In the afternoon session, the Commission was presented with DNC staff options and discussed the timing, super delegate, and caucus issues. The options were suggestions only and do not bind the Commission. The afternoon session began with Virginian Larry Roberts bringing greetings from DNC Chair Governor Kaine. At the next and final meeting – December 5th in DC – the Commission will adopt its recommendations. The proposals and some of the discussion points are set forth below.
Recall that the Convention resolution setting upon the Commission mandates: (1) no primaries earlier than the first Tuesday in March for most states; (2) the first Tuesday in February as opening day for pre-window states (IA, NH, SC, NV); (3) examination of front-loading; (4) examination of enforcement of rules on timing; (5) consideration of RNC revisions.
Roberts reported that Chairman Kaine has had productive discussions with RNC Chairman Steele re timing issues. Roberts then offered addressed some proposed options re timing – (1) would encourage (but not require) regional clusters of primaries, with bonus delegates to encourage clusters; (2) no discussion of clusters, but bonus delegates for moving back in the calendar.
Bonus issues – in 2008, there was a 10% bonus for staying in the May-June 10 period, and 30% bonus for moving back. Commission Chair Clyburn discussed other incentives, including convention seating and hotel selection.
Primary process length – members wanted to spread out the delegate selection process – e.g., limit the number of delegates elected during a period of time. The DNC could set certain number of delegates to be selected at each week. On the other hand, we don’t want to drag out process too long and allow the GOP to finish up early and give their candidate too big a head start.
Regional clusters – make it easier for candidates to reach voters. Del. McClellan argued that regional primaries incentivize volunteers, build enthusiasm, raise money, and allow voters to see candidates in neighboring states; you can be relevant without being first. A member from NM raised a concern about small states clustering with large states, but Jeff Berman responded that it’s not mandatory, it is up to each state to make decisions. Note that we need to be realistic about dealing with state legislatures, and have appropriate enforcement mechanisms.
II. SUPER DELEGATES
The Convention resolution called for a significant reduction in the number of super delegates (SDs) and reflection of voter preferences.
In 2008, there were 900 SDs – 19% of convention – DNC – 445, Congress – 300, Govs – 30, distinguished party leaders – 22, unpledged add-on – 80.
Patrice Taylor, DNC staff, suggested four options. All involved eliminating the unpledged add-on positions (which I have never understood) and making the following changes: Option 1 – make all SDs non-voting; Option 2 – reduce the number of SD by 40%-50%; Option 3 – expand the elected PLEO category, with priority given to Congress, DNC members; Option 4- All SDs would be automatic pledged delegates. (The RBC would determine how they would be pledged.)
Other proposals included increasing the number of elected delegates, but this would mean a larger convention and might pose logistical problems; and keeping the same number of SDs – but giving them each a 1/2 vote.
Cong. Clyburn indicated that this it isn’t just about the convention – it’s about including elected officials in the whole process, but suggested that providing members of Congress with non-voting Honored Guest status might be acceptable. Congressional Democrats should be heard on this issue.
Jeff Berman suggested that statewide elected officials (Governors and Senators) continue as automatic/unpledged, pledged PLEOs will be voting delegates, and there would be automatic honored guests for others.
The prevailing view seemed to be that we want to send message that we want to honor voters and not have a category of delegates who might unravel the process. It is now out of control.
Del. McClellan suggested that party chairs, should stay unpledged so as to be perceived as unbiased. She suggested that DNC members should be automatic, but pledged delegates. Another suggestion was to have unpledged delegates announce their preference at the time of their state primary.
19 states and territories have caucuses
Suggested Options: (1) develop best practices guide and (2) develop best practices guide and direct RBC to measure caucus stat adherence to best practices. Jeff Berman spoke in favor of an assessment process, whereby the RBC would make sure that key pieces were in place, when approving delegate selection plan.
There was continued discussion of absentee, diversity, and participation issues.