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Crossposted at BOR:

Two days after the big meltdown here in SD10, and already those of us who served on credentials and had a hand in running the convention are trading emails speculating on how we can prevent things from spiraling so far out of control again. After all, we want our conventions to be meaningful and well-attended, from the state convention all the way down to the precincts. We have to fix some things to make that truly possible, though.

Go below the fold to find out what we've thought of so far.

- Organizing conventions in urban counties by Senate district no longer works. We've had 31 Senate districts in Texas for 132 years. Over that time, by my reckoning, we've added a few residents. We'll probably keep adding more pretty much indefinitely. As that happens, either our district conventions will continue to grow, or the barrier to participation will rise. Neither is desirable.

- House districts would put us in far more manageable territory. Tarrant County had approximately 6600 delegates to convene this year. With three Senate districts, that left an average of roughly 2200. (District 10 had significantly more than that. 12 had slightly fewer, and 9 significantly fewer.) Using ten House districts would have put the average at 660 delegates -- enough to fit into just about any high school auditorium, easy to sign in and quick to get through business. Instead of 4 am adjournments, probably all would have finished by 6 pm with ease.

- Quit indicating delegate/alternate status on the precinct convention sign-in sheets. This was the real killer for us this year with the flood of new attendees -- people putting 'D' by their own names because they wanted to be delegates, or wanted to indicate they were Democrats, or whatever. With credentials committees and the state party instructed to use the sign-in sheets as the ultimate authority on determining convention results, in many cases we ended up facing absurd situations where over 100 delegate names would be "elected" from precincts allocated maybe 20 seats. This ends up being extremely simple: Don't put your most sensitive legal documents directly into the hands of a public unlikely to know how to fill them out. Send official delegate roster sheets to each precinct, to be filled out by the precinct convention chair and signed by representatives of each caucus. Make those the basis of the official roll at the county/district level. End of confusion, no fuss, no muss.

- Quit having precinct conventions on election night. This seems like a simple idea, but primary elections are typically run by precinct chairs, who typically also like to run their precinct conventions. Running them ragged for twelve hours straight and then expecting them to operate a precinct convention 15 minutes later is insane. I'm talking truly batshit crazy here. Move the precinct conventions to Saturday or something.

- No more combined precincts at precinct conventions. This should be easy enough to understand.

- Move the county/district conventions later in the calendar. The state party gets over two months to learn who's coming to their convention and plan accordingly. County parties get three weeks, and that's being generous, really -- SD10 didn't get a full list of delegates until three days prior to its convention, and that list ended up being worthless. Changing the method of recording delegate election would help with this, but still, three weeks is a very short turnaround. Tarrant County had to scramble to find sites big enough to house its district conventions, and didn't succeed until just over a week before they were held. More lead time means better planning means better information going to delegates means better and happier turnout. Everybody wins.

Here in Fort Worth, we've been talking to Rep. Lon Burnam of HD90 about solving some of this with legislation. Lon is truly one of the good guys, and I'm hopeful he'll be able to fashion together a coalition in the lege to pass a bill fixing things. His job will be far easier, though, if Democrats from all over Texas are pressed to join Lon in getting a bill through. That happens if readers like you join me in staying driven about fixing our convention problem such that we can host anybody who wants to join our emerging majority and never have to apologize for the way we accounted for our delegates. If we want a big party, we need to be diligent about acting like a big party.

Originally posted to iconoplasty on Mon Mar 31, 2008 at 09:53 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Pick One! (3+ / 0-)

    The best thing we can do to fix the primary/caucus system in Texas is to PICK ONE.  This two part system is STUPID!  I prefer Obama, and I know Obama has done better in caucus states, but caucuses need to go away.  Everyone should be on primaries, which actually count votes, and not how much the people in the room can badger people into supporting one candidate or the other.  Caucuses are nothing but a peer pressure system.  There is no legislation which will fix the caucus system.  Get rid of it.

  •  These are all good ideas (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    buckhorn okie, blue armadillo

    but I also think that we should consider allocating all pledged delegates for the presidential nomination by open primary.  It's more democratic, less convoluted, and it reduces the likelihood of presidential campaigns throwing monkey wrenches into the workings of the precinct and district conventions, which I think was a source of a lot of the trouble that we had on Saturday.

    •  I really liked the caucus (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dksbook, Big Tex, Over the Edge

      ...and overall, I enjoyed participating in the conventionl  It was really a wonderful experience for the local Democrats and we've enjoyed meeting each other.  Ours was not nearly as contentious as some of the others I've been reading about.  If it was - they did a good job of keeping the battles out of sight.  

      Both sides seemed pretty happy at the convention - and our convention chair did a great job of being non-partisan.

      We had a blast at the convention, even though it did drag on until well into the next morning.

      And most of the delegates had left by the time we finally did adjourn.

      But overall - we loved meeting other Democrats.

      I just would like to see the system made more efficient so the people that do take the time to caucus are not having to waster so much time in order to partiipate in the process.  We spent an unbelievable amount of time sitting around waiting for committees to finish their work - we had an absurd number of challenges and resolutions.  

