioner JoAnn Hampton was suddenly called on to chair a precinct convention at the Lifegate Freewill Baptist Church polling location.
“They didn’t have a chairman, and they had only one sign-in sheet,” Ms. Hampton said. “Some people had to leave and come back. It was crazy everywhere. I think that happened at a lot of precincts.”
State Democratic leader Sylvester Turner of Houston said the party should abandon the “Texas Two-Step.”
“People were clearly motivated to be part of the process,” he said. “But because the time it took to vote, the time it took to wait in line for the precinct caucus, the lack of space and the general confusion over the process, many voters today feel disenfranchised.”
The newly revitalized Democratic Party is treading some dangerous ground right now. With its heavy-handed rebuke to Florida and Michigan for daring to move up their primaries- refusing to seat delegates from those states – and now the reports of caucus confusion and hints of inter-party lawsuits in Texas, the party could be seen as playing politics with votes.
The right to have your single vote count is fundamental. That fact was at the core of Democrats’ arguments in November of 2000, when they objected to how voting was handled in Florida.
It would be a terrible mistake for the party to lose sight of this principle.
When Texas Democrats meet in June, they should simplify the system. It’s the logical thing to do.
Early Returns is the political observations column of staff writer Roy Maynard, who can be reached at 903-596-6291 or at email@example.com.
The San Antonio Express-News has written a second editorial against the Texas Two-Step. The first time was in June.
Now, on Dec 29, after the hearing of the Advisory Committee held in San Antonio on Dec 20, the San Antonio Express-News published the following editorial entitled “Demos should dump two-step delegate system“:
A rules review now under way could lead to crucial relief for Texas Democrats.That relief would be in the form of dumping the ridiculously confusing “Texas two-step” system for selecting delegates to the national presidential nominating convention.
After churning through numerous presidential primaries with little notice, the two-step system spawned a controversial mess this year.
The hybrid system involves both a primary election and a caucus process to choose delegates.
The intense battle between President-elect Barack Obama and foe Hillary Clinton brought out massive numbers of voters and caucus participants.
Caucuses were held after the polls closed on primary night, making it difficult for many working people and parents to attend.
The system was a stellar illustration of disenfranchising voters. It spawned massive chaos as well.
Caucus-goers had to wait for hours on election night to cast their votes in disorganized precinct-level meetings. And that was after voting in the primary election.
Texas Democratic officials were unsure how many delegates each candidate would get at the national convention until late in the process.
The advisory committee should recommend that the state party change its rules, and adopt a 100 percent primary system. It would bring true fairness and be less confusing.
The Austin Chronicle this week named “Kicking out the Two-Step” the number 9 Top State Story of 2008. They don’t have their facts entirely correct, though, in saying that “it seemed to work fine since 1976”. As Jim Mattox testified to the Advisory Committee in Austin, there have been problems with the Two-Step in the past, such as in 1988. That was the year when Michael Dukakis won the primary vote while Jesse Jackson took more delegates in the caucuses.
9) Kicking Out the Two-Step. Texas has never seen turnout like it did for this year’s primaries, which also meant unprecedented scrutiny on the Democrats’ hybrid daytime primary/nighttime caucus presidential nomination system. It seemed to work fine since 1976, but after Clinton won the day and Obama took the night it nearly caused an insurrection at the state convention. Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, is designated fixer.