More Media Coverage of the End of the Texas Two Step – “Fierce Debate” Over – We Won

From the Texas Tribune “Texplainer: What’s the “Texas Two-Step” and Why is it Gone?”:

The Democratic Party is getting rid of the “Texas Two-Step” voting system. What does this mean for the 2016 presidential election?

While Democratic parties in the other 49 states and Washington, D.C., hold either a primary or a caucus to nominate a presidential candidate, Texas has both — or it at least did before last month, when the Democratic National Committee forced the state to choose one.

The hybrid system, called the “Texas Two-Step,” was a unique way of apportioning delegates to the state’s Democratic presidential nominating convention. Here’s how it worked: A primary election allocated 75 percent of Texas’ about 250 delegates based on state senate district voting results. The other “at-large” delegates, not tied to any district, were allocated at Democratic caucuses held across the state after the primary election. Any Texas Democrat could vote in the primary and a voter had to vote in the primary, or during the early voting period, to participate in the caucus.

In a Democratic primary election, voters used a secret ballot to select their presidential candidate. The caucus, though, was similar to a town hall meeting; supporters gathered to discuss party platforms and choose delegates for their candidates. It depended on getting a candidate’s supporters in the right place at the right time. The percentage of votes a candidate received at the caucus determined the percentage of at-large delegates allocated to that candidate. Here’s a simplified example: If 100 people showed up at a Burnet County caucus that had 10 delegates to allocate and 50 voted for Candidate A, 30 voted for Candidate B and 20 voted for Candidate C, then the candidates would walk away with 5 delegates, 3 delegates and 2 delegates, respectively. The more supporters who showed up for a certain candidate, the more delegates that candidate received. The total delegate count was the number a candidate received from the primary and from the caucus, but to be eligible for any delegates, candidates had to receive at least 15 percent of the vote.

But now the two-step system is gone. For the 2016 election, delegates will only be allocated via primary election. Three-quarters of delegates were already determined by the primary vote. The only change will be how the 25 percent of at-large delegates are divided. Instead of caucus votes, the number will be determined by the statewide vote. Why did the DNC make Texas change its system? “The Rules and Bylaws Committee review found that the complex two-step system that Texas previously followed had the potential to confuse voters,” DNC spokeswoman Miryam Lipper said in a statement.
Now that the about 250 delegates will be allocated on the same day, Texas will be the largest prize of all the Super Tuesday Democratic primary elections on March 1.

The two-step had garnered complaints, especially after the 2008 election. Barack Obama’s campaign informed voters of the caucus’ importance, so they turned out to support him. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, but because of the primary/caucus hybrid, Obama won more presidential delegates and claimed victory in Texas, leading some to call the system undemocratic. Additionally, the popularity of the 2008 election brought thousands of new voters to the caucuses and overwhelmed the voting process, strengthening the case against the Texas system. Some have also criticized the two-step for discriminating against the elderly, soldiers and others who cannot physically come to a caucus.

But Democratic Party leaders in Texas wanted to keep the two-step because they say it encourages voter engagement. When manpower determines who wins the caucus delegates, supporters have an incentive to turn out in large numbers. “Our argument is that we see a lot more participation and a lot more party building when people would actually come to the caucuses in person,” said former state Rep. Glen Maxey, who now works for the Texas Democratic Party.

The change wasn’t a complete surprise. Texas Democratic Party leaders say the system has been on thin ice for a while. The Texas system was grandfathered in and DNC officials had been telling the state for years it would have to choose either a primary or a caucus. Texas applied for a waiver for the 2008 and 2012 elections to keep the two-step. Maxey traveled to Washington, D.C., last month to advocate for the hybrid system in front of a DNC rules committee, but the request was denied.

The two-step system has been in place since 1976, state party leaders said, when Democrats added a primary to the existing caucus. Before 2008, the process had not received much scrutiny because the primary races weren’t close and the party usually knew who the nominee would be before the primary election.

Texas Republicans tried to create their own two-tiered process, similar to the two-step, for the 2016 election, but its national committee rejected the proposal. Like the Democrats, the Republicans will allocate delegates based on primary voting results.

