Attend Your Precinct Convention on March 2, 2010 and Bring a Resolution to “Change the Caucus”

February 13, 2010 by  
Filed under Blog, News & Commentary

On March 2, 2010, the Texas Democratic Party will hold precinct conventions across Texas in. Your precinct convention will take place at the same place where your precinct votes throughout the day on March 2. Check with your local Democratic Party to find out where your voting location is. The precinct conventions will be held 15 minutes after the polls close on March 2, so at 7:15 PM.

Please take a resolution to your precinct convention calling for a change to the primary/caucus system in future presidential election years so that all pledged delegates are allocated based on the results in the primary, instead of allocating 65 percent on the primary results and 35 percent on the caucus results at the precinct conventions. All voters should count equally in the process to choose the Democratic presidential nominee. Many people are unable to return to attend precinct conventions on election night, but they are able to vote earlier in the day, by mail or during the early voting period.

Help us protect the voting participation rights of Democrats who have a right to have their votes fully counted regardless of whether they are able to return to participate in the caucus system, including many elderly voters who can not drive after dark or have health reasons that prevent them from attending the caucuses, parents with young children who can not arrange child care, people who work late and do not want to ask off, people serving our country in the military, and others, who for reasons beyond their control are unable to return to attend the precinct conventions.

We should not penalize the voters who can not attend a precinct convention by giving them only 2/3s of a vote. ALL Voters should be treated and listened to equally.

We are drafting a resolution that you can take to your precinct conventions and will post it soon. Or you can draft your own. Check back soon to download our resolution.

The Texas Democratic Party is conducting a survey of Democrats in Texas regarding the primary/caucus system. You can fill out the survey on the TDP website by clicking the image above. Some people filled out the survey at the State Convention in June, but you can still fill it out online by going to www.txdemocrats.org/page/s/primsurv.

The survey includes the item, “

The best answer for that question is ‘none”.

Texas Two-Step Lawsuit Goes Forward Against TDP

August 25, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, News & Commentary

We have long been arguing that the Texas Two-Step unfairly disadvantages various categories of voters.

Today, the AP is reporting:

Latino voters celebrated a federal court ruling Tuesday that came down against the Texas Democratic Party and could put the complicated “Texas Two-step” presidential delegate system in jeopardy.

The ruling by a three-judge panel will allow the lawsuit to go forward and put the Texas delegate system closer to facing a potential review by the Justice Department, which Latino advocates sought in the aftermath of last year’s intense Democratic primary between Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

In a lawsuit filed last year, the Latino groups argued that the way Texas Democrats awarded presidential delegates unfairly discriminated against Latinos by awarding fewer presidential delegates to heavily Hispanic areas. They did not contest to whom the delegates were awarded, but rather how the allotment was made.

Here is a copy of the decision.


LULAC V Texas Democratic Party

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.

Tell the Democratic Change Commission to Prohibit the Texas Two-Step

August 20, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, News & Commentary

The Democratic National Committee’s Democratic Change Commission is accepting input on how to improve the delegate selection process for the 2012 election. Please click here to go to their website and fill out the feedback form to tell the DNC not to allow Texas to use its hybrid primary/caucus process to allocate delegates. Currently, Texas is the only state that uses a combined primary and caucus system to allocate delegates. In order to use its unfair system, the TDP has had to get a waiver from the DNC because DNC rules normally prohibit the kind of hybrid system that Texas uses.

If you send your comments by Friday, August 21, the comments may be presented to the members of the Commission at their next meeting on August 29.

Here is the press release announcing the Change Commission:

Washington, D.C. — Today, Governor Tim Kaine, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, announced the 37 member Democratic Change Commission, which will recommend changes to the Democratic Party’s rules for the 2012 presidential nominating and delegate selection process. Governor Kaine also announced that he has named Congressman James E. Clyburn of South Carolina and Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri as Co-Chairs of the Change Commission.

“This Commission will focus on reform that improves the presidential nominating process to put voters first and ensure that as many people as possible can participate,” said Kaine. “I want to thank all the members of the Commission who have agreed to serve, including Congressman Clyburn and Senator McCaskill who have graciously agreed to serve as co-chairs.”

Governor Kaine went on to say that he hopes to work with the Republican National Committee on a common approach that puts voters first.

President Obama first announced his intention to form the Democratic Change Commission in August 2008, during his presidential campaign. Delegates to the Democratic National Convention adopted President Obama’s proposal on Monday, August 25, 2008.

