Wednesday, February 20, 2008


FIGHTING OVER THE BONES?: Thanks to Ian Lind for the actual rules
for the Hawai`i Democratic Party’s delegate selection and caucus voting.

They say that all those voting in the caucuses must be “registered voters” implying that merely applying to register to vote is not sufficient. It also say the same about Party membership- promises to become a member is not sufficient to vote.

But those rules went out the window in most cases according to every one of the dozens of reports in the newspapers, on TV and in the blogs.

The big question now is whether the Clinton campaign will challenge many of the tens of thousands of Obama voters who were, at best, not verified to be participating on the up and up. And since caucus voting was, according to the rules, supposed to be by “secret ballot” there should be no way to double check which ballots were properly cast.

It also says that ultimately, the delegates to the DP’s National Convention will be awarded proportionally giving Obama 15 and Clinton 5 if the widely reported 75-24 split is verified. In an atmosphere where fighting it out delegate by delegate will probably be the way it all shakes out it is doubtful a fighter like Clinton will just accept the irregularities without a credentialing fight.

Form the reports it appears that Obama voters- mostly non-DP members new to the caucuses, some who never even voted in an election before, many of whom were put on the “honor system” to become DP members “later” -were the ones most likely to be improper or at least ripe for challenge while Clinton’s support was much more likely to be long time party regulars.

When the party counts up caucus votes and final DP membership numbers the former could well surpass the latter. Will Clinton cheerleader-in-Chief Sen. Dan Inouye seek to extract more than her appointed five pounds of flesh?

You couldn’t pay most people enough to be on the HDP Rules Committee or whomever is going to make that decision.


Here’s a sampling of some Advertiser and Star-Bulleting reports on the improprieties including some “comments” from readers
Next to go were the precinct sign-in forms, but that didn't matter much because by 7:30 p.m., U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie told voters not to worry about finding their precinct captains, who were lost among a crowd in the packed cafeteria.
"Forget about the precinct. Just get a ballot and vote," he said.
Kawananakoa Middle ran out of ballots and party registration forms briefly, but the school's principal made about 1,000 more copies of each in her office
Carolyn Golojuch, Kapolei Middle School's site coordinator, got on a public address system and encouraged voters to only cast one of the improvised ballots.
"Remember, Democrats are honest," she said. "They don't vote more than once."
With many attending a caucus for the first time, Abercrombie said the party took it on faith that people were there to register to vote and join the party.
"What we ended up doing, and, I think, I expect a lot of other people did, is went to the honor system finally," he said.
Jerry Burris
There undoubtedly will be some second guessing and even muttering about legal challenges over the balloting, which went from organized to near-chaos as the evening progressed. Many precincts ran out of party registration cards, ballots or both. Some resorted to a show of hands and an "honor system" that those who voted were, or would become, members of the Hawaii Democratic Party.
But there's no doubt that at least some folks participated without anyone knowing for sure whether they were party members, as required by the rules.

Comment from: rtsuru [Visitor]
I would be very interested in knowing how any sane person could think that last night's caucus vote was definitive. The disorganization was monumental, there were people standing in line at Washington Middle School who claimed to be Republican but were voting for Obama in the caucus, out of state people attempting to vote, and not one volunteer making sure that everyone who was supposed to be voting was in fact voting.

Jerry Burris Blog

What the heck! Let everybody vote!
This ain't Florida, but the second-guessing about tonight's balloting is going to go on for a long time to come.
It's unlikely anyone is going to get lawyered up over this, but with the thousands of thousands of people participating, all being guided by well-meaning but inexperienced volunteers, there was bound to be
At one of the Kailua sites, for instance, they ran out of party registration forms, so people were told to go ahead and vote anyway and, well, sign up for the party later. Most of them likely will do so, but there is no guarantee.
That suggests at least some of the ballots cast were not cast by legitimate card-carrying party members. Not kosher under the rules.
Will anyone care once the smoke clears?

Comment from: rising waters [Visitor]
well if it were a federal election, the FBI would have seized all the ballot boxes and put crime tape everywhere and somehow George Bsh would have won.Maybe things weren't done by the book, but the volunteers on the ground were doing their best and seemed to be genuinely honest (most were the sort you could lend $50 and get it back a week later).The party itself has some major explaining to do, as to why they, unlike the media and the coconut telegraph, didn't see this coming.