Bottom line: The average Democratic voter won’t notice a huge change without the two-step system. Caucuses will no longer determine the nominee and the Texas primary becomes more important nationwide, especially on Super Tuesday.

From the Dallas Morning News:

The state Democratic Party said it must abandon its traditional – but sometimes complex and confusing – primary process called the Texas Two-Step.

The national party rejected the Texas plan last Friday, leaving state party leadership to revise the process in favor of a straightforward vote.

The Texas primary next year falls on March 1 and is part of the Super Tuesday balloting, in which Texas will have the largest treasure trove of delegates among the 12 states voting.

Under the new plan, voters in the Texas Democratic Party will simply go to the polls, and candidates receiving a baseline of 15 percent of the vote will receive a proportionate number of delegates to the national convention.

Previously, Democratic voters cast ballots during the day, and then could return to the polling place after 7 p.m. to caucus. The rules stated that 65 percent of delegates were decided by the vote and another 35 percent were awarded by the decisions of those who returned to caucus.

The process gave the most motivated voters more leverage in the delegate selection.

But in 2008, when turnout mushroomed in the primary battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, Democratic precincts were overwhelmed with both voters and the throngs who returned to caucus. The process was chaotic in many places and widely criticized.

Clinton ended up winning the election portion, but Obama evened up the contest through his power among caucus-goers. Eventually, the delegates were split 65 for Clinton and 61 for Obama.

Texas Democratic Party Executive Director Crystal Perkins said it was unfortunate that the “Texas Two-Step will not take place this election cycle.”

But she acknowledged, “Under the new plan, individual Democratic primary voters will have more power in the selection of their nominee.”

“Texas Democrats will have an important voice in selecting that nominee, and the winner of the Texas Democratic primary will score a definitive victory in 2016,” she said.

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.

http://www.mysanantonio.com/opinion/texas_democrats_err_on_two_step_97697774.html

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

Media Advisory: Democrats Seeking to Reform Party Rules Will Push Resolutions at Precinct Conventions March 2 to End the “Texas Two-Step”

March 2, 2010 by  
Filed under Blog, News & Commentary, Press Releases

Media Advisory

For immediate release: March 2, 2010

From: ChangetheCaucus.org

Contact: Scott Cobb 512-552-4743

Democrats Seeking to Reform Party Rules Will Push Resolutions at Precinct Conventions March 2 to End the “Texas Two-Step”

Group Supporters to Present Resolutions at Precinct Conventions Proposing an End to the “Texas Two Step” Used by Texas Democrats to Allocate Delegates in Presidential Election Years

A group of Texas Democrats who are seeking an end to the “Texas Two Step” process of allocating delegates among candidates for the Democratic nomination for president will present resolutions at precinct conventions tonight urging the Texas Democratic Party to end the so-called “Texas Two-Step” delegate selection process. Resolutions are submitted at precinct conventions, then on March 20 resolutions passed by precincts are considered at senatorial district or county conventions, and finally the issue will be taken up at the TDP State Convention in Corpus Christi June 25-26.

The group, whose website is ChangeTheCaucus.org, wants the Texas Democratic Party to change its rules, so that in the future 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.

Scott Cobb, a longtime Texas Democrat, said, “the current system is unfair because it violates the principles of ‘one person, one vote’ and ‘equal opportunity to vote’. All eligible voters have an opportunity to vote in the primary by mail or during the early voting period, but many people are unable to spend hours on election night attending caucuses to fully support their candidate. People who cannot attend precinct conventions to caucus include members of the U.S. armed forces serving in Afghanistan, Iraq or elsewhere around the world; many people over the age of 65; many parents with young children; many people with disabilities; people who are ill on the day of the precinct convention; anyone traveling away from home on election day, and anyone who must be at work or school at the time of the convention, especially if they are employed in low-wage, jobs without the flexibility to reschedule or unable to afford the missed wages. Other people may just be unaware that to fully support their chosen candidate they have to come back for the caucuses”.

