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Changing the Rules for 2012

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Dean.jpgThe Democratic National Convention Rules Committee today unanimously adopted a resolution calling on the DNC to establish a Democratic Change Commission to consider controversial issues which arose in this year’s presidential nomination process and recommend changes in that process to the DNC.  The Resolution directs the Commission to move the delegate selection process back so most primaries are spaced out in March and later, reduce the number of  super delegates, and establish new criteria for caucuses.  The Resolution was supported by the leadership of the DNC, and the Obama and Clinton campaigns.  Two resolutions raising concerns about the caucus process had been offered, but were withdrawn at the meeting. 

  DNC Change Commission (169.8 KiB, 1,344 hits)

Former SC Governor Jim Hodges offered the resolution, which requires the DNC Chair, following the 2009 DNC officer elections, to establish the Commission.  The Commission will then submit its recommendation to the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee no later than January 1, 2010.  The DNC Chair will appoint 35 members to the Committee which will be equally divided by gender and will be geographically and demographically diverse.

In anticipation of the 2008 nomination process, the DNC expended considerable efforts to avoid excessive frontloading, but  with limited success.  Moving South Carolina and Nevada earlier in the process to achieve more diversity in the early process was an excellent move.  The DNC, however, was unable to prevent a rush to the front and the problems with Michigan and Florida processes are discussed in other posts. 

The Resolution provides that no state may begin its process before the first Tuesday in March, except those states (Iowa and NH for starters) that can go earlier.  Earlier states, however, cannot go before February 1 (which would be an improvement over the January events this year).  The Commission is also directed to reduce frontloading and space out the contests in the spring.  Finally, the Commission will consider the Republican Party nomination process schedule, which may be adopted at the GOP convention next week.  If the GOP would put off making decisions about their schedule until they consult with the DNC Commission, there would be a much better chance of actually implementing necessary state laws to make schedule changes.

The Resolution directs the Commission to recommend revisions that will “provide for a significant reduction” in the number of super delegates (i..e., unpledged party leader and elected official (PLEO) delegates).  The Commission also is directed to review the formulas for delegate allocation – presumably to diminish the proportion of super delegates (20%) vs. regular delegates.

This year 18 states chose their delegates through caucuses.  Far more people participated in these processes than ever before and there were problems at caucuses in some states.   The resolution  does not forbid caucuses, but requires the DNC to set new criteria in the delegate selection rules that will “ensure” adequate planning, staffing and organization, and prevent them from being as screwed up as some were this year.  The resolution also recommends implementation of absentee voting procedures.

Two speakers at the Committee meeting discussed resolutions directed against caucuses which argued, inter alia, that the DNC should prohibit public voting (i.e. eliminate the Iowa and other assembled caucus processes), ensure compliance with the Americans with Disability Act, and encourage greater participation..  The makers withdrew the resolutions after the Committee chair assured them that the Commission would address these issues. 

Finally, the Resolution provides that the Commission may address other matters relating to the presidential nominating process as directed by the DNC and its Chair.

This is all good.  Every nomination process is different and the extraordinary participation (35 million voters in 56 jurisdictions) this year mandates consideration of ways to improve the process.  Changes in timing, in particular, likely will require approval of state legislatures and cooperation by State Parties.  Thus the DNC must agree not only on a process it likes; it must work to implement that process.