By Faith Chatham - DFWRCC - May 31, 2008
Members of the Texas Democratic Party's 2008 Convention Temporary Credentials Committee met in Austin Wednesday, in Grand Prairie Thursday, and Houston on Friday. They heard challenges stemming from procedural irregularities at precinct and senatorial conventions.
The committee is evenly split between Obama and Clinton supporters. In Grand Prairie they heard testimony continuously from 10 a.m. until after 11 p.m. The hearings are open to the public and at least 120 people were in the UAW Hall observing and testifying throughout the day and evening.
The Committee did not hear all of the challenges in each region which were filed by the offical filing deadline. They elected to hear challenges involving specific delegates and alternates. Hesitant to disenfranchise entire delegations based on violations of party rules, they tabled decisions which could impact seating of entire delegations until the committee reconveynes in Austin prior to the convention. Aware that the DNC Rules Committee is meeting Sat. May 31st in Washington, D.C. to decide whether to seat delegates from Florida and Michigan or to refuse them seats because the timing of those state's primaries violated party rules, the committee deferred making similar decisions regarding Texas senatorial district delegations until more evidence can be presented.
Tarrant 10, Tarrant 9, Dallas 23, Collin County and Denton 12 are some of the districts in North Texas which procedural violations of party rules and state election code are reported to be severe enough to have resulted in skewed distribution of delegates between presidential preferences and denial of voting rights to registered voters who attempted to participate in precinct and/or senatorial conventions and have their presidential preference accurately reflected in the distribution of delegates.
Collin County challengers presented evidence of violation of party rules and the Texas Election Code by the convention being held on a date other than that prescribed by law. The county chair and convention chair will be given time to present additional evidence in Austin before the committee rules on this challenge.
A large contingency of Denton County residents presented evidence or supported challenger Ann Franklin in complaints about the conduct of the Denton county conventions by the Democratic Chair. Ms. Franklin also presented the committee with 40 additional pages of affadivits from Denton county demorcrats complaining about the Democratic Chair. Ms. Franklin alledged that the chair refused access to minutes and sign-in sheets. The chair refuted her claim but a large group in the audience verbally affirmed the validity of Ms. Franklin's assertions. Gary Horton, co-chair of the State Temporary Rules Committee urged the county chair to provide the requested documents to Ms. Franklin and others who might request them prior to the committee reconveyning in Austin next week.
Testimony was heard from Senatorial 9 and 10, Tarrant County regarding non-compliance with ADA and discrimination toward elderly, frail and handicapped registered voters in the precinct and senatorial conventions. Jason Smith, Faith Chatham and Harriet Varnum Irby cited instances of specific non-ADA compliance. The committee acknowledged the realities but saw no remedy the committee could offer. Gary Horton, co-chair of the committee, recommended the petitioners to present evidence to the Temporary Rules Committee.
In Tarrant 9 the committee recommended changing four alternates. Eddie and Mercedes Conway, Obama supporters who signed the permanent roll of the Senatorial Convention as Obama were removed from the roll of Clinton at-large Alternates and Lorisa Wheeler and Robert W. Johnson, (Clinton). The committee affirmed that the vacancy in pct. 2190 for alternate should have been filled as an at large position to balance the delegation, to meet affirmative action goals and to enable the delegation to reflect the percentages of delegates/alternates as the percentage of presidential preference registered by the delegates who signed the permanent roll. Therefore, Ms. Cathie Hawkins was removed as an alternate from pct. 2190 and Mr. Raymond Martinez (Clinton) was added as alternate at large.
In Precinct 2488 Tarrant County Sen. District 9, the committee replaced Cynthia Blake (Obama) with Clinton supporter Vivian Dial as alterate. Democratic Party Rules stipulate that ties for delegate or alternate are to be broken by an act of chance (drawing straws or flipping a coin). The Clinton caucus in that precinct wanted to flip a coin but the Obama group insisted that the "rules called for a re-vote". When the Clinton group held firm, the Obama group revoted and selected two alternates. The committee voted to replace the Obama alternate of the same gender as the candidate for alternate from the Clinton caucus because Ms. Dial was prevented from having an opportunity to compete fairly in either a coin toss or by drawing straws, the methods designated in Party Rules for breaking a tie.
Dorrie Crenshaw, former Dallas City Council Member and Democratic precinct chair in Dallas testified that the Obama delegates from her precinct to the State Convention were not lawfully elected because they were not legally elected as delegates to the Senatorial Convention at her precinct convention. At her precinct election night there were many people who Ms. Crenshaw said did not live in her precinct who showed up and attempted to register and vote in the precinct. They did not have the official forms so she had people sign in on spiral ring notebooks. Violence broke out in the caucus, people were injured, several elderly persons were trampled and three ambulances were called to the scene. When Ms. Crenshaw left the voting place, some of the people who Ms. Crenshaw characterized as "the troublemakers, ringleaders" followed her. Instead of going home, she led them to the police station. The police detained her for over two hours until Darlene Ewing, Dallas County Democratic Chair, detained her. Ms. Crenshaw reported to the committee that two of the police officers are under investigation for unlawfully detaining her. She has never been given the sign-in sheets (notebooks) or allowed to make a photocopy.
To date, despite many hours of testimony and much deliberation, the committee has only made a few changes to the roll of the convention. All challenges which could make greater impact on the convention have been deferred until next week.