At the Texas Democratic Party State Convention in June 2008, 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 the grounds that TDP Chair Boyd Richie had appointed State Senator Royce West to chair a committee that would be looking into the caucus system and that would hold hearings to take testimony. The committee, according to Richie’s letter to West, “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.” Senator West’s Committee held 10 meetings in various cities across Texas in the Fall of 2008, but it has still not issued a report.

Critics of the Texas Two-Step include former Texas Supreme Court Justice Bob Gammage, who wrote a letter to the State Democratic Executive Committee 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 said, “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”.

Five days before his death in November 2008 former Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox testified at an Austin hearing of the TDP Advisory Committee on the Convention/Caucus. He testified, “Now let me tell you, folks. 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.” Watch video of Mattox testifying.

“We believe ALL voters should count equally”, said Scott Cobb, one of the organizers of ChangeTheCaucus.org, who attended the hearings held by the Advisory Committee in Harlingen, El Paso, Arlington, Austin, Houston, San Antonio and Nacogdoches.

###

Audio of TPR Interview with LULAC on Lawsuit Against Texas Two-Step

August 22, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Media Coverage, News & Commentary

Click here to listen to interview on Texas Public Radio.

Luis Vera is the council for LULAC. The civil rights organization is suing the Texas Democratic Party over it’s Texas Two Step primary system.

August 14, 2009 ·In March 2008 Texas was swept up in presidential primary fever and the Democratic Party was doing the “Texas Two-Step.” When it was ove, Senator Hillary Clinton won the most votes, but it was Barack Obama who walked away with the most delegates. Luis Vera the lawyer for LULAC, the League of United Latin-American Citizens, said this happened because votes of many Latinos were diluted and weakened by arbitrary rules in place the Democratic Party.

“The seven Latino majority senatorial districts were allotted less delegates to the democratic national committee than any of the other 24 senatorial districts,” said Vera.

Vera is set to argue in federal court that the “Texas Two-Step” is a violation of the Voting Rights Act. The Texas Democratic Party is claiming the Voting Rights Act does not apply to political parties. But Vera says the Democratic Party has a history of setting up obstacles to minority primary voters in Texas and across the south.

“The irony of this whole court fight is they want to claim they are the champion of the voting rights act, but as long as it applies to everyone else – and not themselves. And that’s a pretty sad situation,” Vera stated.

This is the second time LULAC brought this suit. It was originally dismissed but the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the ruling.

The Story of 95-year-old Bill Sinkin

December 23, 2008 by  
Filed under Blog, Media Coverage, News & Commentary

Bill Sinkin (Photo: Tom Reel/San Antonio Express-News)

Bill Sinkin (Photo: Tom Reel/San Antonio Express-News)

To those Texas Democrats who — incredibly — still believe their cumbersome “two-step” primary voting process is a good idea, consider the story of 95-year-old Bill Sinkin.

For 66 years, Sinkin had been one of your precinct chairmen in San Antonio — one of your party’s biggest cheerleaders and most loyal activists.

And, after slogging through years of lagging voter interest, Sinkin should have been able to savor March’s once-in-a-generation presidential primary contest between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Yet, as much as it pained him, he had to put himself on the sideline.

There was no way the dapper, yet frail, party lion could’ve held up during the hours-long precinct caucuses that took place after the polls closed.

“It was the first meeting in 66 years I didn’t preside over,” Sinkin recalled Monday.

I called Sinkin after reading coverage over the weekend of a public hearing held by the Texas Democratic Party to consider the future of the so-called two-step system.

Unlike a straight primary, the system divvies up the state’s presidential delegates through a combination of traditional voting at the ballot box and a round of precinct caucuses that requires voters to return after the polls close.

Sixty-five percent of the delegates to the party’s state convention are determined by the popular vote; 35 percent are decided by the caucus results.

Due to high voter interest in March, the caucus process was fraught with confusion, long lines, complaints about bullying tactics and a painfully slow ballot-counting process. A full three days after the March 4 Democratic primary, party officials in Austin had received less than half of the statewide caucus results.

