Thursday, March 13, 2008

Bulletins from the front lines

Christian Science Monitor:

"These six weeks are one of the most critical periods for the Democrats," says Joseph Aistrup, a political scientist at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan. "The candidates will be floating a lot of trial balloons to see what particular angles work."

The audience is only partly the voters who will award Pennsylvania's 158 delegates.

Perhaps more important, analysts say, are the nearly 800 elected officials and party leaders known as superdelegates who may well tip the race; the ordinary Americans whose poll responses journalists use to gauge shifts in political momentum; and the Democratic leaders who will decide whether and how to proceed with do-overs of the primaries in Michigan and Florida, which had been stripped of their delegates because they moved up their contests in violation of party rules.

Clinton won Michigan and Florida. But Obama didn't appear on the Michigan ballot, and to honor the party sanctions, neither campaigned in the two states.

Those primaries, if replayed in some form, would throw 366 delegates back into play. But it would also raise the threshold to win the nomination from 2,025 to 2,208. According to an Associated Press tally, Obama now has 1,598 delegates and Clinton 1,487, including pledged and superdelegates. Neither candidate is likely to pile up enough pledged delegates – those awarded through voting – in the 10 remaining contests to seal the nomination.

A decision on whether to rerun the Michigan and Florida primaries could come in the next couple of weeks, a move likely to divert a raft of campaign resources to those delegate-rich states.

More at the link. From a report filed at the Harris county executive committee meeting (of Democratic precinct chairs) last evening:

About 600 voters voted twice mostly on EVPA (Early Voting - Personal Appearance) and on Election Day. ... about 1100 voted in both primaries, (perhaps) in a combination of EV and Election Day voting. Actually some may have voted in the R primary and showed up for the D precinct conventions but that will not be known until the SD credentials are done.

I posted already about encountering one of these double voters. Of course this is voter fraud, but not the kind the OAG of Texas usually chooses to prosecute. Some of these cases will eventually be turned over to the Harris County DA's office; a new man starts there soon.

Senate District conventions promise to be chaos, as the final allocation of Texas delegates is at stake:

Curious whether Barack Obama or Hillary Rodham Clinton won Texas' Democratic caucuses March 4? The official results won't be available until March 29. ...

The (Texas) Democratic Party gave up Monday on its effort to produce a running public tally of the (delegate) count. The state party had set up a reporting system, outside the official count, that relied on 8,247 precinct chairmen to voluntarily call their results to 254 county chairmen who would relay them to state party headquarters.

But an estimated 1 million Democrats — far more than ever before — showed up for the caucuses, which were held right after voting ended in the first part of the Democratic contest: a standard primary administered by state government.

The huge turnout played havoc with the caucuses, creating confusion, long waits and even a few calls to the police to calm frustrations late on March 4. It hasn't made the count any easier either. ...

Now the party will rely on the official system laid down in its rules. Those rules require only that precinct chairmen mail the results of their caucuses to their county party chairmen 72 hours after primary election day. County chairmen don't have to reveal those results until county or state senate district conventions on March 29.

As in many states with caucuses, these district conventions pick delegates to a state convention in June which picks the actual national convention delegates. The Associated Press uses the results from local caucuses to calculate the number of national delegates each candidate will win, if the candidate's level of support doesn't change during this multi-stage process. ...

This is why the Texas Two-Step is actually four steps: primary, caucus, senate district, and state convention. It allows for lots of manipulation by those who know the system (i.e. Clinton supporters) and those who don't (i.e. Obama supporters).

Houston's 857 precinct results are still coming in, said Harris County Democratic chairman Gerald Birnberg. The count has been slowed because precinct convention chairmen ran out of official sign-in sheets, so they tore "Democrats Vote Here" signs off the wall and scrawled the preferences of caucus-goers in long hand. Birnberg said a dozen workers have put in 12-hour days since March 4 just making sure the paperwork was right, without even counting the votes yet in the state's largest city.

My SD will have 1522 delegates to the convention; at the moment to convene in a high school gymnasium capable of holding between 11-1200. The chairman's response is to seat overflow delegates in a separate auditorium.

That scenario is fraught with legal peril. The 'plan B' response was "Not all the delegates show up anyway."

This development bodes further ill for participatory democracy in Texas. Thousands of disenfranchised voters, delegates, and alternates coming to the process for the first time are likely to be more than a little disillusioned by their exclusion, which doesn't have rosy portent for their continuing their participation in the future, now does it?

Some will stay and fight while others will leave, turned off by the sausage-making of democracy. The only question left to know is how many and who wins as a result.

No comments: