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Texas Dems to Campaigns: Play Fair

By Matthew Mosk
Many Texas Democrats knew this problem was coming.

With more than 8,000 precincts and not enough volunteers to serve as precinct captains for tonight's caucus events, the Texas Democratic Party decided that the job of chair would be handed out on what amounts to a first-come, first-served basis.

The first person in the door at 7:15 p.m. who picks up the packet of materials from the election judge at the precinct site gets to be chair.

"If you have a precinct that doesn't have a chair, the first person there picks it up and gets it. The rules are designed to create a race to the packet," said State Senator Eliot Shapleigh, a Clinton supporter who represents El Paso.

That race has apparently started even earlier. Jim Boynton, the Primary Director for the Texas Democratic Party sent a memo to the presidential campaigns (PDF) this afternoon warning that "supporters of a given campaign" -- they did not say which one -- "are requesting convention packets early. Election staff are correctly withholding the packet until 7:15PM or the last voter has cast a ballot. Supporters of a given campaign are prematurely removing packets from polling locations. Election staff have been directed to report these activities to law enforcement since they amount to criminal violations. Removing convention packets or disruption of a polling location while requesting convention packets will not be tolerated."

Both the Clinton and Obama campaigns have accused the other of this behavior. Texas Democratic Party spokesman Hector Nieto said this evening that he hopes to see both campaigns playing fair when the caucuses get underway. The way it's supposed to work is that the person who gets the packet becomes a temporary precinct chair, and their first order of business is to hold an immediate election to select the formal chair.

"These are two professional campaigns with professional organizations and we expect both to abide by the rules," Nieto said.

By Web Politics Editor  |  March 4, 2008; 6:57 PM ET
Categories:  Barack Obama , Hillary Rodham Clinton , Primaries , The Democrats  
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Comments

Texas Caucus an Embarrassment to Texas Democratic Party: Iowa This Isn't

Several hundred Democratic Primary voters tried to attend the precinct caucus in my precinct, which is in Plano*. Election judges forced these eager voters to wait in the cold and in total darkness behind a school gym for an hour after the caucuses were to begin. Someone called the police who checked with the judges who then told the crowd they faced 30 minutes more in the cold. More than half the crowd left. Five minutes later, the caucus area opened.

The caucus leader is the person with her grip on the crucial balloting record packet. Our caucus leader had not read the materials and did not know the point of the caucus was to elect delegates. We did manage to get everyone to sign ballot sheets and cast their votes for Obama or Clinton. The caucus leader then told voters they could leave--at least 50% did--before the issue of electing delegates was even mentioned.

Many of the voters did not know their voting certificate number, presumably most having voted early, and left this essential information off the ballot sheets. The caucus leader did not look up certificate numbers for people although she had access to the primary voting register. Whether these folks' votes will be disqualified later is unclear.

Candidates win delegates based on their percent of total votes, which sounds straightforward enough. But it took more than 30 minutes to tally only 66 votes. The caucus leader did not know how to calculate percentage of votes for the candidates--she could not do the math. She did not know how to round the percentages to distribute the delegates although there was an entire sheet of instructions on how to do this. There were two separate precinct caucuses held in the gym and the two distributed their delegates according to different rounding rules, meaning one candidate got screwed out of their rightful number of delegates.

Finally, delegates' names were recorded on the back of a piece of paper provided by a voter rather than on an official form. The official balloting packet is to be returned to county election officials within three days. Will our votes and names of delegates be returned by a caucus leader who was clueless about every other aspect of the caucus process? Do those votes without a voting certificate number count? If not, what happens to the distribution of delegates? Will the delegates be recorded properly and recognized as legitimate? Who knows?!

If the Texas Democratic party could not insure accuracy and fairness of delegate distribution in a caucus with only 66 voters, imagine the chaos in the caucuses where many hundreds of people actually participated. Fifty percent of our potential voters were discouraged from voting, fifty percent more were excluded from picking delegates to represent them. Yet this irregular, mismanaged process awards a third of Texas delegates to the national convention.

* If you've never heard of Plano, it's a former All-American city and contains one of the top-10% wealthiest communities in the US. It's voters are at least 90% Republican. Dallas, TX is a suburb of Plano.

Posted by: ptempleton | March 5, 2008 4:53 PM | Report abuse

I imagine you'll do as you like.

Posted by: zukermand | March 4, 2008 8:36 PM | Report abuse

Wow, the US is becoming a bit too legalistic, why not to use a middle name? What is wrong with it? Hell, what we need is LOVE !!!
Andrew Michailivich Demidenko

Posted by: bard1848 | March 4, 2008 8:07 PM | Report abuse

How about if I disagree with you as to "foul play" but agree with you it does not necessarily imply "malintent"?

Posted by: JakeD | March 4, 2008 7:52 PM | Report abuse

Ignorance of the law is no excuse.

Posted by: JakeD | March 4, 2008 7:44 PM | Report abuse

"With more than 8,000 precincts and not enough volunteers to serve as precinct captains for tonight's caucus events, the Texas Democratic Party decided that the job of chair would be handed out on what amounts to a first-come, first-served basis"
==============
Under these conditions, I do not assume malintent when a few enthusiastic people err at something they've never done before.

Posted by: zukermand | March 4, 2008 7:41 PM | Report abuse

zuckermand:

I have to disagree with you on this one (although the name of the campaign was withheld to protect the guilty), as it is clear that the allegation of "requesting convention packets early . . . prematurely removing packets from polling locations" is indeed a violation.

Posted by: JakeD | March 4, 2008 7:35 PM | Report abuse

It's not racist to use a candidates middle name. It's slimy to use it when it's principal purpose is to remind people of the former dictator of Iraq, who by all accounts was a horrible person. Guilt by association as it were. It's called playing dirty, but that's what Clintons' campaign has become all about.

Posted by: maps_by_phil | March 4, 2008 7:35 PM | Report abuse

It's not racist to use a candidates middle name. It's slimy to use it when it's principal purpose is to remind people of the former dictator of Iraq, who by all accounts was a horrible person. Guilt by association as it were. It's called playing dirty, but that's what Clintons' campaign has become all about.

Posted by: maps_by_phil | March 4, 2008 7:31 PM | Report abuse

The article goes to some length in implying foul play and malintent. The evidence cited does not follow.

Posted by: zukermand | March 4, 2008 7:23 PM | Report abuse

While we are clarifying the rules, is it now "racist" to use prior Presidents' middle names (or is that just as to African-American Presidents from here on out)?

William JEFFERSON Clinton
George HERBERT WALKER Bush
Ronald WILSON Reagan
James EARL Carter
Gerald RUDOLPH Ford, Jr.
Richard MILHOUS Nixon
Lyndon BAINES Johnson
John FITZGERALD Kennedy

Posted by: JakeD | March 4, 2008 7:20 PM | Report abuse

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