For those reasons, it was distressing to read that party officials are apparently more inclined to put Band-Aids on the two-step than to revamp it.

Royce West, the Dallas area state senator who heads the advisory committee considering changes to the caucus system, was paraphrased in this newspaper as saying he was convinced that most Texas Democrats still support some form of caucus.

In nine hearings attracting about 40 people each, West said, there was a common theme: “Mend it, but don’t end it.”

That might be true, but one would think state Democratic Party officials would want to look deeper than the 360 people who bothered to show up to some hearings about an arcane subject.

They should pay more attention to the 1.8 million Texans who voted in the Democratic primary and then couldn’t, or wouldn’t, show up for the nighttime caucuses.

If you don’t believe me, ask Sinkin, who has devoted his life to the party.

“I don’t think the (caucus system) is the right process,” Sinkin said. “It’s so hard to get people out in the first place, and then you make it more difficult by having people come out twice.

“It’s a wasted motion,” he said.

The idea behind the caucuses might have been pure: to reward involvement in the party process.

But if March proved anything, it showed that the two-step was not equipped to handle a high-turnout election.

And before party bosses decide to tweak the system, they should ask one question:

If a 95-year-old stalwart can’t fully participate in the voting process, is it a system worth keeping?

To contact Jaime Castillo, call (210) 250-3174 or e-mail jscastillo@express-news.net.

Dems need a runoff: ‘Two-step’ vs. common sense
by Jaime Castillo
San Antonio Express-News columnist

San Antonio Express News: Democrats weigh in on ‘two-step’

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

The future of the Texas Democratic Party’s system of allocating presidential nominating delegates remained undecided Saturday after the party conducted a final hearing on its controversial procedures.
Headed by state Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, the Advisory Committee on the Texas Democratic Party Convention/Caucus System heard testimony from more than 25 San Antonio-area Democrats who shared their perspectives on the process known as the “Texas two-step.” The committee will reconvene late next month to discuss possible changes to the rules.

The key issue is whether the party should continue to allocate 65 percent of delegates to the party’s state convention based on the popular vote and the remaining 35 percent based on caucus results.

The party allocates 126 delegates based on the popular vote and 67 based on the caucuses. This year’s popular vote in the March primary gave Hillary Clinton 65 delegates and Barack Obama 61. But in the caucuses held after polls closed, Obama won 37 of the delegates while Clinton got 30.

Partisans attending the hearing at the offices of the San Antonio Area Progressive Action Coalition both defended the caucuses and argued for changes, such as scheduling the caucuses on Saturdays instead of Tuesday evenings.

David Van Os said he defended the two-step from naysayers for many years because he thought it was a good way to attract newcomers to the party framework. But this year’s election changed his mind.

“This year persuaded me that I was wrong because it alienates people when they have to sit for hours and hours just to get their vote counted,” Van Os said, adding that he didn’t go home from his caucus until 4 a.m.

“Everybody’s vote should be counted exactly the same.”

Other speakers pointed out that the late-night caucuses disenfranchised some groups, specifically: the elderly, people with young children, military personnel and the disabled. Issues of requiring party registration before voting, better training for party personnel and more emphasis on using caucuses for political organization were also highlighted.

West was appointed by state party chairman Boyd Richie to hold the hearings and report on any necessary changes to the system at the party’s state convention in two years.

“We wouldn’t have been going around the state of Texas if this were an exercise in futility,” West said of the travel that has taken him and other members of the committee from the Rio Grande Valley to El Paso to Dallas and, finally, San Antonio.

On Saturday, West said each of the nine hearings drew about 40 people. The hearings have convinced him that most Texas Democrats support the idea of a caucus system in some form. West said testimony shared a common theme: Mend it but don’t end it.

The man who brought the issue to the June state convention, 79-year-old Wendle Scott of Gonzales County, was unwavering in his distaste for the two-step. Scott said it amounted to the same sort of disenfranchisement suffered by black, American Indian and women voters in previous years, as well as other obstacles such as poll taxes.

