San Antonio Express-News Editorial Board – Texas Democrats err on Two Step

July 7, 2010 by  
Filed under Editorials, Media Coverage

Texas Democrats missed an opportunity at their state convention last month to make their selection of presidential delegates less cumbersome and more equitable. In doing so, they have mistakenly chosen to perpetuate a system that creates two classes of Democratic voters.At issue is the Texas Two Step, a delegate selection process peculiar to Lone Star Democrats. A small number of state parties select their presidential nominating convention delegates through caucuses. The vast majority apportion delegates based on the primary vote.

Only Texas Democrats employ a two-step, hybrid system. Some presidential delegates are apportioned on the basis of primary results, while others become delegates as a result of deliberations at precinct caucuses the night of the primary election.

It’s a confusing system, one that produced logistical nightmares during the high-turnout 2008 race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. But its fundamental flaw is that it is unfair.

If you’re a Democrat who has a night job or evening classes or children who can’t be left alone or you’re a member of the military who has been deployed and must vote absentee, you’re a second-class voter. You can show your preference at the ballot box, but you can’t make your voice heard at the precinct caucuses.

For party insiders, that’s just the way they want it. And they got their way at the state convention, beating down a grassroots effort to apportion all presidential delegates on the basis of the primary vote.

Two chances to end this convoluted system remain. The Texas Democratic Party must obtain a special waiver to use the Texas Two Step from the Democratic National Committee. The national party should cease granting that waiver.

The League of United Latin American Citizens of Texas, the Mexican American Bar Association of Houston and other groups have challenged the system, claiming the caucus apportionment produces a dilution of minority representation. A three-judge federal panel allowed the challenge to go forward last summer, advancing it to the Justice Department for review.

Texas Democrats would have done themselves a favor if they had simply ended the Texas Two Step on their own. A party that wants to attract voters and win shouldn’t maintain a system that is contemptuous of the grassroots and creates obstacles for participation.

Express-News Editorial Board –
Web Posted: 07/06/2010 12:00 CDT

San Antonio Express-News: Demos should dump two-step delegate system

January 2, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Editorials

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.

Dallas Morning News Editorial: Trash Democrats’ Texas two-step

August 4, 2008 by  
Filed under Blog, Editorials

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.

12:00 AM CDT on Monday, August 4, 2008

Dallas Morning News Editorial

Waco Tribune-Herald: Texas Two-Step needs reform

The popular Texas two-step is usually danced to country music in 4/4 time.

Texas Democrats have their own version of the Texas two-step that is unpopular and undemocratic.

This version of the two-step needs fixin’ before the next big dance is called in 2012.

Unfortunately, the Texas Democrats failed to make any reforms to their dysfunctional primary process when they gathered at their state convention earlier this month.

It had been so long since the outcome of a Texas Democratic primary had any impact on the outcome of a presidential race that the flaws with the party’s two-step primary process went unnoticed.

The early state primary competition has generally settled on a nominee before Texas Democrats had an opportunity to cast ballots for their favorite candidates.

This year, however, contest between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama was still neck and neck when Texans turned out to the polls for the March 4 primaries.

Unlike Republican voters, or Democratic primary voters in other states, Texas Democrats were required to cast ballots for the candidate of their choice when the polls were open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and then turn around and convene in precinct conventions, or caucuses, later that evening if they wanted to take full advantage of their opportunity to support their candidate.

This process, which actually is a lot more complicated than it sounds, generated a great deal of confusion and hard feelings on primary night. It also resulted in Clinton winning the popular vote and Obama picking up more Texas delegates once the final tally was determined long after the primary election.

Texas Democrats who voted for their favorite candidate during the day but could not return later that evening to attend their precinct conventions ran the risk of seeing their vote diluted through the extra step of the caucus system.

The purpose behind the caucus system was to increase party participation among Democrats. This year it increased turmoil and feelings of being disenfranchised.

