To be, or not to be (democratic)

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On April 15th, 2018 the State Executive Committee (the voting body of the Florida Democratic Party) will hear a proposed amendment to their charter & bylaws that is simply about one thing and one thing only, to uphold the fundamental democratic principle of One Person, One Vote.  The statement to be considered (while maintaining proportional representation):

Voting on all State Executive Committee business, shall be one (1) vote for each member.”

Basic democratic principles start with “all members are equal.”  The vote is a decision that affects the core of how our state party conducts itself, whether to be democratic, or not.  For all voting members to have equal voices, or not.

To make it even simpler (while maintaining proportional representation):

  • State Executive Committee Members who vote YES, support a fundamental democratic principle that each member is equal.
  • State Executive Committee Members who vote NO, do not support a fundamental democratic principle that each member is equal.

Sign the petition at Expand the Table

You can stop reading here, that sums it up.  Or continue reading below to learn more!


Background
That really is the question that is up for discussion in a party who is named after the principle.  All of the other issues relating to it, are not part of this vote.  This vote will decide the direction the current voting body of the Florida Democratic Party (FDP) wants to take in relation to reformed bylaws that have been developed over the past year by the FDP’s Charter and Bylaws Ad Hoc Committee and supported by the FDP’s Rules Committee.

With the restructuring of the Charter and Bylaws into one cohesive document, there are many reforms proposed that require adequate time for voting members to digest and provide feedback on before being heard for approval.  In an effort to move forward in a clear way, a decision was made by the Rules Committee to focus solely on the item with the most attention, moving from a weighted vote system to a democratic voting system where each member has an equal voice to each other. This is the basis for the framework of the new reforms.

Weighted Vote following 1964 Supreme Court ruling
The weighted vote was installed in the 1970s to the Florida Democratic Party as a response to a Supreme Court Ruling in 1964 that decided State Legislators had to be based on election districts that were relatively equal in population size under the principle One Person, One Vote.  The Supreme Court believed One Person, One Vote to be so fundamental to our American Principles that they wrote it into the Constitution.  In fact our founding document refers to every vote as one person in matter-of-fact language. It was never considered to be anything else.


Trailer above, to view full video click here.

 

The ruling came after a shift in our nation’s population moved from rural areas to urban.  This threw off the balance of value each State Legislator represented in government, with rural representatives having less people to represent than those representing more constituents.  It watered down the voice of the constituents in urban areas and gave more power to rural representatives.

After the Supreme Court ruled to correct this, the Democratic National Committee and many Democratic state parties rewrote their bylaws to be in line with the ruling and maintain the democratic principle of proportional representation and One Person, One Vote.

Except states like Florida, who chose the opposite direction.  Florida was more rural at the time, the party was more conservative than in other states and Democrats controlled most of the state government.  Florida had 15 Congressional Districts and the FDP installed a weighted vote system to conduct party business that maintained the control of the party in the hands of those who currently held it.  The weighted vote was used to efficiently wield that power and the disparity of weight was not a vast as it is now.

Today Florida has a much larger population, is much more diverse, the weighted vote exponentially more unequal and Democrats do not control much of the state government.  One might say the weighted vote was a complete disaster.

The weighted vote now reflects the opposite direction of the intent, however wrong it was to start with, and concentrates massive voting power in the hands of a small amount of people relative to the full voting membership.

Representatives and Proportional Representation
It is important to remember the distinction between proportional representation and the representative themselves.  Larger populations of registered Democrats would require more representatives.  And those representatives should have equal voices among each other on the body they serve on.

The disparity between voting members is highlighted by the 7 largest of Florida’s 67 counties.  Correctly, they proportionally represent 56% of registered Democrats in Florida, which is then incorrectly applied as votes to each of the counties and divided among a State Committeeman and State Committeewoman.  Those 14 members of the State Executive Committee, out of a possible body of 250 (currently there are 198 positions filled) represent 7% of the current body. Yet they hold 56% of the allocated votes creating a scenario where a small minority of people hold a majority of votes.

16 of the 27 smallest counties currently have DECs that all are currently allotted the base minimum vote of 2 votes split between 2 people due to the small populations of registered Democrats, giving 32 members each a single vote. The top two State Committee Members in the largest county each hold 62 votes.  A member with one vote has 0.016 the voting power, voice, of someone with 62 votes.  All 32 members with single votes still equate to roughly half of the voting power of one member with 62 votes.  That is not representative of a democratic body where each voice on a body should be equal.

2/3rds required to Amend Bylaws
To further convey the extent the disparity of inequality has grown into let’s look at the amendment to the bylaws being proposed.  For an amendment to the bylaws to pass requires an affirmative vote of 2/3 of members present and eligible, of which there are 198 members.  Those 198 members represent a total allocated vote count of 1165.  To pass a bylaws amendment by 2/3rd an allocated vote count of 777 is required to pass, meaning 389 votes against would make the vote fail.  The 8 members of the 4 largest counties hold 396 votes.  While those 8 members make up 4% of the voting body, they also represent 33.9% of the vote.

 

In other words, 4% of the highest weighted voting “members” count for 33.9% of the “vote”, meaning 8 of the 198 members can say NO to an amendment and be enough weighted votes to make the vote fail.

This is extremely unbalanced.

One Person, One Vote
The solution to this is simple.  We start with the democratic principle of each member has one vote.  That is all that is being voting on with the proposed amendment. It changes allocating  votes to members and instead allocates members as votes.  One Person, One Vote.

If the vote is successful, the next steps would be to agree upon an allocation ‘calculation’ that can be accomplished after further input to ensure we our populations of registered Democrats are proportionally represented  at the state level.  As an example, DNC allocates 200 members across 50 states, with a base of 2 per state, and proportionally allocates the remaining 100 to each state as members.  Each member having one vote.

All those details can come afterwards, how we implement anything beyond the current amendment is up for discussion.  Everything else is a distraction from the core fundamental concept that is being voted upon.  While maintaining proportional representation:

“Voting on all State Executive Committee business, shall be one (1) vote for each member.”

If the vote is unsuccessful, we go back to the weighted vote, much of the framework of the proposed bylaws that are built upon the framework of each member having one vote would have to be reworked, and voting on business at the state level would continue to be done in a way that is contrary to our principles, and can be defined simply as undemocratic.

To summarize (while maintaining proportional representation):

  • State Executive Committee Members who vote YES, support a fundamental democratic principle that each member is equal.
  • State Executive Committee Members who vote NO, do not support a fundamental democratic principle that each member is equal.

To sign the petition supporting this measure, and to learn more about the weighted vote, view and download the DNC files visit:

Expand the Table

Votes are public and can be reviewed to see which Democrats vote democratic.  The Blue Wave is watching.