“Every voter’s vote ought to count the same, and the Texas two-step destroys that,” said Scott, who was an Obama delegate at this year’s state convention.

“The two-step system gives the party bosses a little bit of extra control, and they’re trying to preserve that,” he said.

Mike Thelen, a relative newcomer to the two-step, had a different perspective. This year, he attended his first caucus because he said he felt so strongly about the need for a change in leadership.

Thelen ended up not only becoming secretary of his precinct convention, but a county delegate and finally a delegate to the state convention. He said his political adventure would not have been possible without the caucus, adding that it is a great way to sustain the future of the Democratic Party in Texas with volunteers.

“I don’t argue with ‘one person, one vote,'” Thelen said of his fellow Democrats. But he had a more pragmatic view. “This isn’t a general election, it’s a party election.”

Photo of Davis Van Os From San Antonio TDP Caucus Hearing December 20, 2008

Democrats weigh in on ‘two-step’
By Sara Inés Calderón – San Antonio Express-News

Democrats Who Oppose the “Texas Two Step” to Attend Hearing on Primary/Caucus System in San Antonio Dec 20

December 20, 2008 by  
Filed under Blog, Press Releases

Media Advisory

For immediate release: December 20, 2008

Contact: Scott Cobb 512-xxx-xxxx, www.changethecaucus.org

Democrats Who Oppose the “Texas Two Step” to Attend Hearing on Primary/Caucus System at San Antonio Area Progressive Action Coalition in San Antonio, Texas on Saturday December 20

Group Members to Testify to Texas Democratic Party Advisory Committee for an End to the Texas Two Step Used by Texas Democrats to Allocate National 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 attend a hearing sponsored by the Texas Democratic Party in San Antonio on Saturday, December 20. Members of the group will be available for media interviews starting at 10:00am on December 20 before the hearing starts as well as while the hearing is in progress.

The hearing is being held by the Advisory Committee on the Texas Democratic Party Convention/Caucus System. The Committee is conducting a series of meetings open to the public to allow for Democrats from all across the state to share their Primary/caucus experience. This is the 9th and final meeting for public testimony before the committee begins deliberation on any changes they decide to recommend based on input from the public.

The meeting of the Advisory committee will be at the San Antonio Area Progressive Action Coalition in San Antonio, Texas on Saturday, Dec 20, 2008 at 10:30am. The SAAPAC is located at 7122 San Pedro, Ste 114 (rear of the building next to Ocean Dental).

The “End the Texas Two Step” group wants the Texas Democratic Party to change its rules for future elections, so that all national delegates are awarded to presidential candidates based only on the results of the popular vote in the primary. In 2008, delegates were chosen through a complicated “Texas Two-Step” process that allocated 126 delegates based on the primary 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 Senator Royce West on the grounds that his committee will be looking into the caucus system.

“The current system is unfair because it dilutes the voting strength of people who vote in the primary but do not return for the caucuses. Many people can not attend caucuses because of reasons beyond their control, such as their age or their health, or they may have young children, or they may work or attend school in the evenings, or they may be in the military and stationed overseas. Others may just be unaware that to fully support their chosen candidate they have to “vote twice”. Less than one-third of the 2.8 million people who voted in the Democratic primary on March 4 returned for the caucuses. Around 2,000,000 people voted in the primary but did not return for the caucuses”, said Scott Cobb.

“We believe ALL voters should count equally”, said Amy Esdorn, who voted for Barack Obama in the primary, but was unable to attend the caucus because she is a graduate student who had class the evening of March 4.

Five days before his death on November 19, former Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox testified at an Austin hearing of the TDP Advisory Committee on the Convention/Caucus. He testified, “Now let me tell you, folks. 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.”

###

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

http://www.austinchronicle.com/gyrobase/Issue/story?oid=704877

Fate of the Texas Two-Step
By Lee Nichols

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.

Video: Democrats tackle Texas two-step

November 15, 2008 by  
Filed under Blog, Media Coverage, News & Commentary

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.)

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