Democratic leaders need to pick one system or the other — just not both.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Waco Tribue-Herald Editorial

San Antonio Express News: Democrats should reform process before 2012 voting

June 15, 2008 by  
Filed under Blog, Editorials

Striving to unify the party for the November election, Texas Democrats delayed taking action to repair their malodorous presidential nominating process.

At last week’s state convention in Austin, the Express-News reported, Democratic leaders deferred action on changing the so-called Texas Two-Step, which is a hybrid process that includes primary voting and a caucus system.

The confusing and troublesome process led to presumed Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama snaring a slight advanatge in Texas delegates despite the fact that Hillary Clinton won the March 4 primary vote.

The situation led to bad feelings among Clinton supporters, and frankly doesn’t seem democratic. The problem was not with either candidate, but with the Texas party’s weird process.

Democratic officials have said the caucus system fosters more activism and party participation.

But it also makes it more difficult for working people and others who couldn’t attend a caucus to have their voice heard without being diluted by the process.

Frankly, few Texans were even familiar with the bifurcated system before the close contest between Obama and Clinton put a spotlight on the clumsy nominating method this year.

The caucuses may generate participation in the party, but they also leave thousands of voters feeling disenfranchised.

Now, Texas Democrats will wait at least until 2010 before addressing the mess.

The delay won’t be a problem if party leaders tackle the issue in between presidential elections.

But if they don’t adopt changes, the Texas Two-Step may trip Democrats again in 2012, serving more to divide the party than increase participation.

Link to original article on San Antonio Express News

Dallas Morning News Editorial: Change Texas caucus system

March 12, 2008 by  
Filed under Blog, Editorials

Texas had waited decades to have a deciding role in a presidential primary. But when our state finally took the national stage last week, the Texas Democratic Party bungled its chance to be a political power broker.

A convoluted system of voting and then voting again undercut the state’s influence and left the rest of the country wondering: What on earth is Texas doing?

While the Democrats’ original goal of using precinct conventions to increase party activism was laudable, last week’s debacle should leave no doubt that this primary-caucus combination is unworkable. Instead of capitalizing on an energized electorate, the Democratic Party managed to quash enthusiasm with a chaotic, hours-long process that rattled voters’ confidence in the system.

Those who stayed up late on election night seeking definitive results no doubt were perplexed to learn that the wait would continue — perhaps until June. Now, more than a week later, the confusion persists, with both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton claiming victory in Texas.

Tales of missing results, unprepared precinct chairmen and general disorder still are trickling out in the post-election aftermath. And if party leaders had any lingering uncertainty about the urgent need to simplify this process, the almost-too-strange-to-be-true Sandra Crenshaw saga should convince them to start rewriting their rules. The former Dallas City Council member ran a caucus that nearly turned violent and eventually ended in a standoff at a police substation after Ms. Crenshaw told Obama supporters that she planned to alter voting totals to bolster Mrs. Clinton.

To their credit, state Democratic leaders have begun to discuss the system’s failings. But some have shirked responsibility, describing this as an “inherited” process and shifting blame to their predecessors. They conveniently fail to mention that the party has had 20 years to recognize that the Texas Two-Step is more of an awkward shuffle that leaves voters with stubbed toes.

The party’s challenge now is to move quickly to enact reforms. While the next presidential primary is a distant prospect, Democrats have no reason to wait. This election revealed Democratic caucuses as onerous and unnecessarily complicated.

Describing this as a two-step process was wildly optimistic — as voters who were stuck in overcrowded caucuses late into the evening can attest.

Now, the state’s Democrats must dispense with all this talk of dancing. Texans just want the chance to vote.


You’ve voted. You’ve survived the caucus. Now write a letter to the state Democratic Party to get the complicated system changed.

Boyd L. Richie, chairman
Texas Democratic Party
505 W. 12th St., Suite 200
Austin, TX 78701

Original Article on DMN website