Sunday, August 10, 2008

All voters do not count equally in Texas

Crossposted on DAILY KOS
By Faith Chatham - DFWRCC - Aug. 10, 2008
"Overwhelmed", "chaotic", and "not complying with the election code or Texas Democratic Party Rules" is how many Texas Democratic Precinct and Senatorial Convention attendees describe the Texas Two-Step. Texas is the only state to apportion part (2/3rd) of their national presidential pledged delegates by the results of the Democratic Primary and the rest (1/3) by sign-ins at precinct convention caucuses.

This year 2.8 Texans voted in the Democratic Primary (2,874,986) for every registered voter who attended a Democratic Precinct Convention/Caucus. Only 1,000,000 Texans signed-in at Precinct Conventions to select the remaining 1/3 of the delegates.

If all the delegates had been selected using the percentage of vote cast in the Primary for each candidate, Senator Clinton would have 10 more national delegates than Senator Obama. However, because the percentage of sign-ins per candidate distributes 1/3 of the delegates based on the sign-in presidential preference of the 1,000,000 precinct convention attendees, after primary and convention numbers are tallied, Texas will be sending 5 more delegates pledged to Senator Obama than the number going for Senator Clinton. With nearly three Texans voting in the primary for every Texan attending the precinct conventions, many people think that the preferences of the majority of Texas Democratics should not be overruled by the preferences of many fewer convention attendees.

The Texas Secretary of State's Election Office received few reports of glitches in the Primary Election this year in which 2/3rd of the pledged presidential delegates were selected. However, the Democratic Party Credentials Committee received many complaints (challenges) documenting flawed flawed precinct and senatorial conventions where the remaining 1/3 of the pledged presidential delegates are chosen.

The Texas Democratic Party attempts to address and remedy irregularites in convention voting procedures. This year many senatorial district credentials committees and the Texas State Democratic Credentials Committee reported that they were unable to remedy many of the procedural challenges they reviewed.

Even if the precinct conventions business had been conducted flawlessly, the Texas 2-Step Hybrid Primary/Precinct Convention Caucus system of apportioning national pledged presidential delegates would still discriminate against many Texas registered voters.


NEWS 8 AUSTIN Texas 2 step West committee

Selection of 2/3rd of the delegates through the primary allows the disabled, elderly homebound, frail, and military personnel stationed away from their permanent voting residence to cast ballots by mail or at early voting. Texas election law and the Texas Democratic Party rules, however, forbids absentee or proxy voting at the precinct conventions. Unlike Maine, which allows registered voters to register their presidential preference by mail and it to be included in the apportionment of national convention delegates, Texas and other caucus states such as Iowa, makes no allowance for inclusion of persons unable to physically attend the precinct convention to be counted in selecting 1/3 of the delegates. The vote parents with small children, persons who have to work during the precinct convention, and persons in frail health who cannot remain long hours at precinct convention also only counted
2/3rd of neighbors who were able to attend the precinct conventions.

Birdseye view of problems at a North Dallas Precinct Convention/Caucus:

More precinct and senatorial district convention irregularies were reported through the "challenge process" in the DFW Metroplex than in the entire rest of the state combined. In most of the Senatorial Districts in Texas three or less challenges were filed. However, in the DFW Metroplex, 119 challenges were filed with the State Democratic Party Credentials Committee. In Collin county alone, over 145 pages of caucus irregularities were reported to the State Democratic Party. In Senate District 23, (Sen. Royce West's District), 35 challenges were filed. Senate District 10 (Fort Worth) had the second highest number of challenges: 29.

Click on image to enlarge.

Two other regions in Texas also reported high numbers of caucus irrgularites:
27 Challenges filed in the Houston area.
17 Challenges filed in Bexar County (San Antonio).

Inside the Texas 2-Step – taped in San Antonio March 4th at a Precinct Convention (Caucus):

Credentials committees frequently "remedied" proven irregularities to finalize the convention roll. They mediated disputes between delegates of different campaigns regarding which delegate to seat. However, they usually did not attempt to remedy proven instances of persons voting in the wrong precinct, unregistered voters signing in on convention sign-in sheets, incomplete information on sign-in sheets, failure of convention clerks verifying voter ID information and confirming that all attendees had voted in the Democratic Primary. Many precincts reported that they had not removed provisional voters from the sign-in sheets. In Tarrant County alone the Provisional Ballot Board rejected over 800 provisional ballots, yet none of the three Senatorial Districts in Tarrant County removed rejected provisional voters from the convention sign-in tally sheets before seating delegates at the Senatorial Conventions.

