Friday, January 22, 2016

No Texas Two-Step For 2016 Super Tuesday Primary

Seven years after Barack Obama earned the majority of Texas' presidential delegates, despite losing the primary vote count to Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2008, the Democratic National Committee put an end to the Texas "two-step" of primary vote and then "caucus" to allocate presidential delegates the Democratic National Convention. The DNC said the Texas two-step "had the potential to confuse voters" for the 2016 primary. Under DNC rules the process must be either all caucus or all polling place votes.

The 2016 "Super Tuesday" Texas primary will allocate the largest slate of delegates up for grabs on that election date for Democratic presidential contenders vying for the party’s nomination. With Bernie Sanders increasingly looking like a primary contender against Hillary Clinton, the DNC did not want repeat of the 2008 delegate allocation controversies caused by the two-step process.

Pledged Texas delegates will be allocated to each 2016 Presidential candidate based solely on the number of ballots cast for each candidate in March 1, 2016 Democratic Primary election. Presidential candidates must receive at least 15% of the vote in a Texas Senatorial District to receive a district delegate and must receive at least 15% statewide to receive at-large delegates. Texas is the big post Iowa and New Hampshire prize on Super Tuesday with Texas Democrats selecting 252 delegates, including 30 pledged super delegates, for largest single delegate count of any state up to and including the other super Tuesday states.

The Democratic National Committee long ago adopted a rule specifying presidential delegates must be allocated based solely on the count of primary ballots cast for each candidate. The Texas two-step has been grandfathered by DNC waiver for every presidential election cycle since the DNC adopted that presidential delegate allocation rule.

At its June 26th meeting in Washington, the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee unanimously rejected the Texas Democratic Party's 2016 primary two-step waiver request. Texas was long the lone remaining state to have continually been granted a waiver to allocate delegates through a two-step primary and precinct convention "caucus" process. Texas Democratic Primary voters WILL NOT return to precinct "caucus" conventions after the polls close on Primary Election Day.  Election Day precinct "caucus" conventions are a thing of the past.

Under the two-step process, two-thirds of a candidate's convention delegates are awarded on the basis of primary ballots cast for the candidate. The remaining third of the delegates for each presidential candidate were elected among primary voters who attended precinct "caucus" conventions that convened after the polls close on primary Election Day. Delegates elected at those precinct conventions then attended a senatorial district convention held in their county later in March where delegates are elected to advance to the state convention held the following June.

The winner of the primary vote usually also won the precinct "caucus" convention delegate vote as well. The two exceptions to that rule were 1988 when Michael Dukakis won the March 8 primary vote count, but Jesse Jackson won the precinct convention delegate election vote, and in 2008, a cycle that saw Hillary Clinton win the Texas primary on March 4, but lose the overall delegate count in the Lone Star state to Barack Obama, who won the precinct convention delegate vote.

Jim Mattox, former Tx Attorney General and
former Member of the U.S. Congress, gave his
last public comments at the Nov. 14, 2008 
Austin 2-step hearing. He died on Nov. 19, 2008.

Part 1

Part 2
The 2008 delegate upset brought the Two-Step under increased scrutiny. An Advisory Committee on the Texas Democratic Party Primary/Caucus Process held a hearings across Texas to take testimony from the public about the Party's two-step delegate selection system.

Many Democrats across Texas opposed continuing the two-step primary/caucus process, but long time party regulars continued to argue the two-step precinct "caucus" conventions helped recruit new party activists and gets new Democrats involved in politics.

While the caucuses afforded an opportunity for people to connect with local county party groups, few attended precinct "caucus" conventions, except for the 1988 and 2008 primary years.

In 2008, 72,000 Democrats voted in the Collin County Democratic Primary and 21,000 of those Democrats returned to their precinct "caucus" conventions after the polls closed on election day. Very very few of those 21,000 caucus attendees  established any continuing connection with the local party group. Typically, the count of caucus attendees in Collin County numbered only to several dozens, in every other year primary year.

Long time party regulars on the State Democratic Executive Committee (SDEC) voted in 2009 to keep the two-step and continue to submit two-step waiver requests to the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee every four years.

The DNC did grant a wavier for Texas to use the two-step process for the uncontested 2012 presidential candidate nomination cycle.

The TexasTrib details TDP's 2008 two-step presidential delegate selection controversy: 
The fervor of the 2008 election brought more than 2.8 million Democrats to the polls for the primary vote. Hours later, thousands of new Democrats showed up for the first time to Democratic caucuses, overwhelming party officials and wreaking havoc on the party’s primary election voting process. It also produced an unexpected outcome: Clinton won the popular vote, but Obama’s well-organized campaign drew more delegates because of the caucus results.

Almost immediately, many in the Democratic Party began calling to change the system and even to abolish the caucus altogether, calling it discriminatory and undemocratic. Those calls for change sparked some of the most heated discussion at the party’s state convention in 2008 — and that tension over party control and its racial overtones resurfaced this weekend. “Everything is anti-minority when minorities try to rise up and get their fair share,” said Leroy Warren Jr., a Democrat from Collin County who supported keeping the two-step. “These shenanigans ought to stop right now.”

The hybrid primary-caucus system, the two-step, assigns delegates based on both the percentage of primary votes that candidates receive and on the number of supporters who turn out for precinct caucuses after the polls close. Thirty-five of the party's 228 total delegates are considered "super delegates." They can pledge to whichever candidate they choose. Two-thirds of the remaining state delegates are chosen based on primary votes, and the rest are based on caucus turnout.

The roots of Texas Democrats' two-step process lie in efforts by the Democratic National Committee to increase diversity. In 1972, the party adopted diversity quotas and required proportional representation. After a series of reform efforts, the Texas hybrid system was first used in 1988. Until 2008, though, the process didn’t matter much, because the party had chosen its presidential nominee long before the Texas primary. Knowing that it mattered, Obama’s campaign worked to educate Texas voters about the caucuses and ensure that they showed up to support him.

The crush of backers for him and Clinton caused a host of problems, from voters waiting hours to sign in and show their support to widespread confusion about how the process ought to work and even lack of space to accommodate everyone who wanted to participate. “Our system was overwhelmed by those numbers,” said state Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas. “We were not ready for it.”

Opponents of the two-step process first proposed abolishing the use of caucuses to allocate delegates to the national convention at the Texas party’s state convention in Austin in 2008. Their proposal was voted down in favor of giving West time to travel the state with a committee appointed by party Chairman Boyd Richie to gather input on the two-step and whether it should continue.

After months of meetings across the state and an online poll, West’s committee recommended making a number of changes to make the two-step more secure and orderly. But they recommended keeping it.

West and other supporters of the two-step said it helps recruit new party activists and gets new Democrats involved in politics. “Eliminating this two-step process would be a disaster for the party,” Scudder said. Many of the convention attendees shared stories similar to that of Nova Phillips from Travis County. She said she had planned only to cast her vote for Obama back in 2008, but she wound up attending the caucus and eventually becoming a delegate to the state convention.

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