The DNC’s Unity Reform Commission, created by the 2016 Democratic National Convention to provide recommendations for strengthening the Democratic Party, held its second meeting in San Antonio on June 2-3, 2017. See post. Part of the URC’s mandate is to consider national convention delegate selection issues and this meeting focused on primaries.
The 21-member Commission has members appointed by the DNC Chair and the Clinton and Sanders campaigns. Some members are very experienced in party rules processes, but others bring new viewpoints. Thus most of the first two meetings have been spent hearing presentations and engaging in general discussion. The URC has at least two more meetings and can be expected to proceed to recommendations – including on primaries, caucuses, and superdelegates – in due course. It will next meet in Chicago on August 25-26, 2017.
The URC heard presentations from DNC Director of Party Affairs Patrice Taylor, Jeff Berman, and David Huynh (overview of presidential nominating process); Jim Hightower, Gilberto Hinojosa, and Emmy Ruiz of Texas (how to involve new and unaffiliated voters); Rick Palacio of Colorado (state run primaries); and Hannah Fried (primary accessibility and voter suppression).
Here are some of the highlights of the meeting.
- he URC members discussed “open primaries” (i.e. allowing Independents (or possibly registered Republicans)) to vote in Democratic primaries. Some states with closed primaries require Democrats to register in advance of the primary and allow only Democrats to vote. Others with open primaries allow independents to vote in Democratic primaries and some, like Virginia, have no party registration and thus allow any voters to vote in the Democratic primary.
- Arguments in favor of an open primary include that it would encourage independent voters, especially millennial voters, to participate in the Democratic Party. Arguments against include that open primaries will dilute minority votes and allow hostile forces to influence the Democratic nominee.
- [My view: It was useful for Commission members to discuss the open primary issues, but such issues are governed by state law over which the DNC and state Democratic Parties have no control and limited influence. The DNC rule-makers will have to maintain flexibility; even a closed primary allows for far greater participation than a caucus.]
- Note: the DNC term state-run primaries refers to a state-law governed process where voters vote at their usual polling process. A “party-run primary” refers to a party-run process with multiple voting locations, but not at all the precincts available in a primary. That party-run process is also referred to as a “firehouse primary” or “unassembled caucus.”
- Some other rules-related comments and recommendations:
- The delegate selection process must be transparent.
- There should be more of an effort to reach out to new voters and groups.
- The process should be more user-friendly.
- Caucus processes should be streamlined with more detailed guidance provided by DNC, and better reflect first stage voter preferences (instead of depending on who shows up for subsequent stages).
- There should be a closer review of whether and how state delegations have met affirmative action goals.The DNC has not traditionally provided guidelines on selection of electors, but should consider doing so, potentially including a candidate right of review.
- More experienced state party staff, including Executive Directors, would be helpful to the process.
- The DNC should do more to make sure state parties adhere to rules – the challenge process isn’t a very good way of handling these issues – DNC staff could be on call to provide real-time response.
- There was extensive discussion on ways to make registration and voting easier, including automatic voter registration, Election Day registration, pre-registration in high schools, early voting (no-excuse absentee), precinct portability (can vote at any precinct), voting rights restoration for former felons, line (wait time) reduction, less burdensome voter ID, facilitating college student voting, standardization process for absentee ballots, shorter lines on election day, and restoration of the Voting Rights Act.
- Ideas for building the Democratic Party and encouraging participation included:
- Reach out to young and other new voters and independent voters
- Talk about issues that are important to voters
- Organize year round
- Work on voter registration and voter education, including in off years
- Train volunteers and/or paid staff
- Approach voters door to door, person to person
- Use social media (and old media, like letters to the editors) effectively Run candidates for state and local offices
- Reach out to new political groups
- Encourage new people to seek leadership roles in the party
- Use creative events (concerts) and non-political surrogates
- Focus on districts that Hillary won, reach out to Latino, African-American and other traditional voters and get them to register and vote
- Adopt non-partisan redistricting
- Have the DNC support building state parties
- Have candidate’s coordinated campaigns better coordinate with state parties
- Make registration and voting easier (see above).
- Hightower christened the event a UnityPalooza.
Materials provided at the meeting, including mission description, membership, agenda, and 2016 summaries are attached.
DNC URC materials 6.2017 (924.3 KiB, 1,048 hits)
VA DNC Member
I was proud to represent Virginia on the Democratic National Committee for 12 years. I am in DC now, but still active in voter protection and Democratic Party rules. More about me, click here.