The Democratic Change Commission will address three issues: 1) changing the window of time during which primaries and caucuses may be held 2) reducing the number of superdelegates and 3) improving the caucus system. A copy of the convention resolution establishing the Commission is below. The Commission must issue its report and recommendations to the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee no later than January 1, 2010.

The Commission is made up of 35 members and two co-chairs and represents a diverse mix of DNC members, elected officials, representatives of State Parties, academics, labor, business, grassroots activists and other Party leaders.

The Texas Two-Step 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, 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”. Almost 2.9 million people voted in the Democratic primary, but only about one-third of the people who voted in the primary returned for the caucuses. So around 2,000,000 people voted in the primary but did not return for the caucuses. Those people who did not return lost a full third of their voting power.

Democrats look to keep primary-caucus two-step

April 27, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, News & Commentary

Democrats look to keep primary-caucus two-step
Party likely to tweak system but not end it.

By W. Gardner Selby
AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Monday, April 27, 2009

A year after the two-step method that Texas Democrats use to pick presidential delegates sparked an uproar among supporters of U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, state lawmakers have no plans to monkey with the system.

And the chairman of a party task force studying the Texas primary-caucus approach doesn’t foresee any big changes before the next presidential election.

“There won’t be anything dramatic,” Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, predicted.

Since 1988, results from the state’s Democratic presidential primary have accounted for most Texas delegates to the party’s national convention. But a share of delegates has been awarded based on voters who venture out to primary-night caucuses, intended to encourage grass-roots involvement.

Last year, a record 2.8 million voters participated in the March primary, which Clinton narrowly won.

But then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama’s supporters showed more strength in thousands of precinct caucuses that drew 800,000 voters. He eventually took the most Texas delegates to the national convention.

Some legislators, including Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, who favored Clinton in the primary, say results at the polls on should determine which candidate draws the most delegates.

The caucus feature, Hinojosa said, “favors the activists; it’s not in the best interests of the regular voter who has to wait for hours” to record their position a second time.

West, an Obama supporter, cautioned that future recommendations will depend on the State Democratic Executive Committee, a party leadership group that is scheduled to field a report from West’s committee after the legislative session ends June 1.

Starting last summer, the West committee has held public hearings across the state; at two Austin hearings, sentiment ran against continuing the system.

“There needs to be some retooling,” West said, such as steps to ensure locations big enough for night-time crowds and training for the activists who oversee the caucuses.

West said: “The (committee) recommendation is going to be to keep the caucus system. Most of the members of the committee didn’t want to do away with” it.

Task force member Linda Burgess, an Austin lawyer who supported Clinton in the primary, didn’t dispute West’s assessment of the task force overall.

But Texas should stop giving caucus-goers an extra say about what candidate wins the most delegates, she said.

“I’m a taxpayer; I am paying for that primary,” Burgess said. “I don’t care if it’s the Republican Party, Democratic Party or Polka-Dotted Party. I don’t want any party to change the outcome of any election I’m paying for.”

Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, a Clinton supporter last spring, said he didn’t file legislation affecting the primary-caucus system in this legislative session because he wanted to give West’s committee time to develop recommendations.

“This system cannot continue,” Peña said, because many voters are unlikely to attend evening caucuses.

“The average citizen, the silent majority, they pay their taxes, go to church, raise their kids, go to soccer games and the PTA,” Peña said. “The average citizen does not get involved in the nuances of party affairs. … We are grooming a leadership of party hacks and party bosses instead of average folks.”

State party spokesman Rick Guerrero said the party hopes to reach changes in the primary-caucus system fostering “even greater and more effective participation” than in 2008. He didn’t elaborate.

wgselby@statesman.com; 445-3644

Texas Latinos’ primary lawsuit to be reconsidered

February 19, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, News & Commentary

By KELLEY SHANNON Associated Press
Feb. 18, 2009

AUSTIN — Latino voters who sued the Texas Democratic Party claiming its presidential delegate system discriminates against Hispanics are getting another chance to make their case.

A judge threw out the lawsuit last year, but the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled Tuesday that a three-judge panel — not one judge — should decide the merits of the case and sent it back to lower courts for reconsideration.

The League of United Latin American Citizens, the Mexican American Bar Association of Houston and other plaintiffs sued the state and the Democratic Party after the intense primary between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama. The plaintiffs weren’t contesting to whom the delegates were awarded, but rather how the allotment was made.

They argue that the complicated delegate system unfairly dilutes Latino votes by awarding fewer presidential delegates to heavily Hispanic areas.

Though a federal Voting Rights Act claim is at the heart of the lawsuit, the Latino voter advocates also are taking aim at the entire Texas delegate system known as the Texas two-step, which included a March 2008 primary and caucus plus senate district caucuses a few weeks later. They say the system dilutes the votes of those who cast only a primary ballot but can’t make it to an evening caucus on primary day.

“From the very beginning our goal was to get rid of the Texas two-step,” Luis Vera, national general counsel for LULAC, said Wednesday.

Last year Judge Fred Biery of San Antonio dismissed the suit. He had said the spirit and intent of the Voting Rights Act, which protects minorities, was not violated. Biery said the act does not dictate to political parties how to determine their presidential nominees as long as everyone is allowed to participate.

Nearly all the delegates in the Texas system are apportioned based on Democratic voter turnout numbers in state senate districts in previous elections. So, low turnout in a Hispanic area for Democrat Chris Bell in the 2006 gubernatorial election resulted in fewer presidential delegates for that district in 2008.

LULAC contends that Latino districts by nature have fewer Democratic participants because the voting age population is younger.

“They reward white Republican districts and dilute the vote of the Latino districts,” Vera said. “The Democratic Party is supposed to be the party of inclusion.”

The Texas Democratic Party said it strongly supports the Voting Rights Act, and party officials said they are confident they will win again before Biery and two other judges to be named to hear the case in the coming months.

Party attorney Chad Dunn said the Democrats’ rules are decided by delegates to the state convention and that there is no discriminatory intent or effect.

“We think it’s a fundamental First Amendment issue,” he said. “The Texas Democratic Party runs a fair primary system. … You just turn out and vote and you’re awarded more delegates next time around.”

The Texas Democratic Party system has been in place for 20 years. It sends presidential delegates to the national party convention based on primary and caucus results. The caucus delegates are distributed through a series of meetings, starting on primary day and culminating with a state convention three months later.

The appeals court upheld the dismissal of the plaintiffs’ claim against the state, saying that the delegate allocation procedure was enacted and operated by the party, not the state of Texas.

Texas Democrats Should Scrap Two-Tiered Primary System

January 8, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, News & Commentary

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.
http://tpedit.sv.publicus.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080309/OPINION0301/803090312&NoCache=1
Early Returns is the political observations column of staff writer Roy Maynard, who can be reached at 903-596-6291 or at roymaynardtmt@gmail.com.

Texas Two-Step: Democrats in disarray

December 31, 2008 by  
Filed under Blog, News & Commentary

It was a good year for Democrats. But on March 4 in Texas, it felt as if things were going to fall apart.

The Democratic presidential primary was stretching into a months-long battle, with neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama able to clinch the party’s nomination; the candidates were still scrapping over every delegate.

The Texas vote became crucial for the first time in decades, and suddenly the nation’s eyes focused on the Texas Two-Step — a confounding system, unlike any other in the country, that awards delegates based on a primary anda caucus.

startelegramdec282

“It was a big old floodlight that got shone on Texas,” says Fort Worth Democrat Pam Durham (above left) And in that crucial moment, she says — when results mattered and the nation was watching — the system failed. Big time.

A record number of caucusgoers overwhelmed the precinct conventions. There weren’t enough materials, enough staff to get voters signed in or even enough people who knew what was going on. And the rooms were crowded with passionate — at times aggressive — voters who wanted to help their candidates win.

“I heard some horror stories,” says Steve Lerma (above center), who chaired a credentials committee that handled disputes: Precinct captains intimidated; Clinton and Obama supporters going at each other; facilities that closed down and left voters to caucus outside in the dark.

The Two-Step ended — weeks later, at the party’s state convention — with a result that reflected its confusion and inconsistencies: Clinton won the state’s popular vote, but Obama walked away with more delegates.

It’s unlikely the same chaotic disaster will reoccur. But that doesn’t mean Democrats should leave the system alone, Durham says. She, Lerma and another Fort Worth Democrat, Jason C.N. Smith (above right), are among many advocating for a simpler system without all the potential for confusion and disenfranchisement.

There have been hearings across the state this fall, with Democrats telling their stories and offering suggestions; an advisory panel will soon make recommendations to the state Democratic Executive Committee.

“If our state government isn’t going to provide the resources and if our political party can’t provide the resources to make sure the system is run in a fair manner, then we should find a new system,” Smith says. “I think the Two-Step should be left to Billy Bob’s.”

— Alyson Ward

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Dec 28, 2008

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

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