Tuesday, January 21, 2014

When To Hold Senatorial District Verses County Conventions.

by Michael Handley

The party convention system in Texas was created to do several things: elect party officers at all levels, set party message and platform, and develop campaign volunteers and activists.  Historically, Precinct Conventions convened in each election precinct immediately after precinct polling places closed on Primary Election Day. A main purpose of those Precinct Conventions was to elect delegates who would advance to their Senatorial District (SD) or County Convention.
Under the newly revised Texas Democratic Party rules, that Precinct Convention step is moved to the top of the SD or County Convention agenda.  Senatorial District and County Conventions will convene across Texas on Saturday, March 22, 2014.
Under party rules revised by the State Democratic Executive Committee (SDEC) on December 14, 2013, any Democrat within each County or Senatorial District who is registered to vote and has taken an oath of affiliation or has voted in the Democratic primary may attend their SD or County Convention. Attendees may use the convention registration page, newly provided on the Statewide Texas Democratic Party website, to register for their County or SD Convention, or they may simply walk in on convention day, Saturday, March 22, 2014. From County and SD Conventions, a subset of those delegates will be elected as Delegates and Alternates to the June 26 – 28th State Convention at the Dallas Convention Center. 

For counties, which have more than one Senatorial District within their borders, Texas statute and TDP rules provide that each Senatorial District shall convene a SD Convention within each district's territory. Precinct chairs of each senate district may optionally meet before January 31, 2014 to vote whether to convene their respective SD Conventions concurrently as a "County Convention." This decision is made by each Senatorial District individually voting affirmatively to convene their Senatorial District Conventions concurrently as a "County Convention." [TDP Rule III.F.1(a) - IV.A.19 - IV.B.1(b)]

If a resolution to convene their Senatorial District Conventions concurrently as a "County Convention" is not considered by each group of Senate District precinct chairs, or if it is considered and fails to pass in any SD group of precinct chairs, there shall not be a combined SD "County Convention." [TDP Rule IV.B.2(b)]

TDP rules specify separate SD Conventions shall be held in counties like Collin, Dallas, Harris, and other multi-SD counties. This is because each Senatorial District, even if their conventions convene as a combined "County Convention," must separately conduct, record and report convention business for their Senatorial District. It is procedurally more difficult and time consuming for a multi-SD "County Convention" Chair and Secretary to manage and account for multiple concurrent Senatorial District Convention lines of business. For example, five SD Conventions convene within the territory of Dallas County. Typically, SD Conventions around Texas complete their business in about two hours. [TDP Rule IV.B.2(c)]

SD Conventions convened within the territory of more densely populated districts will attract higher attendance under the newly configured convention rules. A provision of Texas Election Code specifies that County and Senatorial District Conventions may be held in public schools, city halls, or other public buildings at no charge. However, requirements to use those public buildings as convention venues typically include added cost requirements, such as $1 million liability insurance, security guards, utilities used, janitorial salary, audio visual equipment fees, and other incidental service fees. Some Senatorial Districts commonly arrange to convene their SD Conventions at a church within their district as a low cost alternative to public building venues. Churches typically do not require all those added cost services. [Texas Election Code §Sec. 174.0631(a)]

Rural counties that are wholly contained in a single Senatorial District are assigned by Texas statute and party rules to convene a County Convention. In such counties, the full CEC sets the convention venue and the County Chair serves as the County Convention Chair. [TDP Rule IV.B.1(a) - IV.B.8(c)]

TDP Rules specify that Senatorial District Chairs are elected by the "committees" (or groups) of Senatorial District Precinct Chairs in multi-district counties. TDP Rules say that District Chairs "shall be and act also as Chair of such group or committee of Precinct Chairs." These District Chairs also serve as their Senatorial District Convention Chair. [TDP Rule III.F.1(c) - IV.B.8(c)]

Collin County Precinct Chairs of Senatorial District 8, on January 3, 2013, elected me to represent them as their District 8 Chair. The election of a Senatorial District 8 Chair for Collin County was required in January 2013 as the first step to fill the SDEC Committeewoman seat for Senatorial District 8. That SDEC seat was left vacant by Committeewoman Linda Magid's resignation in December 2012. The District 8 Chairs for Collin and Dallas counties nominated Deborah Angell Smith to fill the vacant SDEC Committeewoman seat. That nomination was accepted by unanimous vote of the SDEC. [TDP Rule III.D.2(f) - III.F.1 - III.F.3 - III.F.5]

Collin County Map of Senate Districts 8 & 30, Texas House District 89, 
and Justice of the Peace, Precinct 3

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