A reality based independent journal of observation & analysis, serving the Flathead Valley & Montana since 2006. © James Conner.

11 August 2017 — 1159 mdt

The Montana Democratic Party is not organized on
the principle of one Democrat, one vote

Montana’s Democrats convene their rules and officers convention in Helena this weekend. When the convention concludes modified rules may be in place, and new officers may be in charge.

The delegates to the convention are not chosen on the basis of one Democrat, one vote. Instead, they represent counties, partner organizations, party honchos, and incumbent Democratic legislators and state and national elected officials (official list).

In this scheme, little Fallon County that gave Steve Bullock 368 votes for Governor in 2016, is allocated four convention delegates. So is Missoula County, which gave Bullock 108 times as many votes (39,717). That’s worse than the imbalance in the U.S. Senate. You can download a spreadsheet with these data.

There ought to be a rules change to reduce this imbalance. But none was proposed. Instead, there’s a proposal to give every county two “Community Outreach Delegates,” which is akin to increasing a flat tax by a couple of points. I’ll get to the CODs in a moment.

First, a few words about determining how many Democrats reside in a county. Montana does not register voters by political affiliation. That leaves two easily available measures of party strength. One is formal membership in the MDP, a small subset of the people who cast votes for Democrats. The other is the number of votes cast for statewide Democrats.

The best numbers, I believe, come from presidential general elections, which have the highest turnout, and a much lower level of crossover voting than in the primary. I used the median of the votes cast for these statewide partisan elections: U.S. Senator, U.S. Representative, Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, Auditor, and Office of Public Instruction. All of these candidates are nominated only by Montanans. The median values for the counties are in the spreadsheet.

My position is simple. County delegates to the convention should be allocated on the basis of population, not on the basis of political jurisdiction. There are various ways of doing this, including ways that preserve representation for the smallest counties while allocating more delegates to the most populous counties. If the MDP does not convene a special committee to come up with a solution, I think there's a possibility that the current scheme could challenged in court as not providing equal protection under the law.

Community Outreach Delegates

This proposal (#9 and #10) out of Missoula does nothing to redress the MDP’s rejection of one Democrat, one vote. Instead, like a two percent increase to a flat tax, it gives all county central committee two more convention delegates. But those COD delegates must be from groups “historically under-represented in the Democratic Party’s affairs.” U.S. House candidate John Heenan, a 40-year-old white man with a wife and children, is too old, too straight, and too white to qualify as a COD.

b) Each county may select, among Democrats registered to vote in that county, two additional Community Outreach delegates, of differing gender.

  1. Each county may also select two alternate Community Outreach delegates, of differing gender.

  2. In order to continue the Democratic Party’s ongoing efforts to include groups historically under-represented in the Democratic Party’s affairs and to assist in the achievement of full participation by these groups, priority of consideration shall be given to other groups by virtue of race/ethnicity, age (under 35), sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

  3. Members of a county Central Committee are eligible to serve as a Community Outreach delegate, but officers of a county Central Committee are not eligible.

  4. Community Outreach delegates for any convention shall be selected by the county Central Committee as soon as practicable after official notice of the convention is provided.

  5. Community Outreach delegates may vote on any matter that comes before the convention, but shall not be counted for purposes of determining whether or not the convention has a quorum.

This proposed rule change is consistent with the MDP’s “Rule 1 Minority Inclusivity,” part two of which requires an affirmative action plan “… to ensure equal participation in Party affairs, including delegate selection, in keeping with State Party rules and rules adopted by the Democratic National Committee.”

As a practical matter, the CODs are expected to be members of the Rising American Electorate that Democrats dream will form the basis of an electoral majority, thereby obviating any need to beg for votes from the white working class voters that Hillary Clinton and her supporters so despised and reviled as racist, homophobic, deplorables.