The DNC Change Commission held its final in-person meeting today in Washington DC.  The Commission discussed draft findings and recommendations regarding the timing of primaries/caucuses, the role of super delegates, and caucus issues.  The Commission will have a conference call prior to December 31, 2009 to complete its report.  The report will then go to the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (RBC) which will consider the Commission’s recommendations when the RBC drafts the 2012 Delegate Selection rules.

Timing

As to timing, the discussion was relatively brief and consistent with prior discussions – Iowa/NH/SC/Nevada can go after Feb. 1, every other state goes after March 1, the rules should encourage regional clusters by offering incentives such as bonus delegates, the RBC will address enforcement procedures and sanctions, and the DNC will try to coordinate timing with the RNC rules committee.  The RNC coordination process is ongoing. 

Commission members recognized that the best hope for a spread out process lies with agreement with the RNC on starting date, both parties imposing the same penalties for going out of turn, incentives to states to move back and cluster, and the states recognition that frontloading is no longer the best way to get attention.  One caveat – the Commission should consider the effect of offering bonus delegates both for moving back and for clustering – too many bonus delegates may distort the traditional delegate allocation which is typically based on Democratic vote and population.

Automatic Unpledged Delegates

The Commission spent most of the meeting discussing the future role of automatic unpledged delegates (super delegates).  It discussed several approaches, but the final recommendation won’t be made until the final Commission meeting. 

The Resolution authorizing the Commission called for a significant reduction in the number of such delegates, but many of the members favored converting all unpledged automatic delegates to unpledged automatic non-voting delegates.  Elected officials and DNC members could still attend conventions and provide guidance, judgment, and leadership, but they could not vote and therefore would not be able to counter the voter’s candidate preferences as expressed in the nomination process.  A component of this approach would be expansion of the number of pledged party leader and elected official (PLEO) slots.  So a member of Congress or DNC member who wanted to be a voting delegate could run as a PLEO, pledged to a candidate in reflection of voter preference.

Another approach would be to reduce the number of automatic, unpledged delegates by a certain percentage.  For example, the number of House members could be reduced to 20% of the current number and the House Democratic Caucus could elect its delegates.  Commission Co-Chair Congressman Clyburn (D-SC) (who did a great job of running the meeting) was not enthusiastic about this approach; his preference seemed to be for non-voting status for all Congress people.

A third approach would keep at least DNC members as automatic delegates, but require them to pledged to a candidate.  Specifically, a state’s automatic delegates would be committed to vote for a presidential candidate reflecting the voters’ choice in that state.  One problem, however, is the member may be committed to a presidential candidate who he did not initially support – creating an uncomfortable situation both the DNC member/delegate and the candidate to whom he is technically committed.  There may be other ways of making DNC members automatic, but pledged delegates.

Keep in mind that the DNC must ultimately approve these changes – as one Commission member put it – “We are asking the DNC members to vote themselves off the island.”

Caucuses

The Commission draft recommendations on caucuses require the DNC to adopt a set of best practices for caucus processes, and the RBC will oversee implementation of those processes.  Representatives from Iowa and the other caucus states were fine with the proposal.

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