‘Texas Two Step’ May Have Two Left Feet

November 15, 2008 by  
Filed under Blog, Media Coverage

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November 14, 2008

The second half of the Texas Democratic Primary’s election process is being called complicated, confusing and possibly on its way out if some in the party have their way.
Known by many as the “Texas Two Step,” the primary election’s distribution of delegates consists of election results and a caucus held the same evening as the primary election.
“Leave it to Texans to screw this one up, which is what they did,” Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said.The process can leave candidates receiving more of the popular vote but ending up with fewer overall delegates, such as Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton did when she finished with more of the popular vote in March’s primary election, but eventual President-elect Barack Obama ended up with more delegates after capturing more caucus voters.
“We’d like to simplify the whole primary process, the number of hoops we had to jump through,” said primary challenger Oren Rosenthal. “The number of mathematical calcualtions and the procedure involved in the way delegates were allocated really isn’t right.”Rosenthal’s group and its collective voice is being acknowledged by the state’s Democratic Party.
“There’s been so much turnout at so many precincts, clearly, there have been some issues for some people, and we want to hear about that,” said Kirsten Gray with the party. “The good things and the bad.”Gray said the party will be holding public hearings statewide and plans to evaluate the process and make changes if necessary.

Angry Democrats in Austin call for changes in Presidential primary

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

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.

KEYETV.com

Nov 14, 2008

Democrats Who Oppose the “Texas Two Step” to Hold Press Conference Friday, November 14, at 9:15 AM in Austin

November 13, 2008 by  
Filed under Blog, Press Releases

Media Advisory
For immediate release: November 14, 2008

From: ChangetheCaucus.org

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.

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Media Reports on Harlingen Hearing

September 9, 2008 by  
Filed under Blog, Media Coverage

Senator West’s Advisory Committee on the Primary/Caucus held a hearing in Harlingen last Saturday. Here are links to two media reports on the meeting. We need a bunch of people to attend the hearing in Houston this Friday. The start time for the Houston meeting is 9am. The location is Jacinto City Town Hall Center (at 1025 Oates Road, Jacinto City, TX 77029).

The Brownsville Herald, “Texas 2-Step Revisited: Hearings give Valley Democrats chance to voice their concern on primary/caucus system“.

KGBT TV 4, “Democrats hold hearing over ‘two-step’ primaries”.

(YouTube Video) of KGBT report.

Democrats Who Oppose the “Texas Two Step” to Attend Hearing on Primary/Caucus System at Harlingen Public Library Saturday, September 6

September 5, 2008 by  
Filed under Blog, Press Releases

Media Advisory

For immediate release: Sept 5, 2008

Contact: Scott Cobb 512-689-1544, scottcobb99@gmail.com, www.changethecaucus.org

Democrats Who Oppose the “Texas Two Step” to Attend Hearing on Primary/Caucus System at Harlingen Public Library Saturday, September 6

“End the Texas Two Step” Group Seeks Change in Caucus Process 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 attend a hearing sponsored by the Texas Democratic Party in Harlingen on Sept 6. Members of the group will be available for media interviews starting at 8:30am on Sept 6 before the hearing starts.

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.

The meeting of the Advisory committee will be at the Harlingen Public Library, Harlingen, Texas on Saturday, Sept 6, 2008 at 9:00am.  The library is located at 410 76 Drive, Harlingen, Texas 78550.

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.

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SMU Forum July 26: Texas Two Step, Trash it or Tweak it

July 21, 2008 by  
Filed under Blog, Media Coverage

Dr. Lynette Long will be a special guest in Dallas at SMU July 26th at a forum celebrating the 160th Anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention, the first conference in the U.S. on women’s rights. Appearing with David Van Os and Dr. Dennis Simon, they’ll explore “The Texas Two Step – Trash it or Tweek it!” (10 a.m. to noon – SMU).

Some Texas Voters/ 2008 Democratic Convention participants will have 3 min to address questions, concerns, complaints or recommendations to the panel.

SPEAKERS SIGN UP AT 2008@norespectnovote.com no later than July24th.

Please include subject matter and senatorial district number.Because of time constraints, the number of speakers will be limited.

This is a separate forum from the committee hearings being held by the Texas Democratic Party

Many Texas Dems oppose caucus system in survey

July 13, 2008 by  
Filed under Blog, Media Coverage, News & Commentary

Gardner Selby reports in the Austin American Statesman that “Nearly half of respondents to a nonscientific survey by the Texas Democratic Party say the party should break from 20 years of selecting presidential delegates starting with primary-night caucuses.” Here is a link to the document from the Texas Democratic Party reporting the survey results. The Party is continuing to collect survey submissions. If you would like to fill out the survey, you can go to the form on the TDP website here. At the state convention in June, a group of Texas Democrats collected enough signatures to bring a resolution ending the Texas Two Step to the floor of the convention for a discussion and a vote, but the resolution was tabled so that a committee chaired by Senator Royce West could study the issue. The resolution at the state convention did not seek an end to precinct conventions, just a change to the system so that all pledged delegates in 2012 would be allocated based on the primary results while specific delegates would still be chosen through Texas’ three-tiered convention process.

Link to the article on the Statesman:

“Delegates should be elected according to the popular vote” at the polls on primary day, one respondent wrote, “not some chaotic second voting meeting.”

Last week, a party-appointed task force fielded the results, which include responses from delegates to the party’s state convention last month in Austin.

Asked what fraction of delegates should be awarded through the caucuses, 49 percent of respondents (1,367 of 2,784) said none. About 27 percent favored continuing to choose one third of pledged delegates at caucuses, with 9 percent saying half the state’s pledged delegates should be selected beginning with caucuses.

To another question, 43 percent said caucuses, now held on primary night, should be held the Saturday after Tuesday primaries. Fifteen percent favored another time.

The tallies could change as more people fill out the questionnaire online at the Texas Democrats’ Web site, www.txdemocrats.org/page/s/primsurv.

Some delegates have been picked starting with caucuses since 1988, a feature adopted by party chiefs to stir grass-roots involvement.

The so-called Texas two-step — voting in the primary, followed by participation in caucuses open only to primary voters — came under scrutiny this year, partly because some caucuses proved chaotic in the face of record turnout and because the drawn-out approach left in question which candidate won the most delegates until the state convention.

Scott Cobb of Austin championed a resolution at the convention that would have ended the selection of delegates in caucuses; it was laid aside after the task force chairman, state Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, asked that members be given time to study the idea.

Cobb said Friday that the survey results showcase strong sentiments for not choosing delegates in caucuses, though he hopes the party conducts a scientific poll of Democratic voters as well.

Party leaders “should pay attention to it,” Cobb said.

U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in the primary, gaining a majority of 126 pledged delegates linked to primary results.

But Sen. Barack Obama, the presumptive nominee, will take a majority of Texas’ delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Denver next month. His support proved stronger at the caucuses, which accounted for 67 delegates.

West called the survey a useful tool, though he said it might have reliability weaknesses because one person could fill out multiple copies.

“We don’t know if that’s reflective of everyone in the state,” West said. He said he wants to hear from the public at upcoming hearings.

The task force could recommend abolition of the caucuses, he said, rather than reducing the share of delegates driven by them.

“I’m not going to diddle and daddle,” West said. “If we have a majority of people (on the task force) who want to go one way, that’s the recommendation I’ll put out there.”

Panel takes a look at Texas voting system

July 9, 2008 by  
Filed under Media Coverage

By Enrique Rangel | Lubbock Avalanche-Journal AUSTIN BUREAU

AUSTIN – Recognizing Texas’ Two-Step Caucus method of choosing presidential delegates left many Democratic voters unhappy, as state party leaders met here Monday to study changes to the confusing system.

“While I believe the current system is a good system that encourages turnout and participation and is a great party building tool, I do believe updates must be made,” said Boyd Richie, the state’s Democratic Party chairman, as he spoke to the Advisory Committee on the Texas Democratic Convention/Caucus.

The panel was created for an in-depth look at the party’s primary/caucus method.

The system, which is more than two decades old, was hardly noticed in past presidential elections. But it came under close scrutiny this year during record voter turnout and a split decision. Though Sen. Hillary Clinton edged Sen. Barack Obama in the popular vote in the March 4 primary, Obama won the majority of the state’s 228 delegates with his victory in the caucuses.

Moreover, the precinct caucuses were chaotic in many parts of the state.

That is why at the state party convention last month, many of the die-hard Clinton supporters – including hundreds from the Panhandle and the South Plains – said the Texas Two-Step is not only confusing but undemocratic and needs to go.

They were furious that Clinton won the popular vote but ended up losing to Obama in the number of delegates the Texas Democratic Party will send to the national convention in Denver next month.

A record 2.8 million Texans voted in the Democratic Primary and more than a million of them also participated in the caucuses. It was the high voter turnout that doomed the system, Richie said.

“No one could have expected the record-breaking turnout,” said Richie, who has since backed Obama. “And while this turnout was good for Texas, it was clear the current system that governs the Texas Democratic Party is not capable of handling such a large number of voters.”

Having the caucus immediately after the polls closed on March 4 added to the confusion, Richie said. He proposed the caucuses be held the Saturday after the primary in future elections.

Some party activists, however, wanted to get rid of the caucus system. They said the caucuses are unfair because most people can’t take the time to participate.

State Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, is a committee member. She said that though Clinton supporters make a strong argument, she will keep an open mind throughout the hearings.

“I want to see how we can do this better and how we can encourage more participation,” Farrar said. “I am looking forward to see how this develops. This is a good process for us to go through, to understand why it is what it is.”

State Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, chairman of the committee, said the panel will hold hearings throughout the state to give rank and file Democrats a chance to voice their opinion.

But except for another Austin hearing, he didn’t mention any locations or dates.

Lubbock Online article

Dems convene to talk about Texas two-step primary system

July 8, 2008 by  
Filed under Media Coverage

Some support change that will only count primary vote results
By: Ashley Crooks
The Daily Texan
7/8/08

Buttons and signs that read “Count ALL Votes Equally” worn by a group of Texas Democrats expressed their frustrations with the March 4 presidential primary elections.

The group convened to discuss the first meeting, held Monday morning, of an advisory committee appointed by the Texas Democratic Party to reconsider the logistics of the “Texas two-step,” the process by which Texas delegates are apportioned to candidates.

The 193 Texas Democratic delegates were alloted to Senate districts that had higher voter turnouts in past presidential and gubernatorial elections, which sparked controversy during the high voter turnout in the March primaries.

“This election, 2.2 million Democrats were involved in the primary. Our caucus system was overwhelmed, to say the least,” said Sen. Royce West, a Dallas Democrat and chairman of the committee.

West said the committee will keep an open mind as it hears testimony during four or five hearings similar to Monday’s to be held across the state.

The next hearing has yet to be scheduled.

The state caucus system allows Democrats to effectively “vote twice” – once in the primary election and again in the precinct caucuses on the evening of the primary. Approximately two-thirds of Texas’ Democratic delegates are decided by the primary vote and one-third by caucuses.

Some voters called the process undemocratic because it excludes voters who cannot make it to their precinct caucuses.

“It is an unfair system to parents with young children, people with two jobs, the elderly and the disabled,” said Guadalupe Sosa, a state delegate for Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Many voters who were present at caucus meetings in March said they were forced to leave before casting their votes because of a lengthy and disorganized sign-in process overwhelmed by a higher-than-usual voter turnout.

“I myself vote every time. I had to leave early because it was just too much,” Sosa said. “Delegates should be apportioned on straight votes.”

If the Texas Democratic Party were to change its rules for future elections, delegates could be allocated to candidates based solely on the results of the primary vote.

“Democracy works best when there are as few barriers as possible to participation,” said Sue Berkel, an Austin-area lawyer and national delegate. “The Texas system disenfranchises voters and dilutes our votes.”

Amy Esdorn, a Texas A&M graduate student, said she could not participate in a caucus because she had a class from 6:30 to 9 p.m. on the day of the primary.

“I feel my vote didn’t count as much as others who could stay out and vote for their candidate,” Esdorn said.

Despite a number of frustrations with the primary process, there are benefits to the caucus system: It serves to energize the Democratic base and allows for the discussion of ideas, Obama supporter Peter Nolan said.

“The meetings are about finding a way to keep the benefits of the caucus and lose the detriments,” Nolan said.

Democratic panel considers changes to primary-caucus hybrid

July 8, 2008 by  
Filed under Blog, Media Coverage, News & Commentary

By ELISE HU
KVUE News

An advisory panel of Texas Democratic leaders is reviewing the way the Texas party chooses its presidential nominee. Texas is one of a few states with a primary and a caucus. The primary results account for two-thirds of the state’s delegates, the caucus results account for the rest.
Video

The March 4th Democratic primary and caucus saw unprecedented turnout, as the contest between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton was still in full swing — 2.8 million voters took part in the primary and another nearly one million in the caucus.

“It’s an absolute, all time record,” said Boyd Richie, the Texas Democratic Party chairman.

But precinct convention locations — and workers — were overwhelmed by the record turnout, and complaints about the competing campaigns cheating the paper-based system popped up through the evening.

“It’s very unfortunate that they weren’t prepared this year for the amount of turnout,” said Scott Cobb, Texas delegate.

Cobb is hoping the so-called Texas two-step becomes just one step. He says the caucus should not go into the state’s delegate allocation, but instead be used for organizing resolutions and choosing the actual people who will serve as delegates.

He and other critics of the caucus say that too many people are left out by the caucuses because they are unable to devote the evening hours to go back and wait in line, sign-in, and elect county level delegates.

“We’re here advocating today for those people who didn’t go to the caucus who may have wanted to,” Cobb said.

Richie told the advisory panel that the system needs to be improved.

“This tremendous enthusiasm, tremendous turnout, showed the flaws in the system,” he said.

Richie made suggestions for fixing the current system. He said, for instance, that the state’s 8,000 precincts hold their caucuses on a Saturday rather than the night of the primary.

The 21-member panel is expected to hold several hearings throughout the summer. It will be headed by State Senator Royce West, D-Dallas.

“I think the last time that we looked at the primary caucus system was probably in the mid-eighties. So it’s probably time for us to look at it again to see whether or not it is in fact, working,” said West.

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