I am a Michigan Democratic Party members, serving on the State Central Committee and the State Party Rules Committee. Together with a coalition of many people from across the state, I am working to bring greater democracy, transparency, and inclusion to Michigan Democratic Party.
- If all elections are won by the majority (50% plus one), coalitions with less than 50% of the vote can never win an election.
- MDP rules require State Central Committee delegates be elected by a system of voting (called proportional voting) designed to ensures a coalition with, for example, 30% of the votes in the election, can win about 30% of the positions up for election; similarly for other percentages.
- This prevents a simple majority (50% plus one) from winning every position up for election. This ensures coalitions in the minority get representation on the State Central Committee proportional to the number of voters supporting them.
- MDP leadership claims the right to add as many officers-at-large to the State Central Committee as they want by a simple majority vote.
- This destroys the effect of proportional voting. This is equivalent to the US Senate allowing 51 Senators to add as many new Senators as they want, simply by 51 Senators voting for them.
- This is not allowed under MDP rules. MDP rules require all officers-at-large of the State Central Committee be elected by a system of proportional voting. Not by a simple majority.
- The solution is to follow the rules.
- To follow the rules, MDP leadership must announce, in a timely manner, how many officers-at-large they plan to add. This number is necessary for the system of proportional voting. Announcing this number will allow coalitions in the minority to prepare to contest a proportional voting election.
Issue 4: The Officers-at-Large Problem
There are 27 at-large National Convention delegates and 10 alternates that will be selected by a vote of the MDP State Central Committee (SCC), according to the MDP Delegate Selection Plan.
To be eligible to select these 27 delegates and 10 alternates, the MDP State Central Committee must meet certain criteria set out in the DNC rules. For example, the SCC must be composed of members “apportioned to each congressional district” according to a specified formula, and members who were “elected at congressional district conventions or caucuses … in a fair and open process” (Delegate Selection Plan Section III.C.4.c).
The State Central Committee does not meet either of those criteria.
Not “Apportioned” to Congressional Districts
The 172 delegates who make up the core of the State Central Committee are apportioned to their respective congressional districts, and elected by a system of proportional voting at their congressional district caucuses.
State Central Committee delegates are multiple-position offices that must be elected by a system of proportional voting (MDP Rule 2.16). Proportional voting means if a coalition has 40% of the votes in the room, they will win about 40% of the positions up for election; similarly for a coalition with 30% of the votes in the room, they’ll win about 30% of the position, etc. Delegates and alternates to the State Central Committee are elected from each Congressional District by proportional voting at the Spring State Convention every odd-numbered year.
However, at the first SCC meeting after the Spring Convention, a large number of additional members – called officers at-large – are appointed by the State Party Chair, and “confirmed” by a simple majority of the State Central Committee (this is against MDP Rules, see below). These members of the SCC have full voting rights. They were not “apportioned to each congressional district”. They were not “elected at congressional district conventions or caucuses”.
This year, there are about 90 officers-at-large. That’s about 33% of the total voting members of the State Central Committee – who were not “apportioned” to nor “elected” by their congressional districts. Contrary to DNC requirements.
Not a “Fair and Open” Process
This unfairly dilutes the power of proportional voting. If a coalition – progressives, for example – had 30% of the vote at the congressional district caucuses, won about 30% of the delegate seats on the SCC, they would have 51 delegates on the SCC. They would be expected to win about 30% of the 27 National delegates and 10 alternates elected by the State Central Committee – 8 delegates and 3 alternates.
With the addition of 90 members appointed by simple majority, not elected proportionally, those 51 delegates are no longer 30% of the SCC vote. Now, those 51 delegates are diluted to just 19% of the SCC vote. So they can elect only about 19% of the National delegates and alternates. Now their total is 2 alternates and 5 delegates. Down 1 alternate and 3 delegates. Diluting their expected total National Convention delegates by 37% and alternates by 33%.
Most of these 90 members are aligned with the establishment wing of the MDP. In effect, the establishment is stealing more delegates and alternates to the National Convention than they can win fairly under the rules. By breaking their own rules for electing officers-at-large. And of course the establishment has the same advantage on every vote taken by the State Central Committee, not just for electing delegates and alternates to the National Convention.
MDP Rules are very specific: officers of the MDP, including officers-at-large, must be elected (MDP Rule 7.1.1). All officers-at-large have the same eligibility requirements and the same duties and responsibilities. They are not distinct from each other in any way. This is the defining characteristic of a multiple-position office. Multiple-position offices must be elected by a system of proportional voting (MDP Rule 2.16).
When the MDP adds members to the State Central Committee by simple majority vote, they’re breaking the rules. Breaking the rules is not a “fair and open process” for conducting the business of the Michigan Democratic Party.
The DNC went into open court and argued they don’t have to follow their own rules. When we do things like appoint people to the SCC by simple majority, when the rules clearly require election by a system of proportional voting, we stoke the feelings among many that the Party cannot be trusted – even to follow their own rules. When we do things like this, people notice. When we do things like this, we drive people away from the Party.
If we want to win, not just one election, but a series of elections leading to our policy goals, we have to stop this underhanded unethical behavior. Now. The longer we wait, the longer it will take to build a coalition that will win those policy goals.
In a large organization, where many people don’t know each other well, and most people don’t know each other at all, the rules create a basis for trust. Without trust, there can be no unity.
The Party Line:
We can’t use proportional voting for officers at large, because there’s no limit to how many of them we can have.
At each each particular “appointment” there is a specific and finite number of officers being considered by the Chair. The Chair can easily share that number with other groups in the Party, who can then come prepared to participate in a proportional voting election. As required by our rules. This isn’t hard folks.