Comment from: first caucus [Visitor]
wow, mass confusion reigned where I voted in Manoa. They were handing out blank pieces of paper and telling us to write our choice. I signed in on one of the sheets, no one checked my ID, the volunteer handed me two slips of paper - I gave one slip back to her. I did my thing, and left, but it occurred to me that I could have kept that paper and voted twice. There was not a lot of control over those slips of paper. I'm thinking they are not seriously going to count those hand written ballots, but on the 10pm news they say they are. Wow...understand the enthusiasm but the lack of control really tripped me out. Makes me wonder how many times I could have signed in (using alias), and got a slip of paper to vote. Or even just casually walk over to a table and grab a dozen or so and vote X times for my favorite candidate. Not even Florida...almost like a 3rd world country.


Comment from: Manoa grad student [Visitor]
I've been an active Democrat for other 20 years, and I care how our candidates are nominated. The official ballots, 500 in District 24, Manoa, were carefully distributed by the precinct captains to people who filled in the party registration form. In my precinct, Clinton did much better with voters that received the official ballots. There were nearly 1500 votes in District 24, Manoa. Are there 1474 names on the registration forms? If there aren't, the official ballots should be counted, and the rest made up by a percentage of the unofficial ballots. If Manoa's experience is reflected statewide, this would switch at least 2 national delegates from Obama to Clinton, and it would still be fair to both candidates.


Comment from: Manoa grad student [Visitor]
I am not asking for two-thirds of the caucus votes to be invalidated. If 1474 people put their names and contact info on the registration forms, then count all the votes, however they came in. But the major reason we caucus is to recruit party members. The Party recruited me; I am now a precinct official and a state and county convention delegate. On the other hand, people that didn't submit their names and contact info are not Party members and should not have voted. One troubling fact: the ballot box for people that didn't know their precinct or didn't care (which Rep. Abercrombie stood over), went 90-10 for Obama. The district overall went 80-20. So "Let everybody vote!" probably gave Obama a couple more national delegates than a correct vote would have given him


At Kahuluu Elementary School, voter Tom Robertson, 52, of Heeia said he saw some would-be voters leave because the wait to vote was too long. When one precinct at Kahuluu ran out of ballots, volunteers gave out scraps of paper for voters to write in their choice. Robertson said he could have voted multiple times because of the lack of organization.

U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, who was at Manoa Elementary and is a staunch supporter of U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, suggested that people cast their votes in the chaotic cafeteria using the honor system. Instead of ensuring everyone was a registered Democrat prior to voting, precinct volunteers allowed voters to write the candidate's name on a scrap piece of paper and register afterward.
Asked whether there would be doubts of the honor system's accuracy, Abercrombie said only those not at the school wouldn't understand. "Everyone came in to vote because they wanted to," he said. "Hundreds of people stood outside in the pitch black for 45 minutes. They couldn't see anything and couldn't register. What we did was to say no one would be turned away because of the logistics of voting."

The process was what you would expect in a third world country - not the US. I do think that the Democratic Party leadership in HI should be called to answer for the disgraceful organization. Frankly, if they can't organize a simple election like this, one wonders about their general competence.



Doug said...

Nice work, Andy.

EDITORIALLY: Do you know why only those first few url's are working links and the rest need to be cut-and-pasted into a browser? Links are pretty much the bread-and-butter of a blog, so I hope you can get a grip on that situation...

Unknown said...

Nice compilation of the type of complaints that are popping up all over the place. These concerns are valid, but I think they need to be taken in proper context.

If anyone cares to hear it from the perspective of one of the site organizers, I have responded to some of these issues on the PDH blog.

Andy Parx said...

Not quite sure what I’m doing wrong with the links but thanks for pointing it out Doug- I’m still learning the technical stuff and am determined to figure out how to do the links embedded in the words, which I failed at the first time I tried.

Andy Parx said...

I think I fixed it now- sorry i'm still in the baby stages of learing the techie stuff

Doug said...

Looks like you're figuring it out.