The National Democratic Delegate Selection Plan stipulates that all meetings pertaining to selection of delegates including precinct conventions, senatorial conventions and state conventions must begin and end at a reasonable time. However, numerous precinct convention caucuses, senatorial conventions, and district convention cacuses at the Texas State Convention where delegates were elected did not end before 10 p.m. The Senatorial 10 At Large Nominations Committee finished selecting national At-Large Pledged delegates at 4:30 a.m. Despite the impact on attendees (or possible attendees) in these meetings where delegates were chosen, these rules remain unenforced.

All Democratic Party meetings are supposed to comply with HAVA and ADA to accommodate the Handicapped. National Democratic Delegate Selection Rules stipulate that all meetings pertaining to the selection of national delegates must adhere to the same ADA accessibility standards as those prescribed for primary polling places. However, many conventions were held in venues which are not ADA compliant. Some precinct convetions were held in dimly lit parking lots hallways, and other inadequate places. At one precinct convention in Dallas, elderly attendees were trampled by other participants and three ambulances were called which transported the injured to the hospital.

Persons needing translators were rarely accommodated at the Precinct Conventions, even though the Election Law requires translators at most polling places. Few of the Senatorial Conventions provided translators for the hearing impaired or materials in Spanish. The visually handicapped and hearing impaired were not accommodated at conventions according to Federal Law and Democratic Party Rules. In Senatorial Districts 9 and 10 in Tarrant County, mobility impaired individuals were not seated on the ground floor, but were required to attempt to climb stairs to their seats. Several delegates elected to the District Conventions phoned the Tarrant County Democratic Headquarters complaining that they would be unable to attend the convention because of inadequate accommodations for the handicapped.

In many parts of the state, precinct conventions were conducted appropriately. The majority of Senatorial Conventions resulted in only one challenge (complaint) filed with the State Credentials Committee. However, in the DFW Metroplex, Bexar County and the Houston Metropolitan area, there were many reports of election workers and convention clerks/chairs instructing voters to go home before they voted for delegates.

Current Democratic Party Rules do not require persons running for Convention Permanent chair or Permanent Secretary to have ever attended a precinct convention or training by the county election office or Democratic Party. Frequently persons who brought a few
neighbors and relatives with them, were able to get elected Permanent Chair or Permanent Secretary at Precinct Conventions. Unfamiliar with Party Rules and Convention Procedures, they were unable to properly instruct other convention attendees. Many failed to properly complete convention minutes or turn in lists of both candidates delegates.

Some precinct convention permanent chairs placed zeal for their candidates over their responsibility to accurately record and report every attendees presidential preference. Obviously, many of the precinct conventions in three of the largest metropolitan areas in Texas were not conducted smoothly.

However, even if the conventions had been conducted smoothly and had not discriminated against those who were unable to be present in person to cast their vote, the current process for apportioning delegates in Texas would result in the combined vote and precinct convention attendence of Texans living in different Senatoral Districts having a different weight in apportionment of national pledged presidential delegates.

The number of presidential delegates per senatorial district is based on a formula which grants more delegates to to districts which have higher voter turn-out in the previous Governor's election and less delegates to those which have lower numbers of voters during the previous governor's election. This year, Senator Obama benefits from the formula because more districts with higher numbers of African American residents voted Democratic in the previous governor's election than did residents of other districts with fewer African American residents. African American districts are the districts where the greatest percent of the residents support Senator Obama for president this year.

Coverage on Austin News:

The Texas Hybrid Two Step Process is under review by a committee chaired by Senator Royce West. The party is not expected to rectify the formular which grants more delegates to districts with higher voter turn-out. All votes do not weigh the same when apportioning delegates for nominating the Democratic Nominee for President. When Democrats who live in Senator Royce West's District vote in the primary or sign-in at their precinct convention, their vote goes toward election of more senatorial, state and national convention pledged presidential delegates than does a voter who lives in districts dominated by Republican voters. This year, the formular which distributes more delegates to district which cast the greatest number of votes for Chris Bell for Governor in 2006 than to other districts results in a formular which allows one vote cast in predominately African American district to count more than a vote cast in districts with less African American voters. Therefore, the racial demographics of your neighborhood, not your race or activism, determines how much your vote counts toward nominating the Democratic Presidential nominee.

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