      I'm bookmarking your diary - I think we need to discuss ways to improve the Texas process.  I imagine that discussion may come up at the state convention in June.  I'm just too tired to think at the moment - maybe you could repost this at a later day earlier in the eveing and see if it gets more attention.  I'd think the DKos community could provide some great feedback.

      Will you be at the state convention?  I will be and I am so excited!

      Obama's my candidate! Fired up in Texas - let's turn Texas BLUE!

      by blue armadillo on Mon Mar 31, 2008 at 10:40:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  In Red Idaho (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    buckhorn okie, blue armadillo

    A caucus was energizing.  Actually seeing people and the lines meant way more than numbers reported on TV.

    I think these are great ideas for all of us holding caucuses.  We certainly will be splitting ours into smaller numbers.

    •  energizing? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Big Tex, blue armadillo

      Mine was boring.  Period.  Everyone was upset that they had to be there when they had already voted.  We have early voting in Texas, and it's actually a good system.  All the caucus was, was social time, with everyone wondering how long they needed to stay to get counted.

      •  We had a lot of boring hours (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Over the Edge

        WAY too many.

        But I think it was energizing just to find out that there ARE Democrats all around me.  I really enjoyed meeting so many.

        We ALL thought the system really needs a complete overhaul though.

        Obama's my candidate! Fired up in Texas - let's turn Texas BLUE!

        by blue armadillo on Mon Mar 31, 2008 at 10:43:37 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  We should just have the primary and do away with (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Big Tex, el jefe42

    the caucus.

    But, if we keep the caucus, all qulified delegates should be verified at least a week before the caucus.  any discrepancies should be taken care of before the actual convention.  We had fewer than 800 delegates and alternates at our convention and it still took about 12 hours.  Most of the time was involved with the credentials committee having to straighten out paperwork discrepancies.

    •  We had lots of credential problems too (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      buckhorn okie, Big Tex

      our convention was over 12 hours and that is not counting the 6 hours before that of waiting to register and waiting for the convention to convene.

      Three weeks to handle all the paperwork from the precinct conventions was just not nearly enough time for what had to be done.  I guess in the past it has worked because not too many people participated.  Now, they need to set up a system that can handle a large turnout.

      Obama's my candidate! Fired up in Texas - let's turn Texas BLUE!

      by blue armadillo on Mon Mar 31, 2008 at 10:46:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Credential Problems (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        buckhorn okie

        I think that a big part of the problem were the campaign's knowledge of Texas rules.  They were focused on getting the delegates and not how a precinct convention needed to be run.  They held classes that basically taught how to calculate the delegates.  That was it.  If this happens again, the county parties need to be on top of this.  Teach the campaigns the rules and then have reps at all the campaign classes to ensure the information gets out.  

        I noticed that both campaigns bent rules to benefit themselves.   A common refrain was "but it's legal".


        •  We didn't bend the rules (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          buckhorn okie

          and were instructed specifically to respect all rules...but what I learned on Saturday (and from reading reports of other conventions where in depth knowledge of parlimentary procedures was actually CRITICAL in having a result turn one way or the other) I can see where lots of training is needed beforehand, in parlimentary procedure and in how the entire process actually works!!

          I called in as many alternates as I could because we were under the impression that missing delegates could be replaced by any alternate...but of course, alternates could only go into their own precinct delegation. So of course we sent them home as soon as we learned that...and all our delegates were credentialed.  That was a pretty basic thing to be unclear on.  So many of us were new that we didn't know what we didn't know...if you know what I mean...we didn't know what questions we needed to ask, and did not realize that some things we assumed were assumptions based on wrong information.

          I think both campaigns were stretched to the max trying to educate, strategize and get the word out to delegates.  And they had to do all that AFTER they got a little bit familiar with the rules.

          I was the Delegation chair for our precinct and sent out emails and called the delegates from both sides with information I got directly from the party, because I felt that was my role as the chair for the entire delegation (and yes, it was, but nobody told me that)...but I've heard from other folks that they were never contacted by anyone - or they were called by both campaigns - but never heard from the party.  etc etc - lots of confusion.
          There simply wasn't time for the party to train delegation chairs or anyone really since they had so many other administrtive tasks to handle with all the sign in sheets that needed to be verified etc etc.

          The system in place was just not ready for the numbers the local parties were dealing with.  In our county, I really believe the party officials and volunteers did the best they possibly could but they were simply overwhelmed.  Fortunately, the crowd at our convention was actually really patient and cooperative overall.  I am excited about November and if our county is any indication, so are many other Texas matter which candidate takes the nomination.

          Obama's my candidate! Fired up in Texas - let's turn Texas BLUE!

          by blue armadillo on Tue Apr 01, 2008 at 08:19:16 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  blue armadillo (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            blue armadillo

            You are exactly correct.  I have doubts that caucuses of this size can be accomplished in the 4 hours they normally take without lots more than 3 weeks preparation.  Most caucuses did not get their paperwork until 2 to 3 days before the convention.  Few seemed to get all of the paperwork and some of the paperwork was mangled and could not be read.

  •  So how do we get involved? (0+ / 0-)

    Contact our state rep?

    Contact Lon Burnam?

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