The only change I would suggest is to substitute your own link word(s) between the open- and close-anchor html tags so all that http jabberwocky doesn't clutter up the visible portion of the post.

LoF said...

A party caucus is not a publicly funded election subject to all of the requirements of public elections.

People act like they were voting in a public election when party caucuses require about as much safeguards and elections as high school president elections.

The problem is that people create assumptions regarding what it means for the process to be a particular way, try to interpret rules and laws to naturalize their assumptions, and then are indignant when the process doesn't work out the way they assumed it should.

The problem is that the shadow party has always run the show. If the Shogun is not satisfied with the results, we will simply use the rules against the people to keep them in their place.

Andy Parx said...

Actually line of flight there is some regulation. In Hawai`i circuit court’s “Hawai`i Green Party v Buck Wheat” the ruling was that while there is no State regulation of how political parties run their internal affairs, they do it must be in accordance with their own written by-laws and rules, which was quite obviously not the case Tuesday.

If this were some election for the board of directors of some 501(c)3 there might not be much of a story. But we are talking about a political party here, one with members who one would think are- or should be- well versed in what constitutes a free and fair election. And when you have a US congressman standing on a table screaming that the election will be held “on the honor system” it’s kind of bizarre since the self same party’s elected representatives often goes to third world countries to observe the election there.

Somehow I don’t think the Carter center would approve of honor system elections.

LoF said...

I think your reliance on the Hawaii Green Party v. Darryl Wheat is misplaced. The issue for all political parties in party-run matters is based in freedom of association.

In that case, the party was seeking to enforce its rules against a non-party member who was attempting to be part of the party without its consent. Judge Ibarra ruled that the party could exclude someone.

In this case, our rules give the District Chairs the discretion to interpret the rules to determine if the requirements for party membership have been met for voting purposes. Therefore, there is no hard and fast rule and the party rules do not give Judge Ibarra or anyone else the right to force it one way or another.

In this respect, the Green Party case, if it can be used at all, is useful for the proposition that it is the party that decides its rules and not others. If the party liberally construes its rules, a judge will not go against that. (Even when Judge Ibarra was moved to reconsider his ruling with new evidence that Wheat had submitted the documentation to be a member of the Green Party).

While your strict reading of the rules is persuasive, it naturalizes certain assumptions regarding the role and status of the party and membership thereof that are not axiomatic or necessarily true. This is why each district chair is given discretion over who is qualified to be a member and therefore vote. It is the district chair of each district that knows the situation of its district better than armchair lawyers or sensationalizing journalists anywhere else.

I can't speak for the congressman's honor system. One of the problems of your (or your devil advocate's) strict interpretation of "registered voter" is when a "registered voter" moves. Technically, if a registered voter moves, by federal law they will remain a registered voter of the last place of registration for two presidential cycles until they change their registration. (One of the reason registered voter roles are so big and turnout seemingly so low.) Therefore, someone signing an affidavit of voter registration to change their address is still a registered voter and is only taking affirmative action toward changing their registration. They are simply not "not registered voters" because they are not registered at their latest residence.

Under a strict reading of this, as long as they were registered someone, they are legally a "registered voter."

Ultimately party rules allow some flexibility in practice due to the reasons for having a caucus in the first place.

Andy Parx said...

I didn’t mean to suggest that Ibara’s ruling restricted parties to some strict interpretation of their rules, only that they have to abide by them whatever they are, even if liberally interpreted. But there has to be a line somewhere- I don’t think the rules say “oh and if chaos ensues you can allow people to vote twice and that non-party members may vote” or words to that affect. I do know it calls for secret balloting.

(I believe in the Wheat case it turned out the Treasurer who tracked membership had not missed his application for membership).

I’m not sure I get your point about “registered voters”. I do know that you can be “un-registered” if you move- at least in Hawai`i- if your little yellow card is returned by the P.O. to the Clerk’s office as undeliverable but otherwise you are never purged and yes, I suppose dead people are listed although our Clerk says they do remove people if they find out they are dead.

And if you register here after having been registered in another state they do ask you where that was and notify them to take you off their rolls. And that you are asking for trouble if you show up on election day to your old polling place and tell them you moved, especially to another voting district (with different candidates), although it is possible to vote.