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What will happen if we have a floor fight?

by: ScottyUrb

Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 14:35:05 PM EST


(Note: I prepared this based on the rules that have been used in recent conventions, including the 2010 Endorsement Convention. It's possible that things have changed/will change for the upcoming convention; I am not aware of any such changes.)

So it's looking very likely that we will have a contested vote (a.k.a. "floor fight") for Chair at the MDP Convention two weeks from tomorrow! Okay, a part of me thinks it will be settled before it gets to the floor, but what happens if we go to a floor fight?

No, it won't be a 'direct' or 'popular' vote. If 1,501 people show up at Cobo and vote for one candidate, while 1,502 people vote for the other, the latter won't necessarily be Chair.

Below the fold, if you will.

ScottyUrb :: What will happen if we have a floor fight?
For purposes of voting at conventions, the MDP divides up the state based on two things: Counties and Congressional districts. Currently, 73 of our 83 counties are entirely within a congressional district; eight counties are covered by parts of two congressional districts; and Oakland and Wayne each cover part of four congressional districts. That gives us 97 different territories (to use a field term, I'll call them "turfs") to which votes are allocated.

Each turf gets one convention vote for every 500 votes Jocelyn Benson got in 2010 in said turf. For example, I live in Kent County and the 2nd District, where Jocelyn received almost 16,000 votes; 16,000/500=32 delegate votes.

When it comes time to vote on the 23rd, a person will note our county and congressional district (it will be printed on our name tag that we pick up when we register at Cobo), and we will tell them whom we support. (Alternatively, those supporting Johnson will be asked to stand in one place, while those supporting Brewer will be in a separate group.) Keep in mind that this will be a public vote; MDP (and I think DNC) rules proibit secret ballots.

The person chairing the convention will call on the chair of each District Party, who will then announce how many convention attendees from each county in the district voted for each candidate. The secretary will then plug those numbers into a spreadsheet that is projected onto a screen for all to see.

A turf's delegate votes are then allocated to candidates in proportion to how many people voted for that candidate. (This is where that spreadsheet comes in handy!) So if there are 32 of us from the Kent/2CD turf, and 17 vote for Candidate A while 15 vote for Candidate B, then A gets 17 votes while B gets 15. In the unlikely event that I'm the only person from this turf to show up at Cobo, then my candidate of choice will receive 32 votes. If there are five of us there, and we vote 4-1, then our votes will be divided up 25.6 to 6.4. Note that those numbers are not rounded; decimals do play a role.

What if no one from a turf comes to Cobo?

Now, of those 97 turfs, I can almost guarantee you one thing: Some turfs will not have any voting MDP members on the floor at Cobo. That will particularly be likely for counties in the UP and Northern LP. So, what happens to their delegate votes? Are they lost into the ether, never to he seen or heard from again? Nope. They will get allocated to candidates based on how well candidates do in the rest of the congressional district.

Take Dickinson County, for example. Located entirely in the 1st District, Dickinson County gave 3,224 votes to Jocelyn in 2010; thus, they can expect to have 6 votes at Cobo. Suppose that no one from Dickinson shows up at Cobo, and that in those 1st District counties that do have representation, one candidate gets 58% of the delegate vote, while the other gets 42%. In that case, Dickinson's 6 votes get divided up 3.48 to 2.52.

If I'm a candidate for Chair, I'm making sure I get at least some support from as many of those northern counties as I can. That way I can "run up the score" by winning all of the delegates from some of those counties, while simultaneously getting votes from the counties from which no one showed up.

But how will we know if the count is accurate?

As the votes for each turf are announced, we will see those votes plugged into the spreadsheet - and each turf's delegate votes will appear instantaneously. At any point during the process, check the spreadsheet to see how many votes each candidate has amassed. I'd bet the house that both Brewer and Johnson will have folks keeping an eagle's eye on process to ensure that no foul-ups take place.

But Scott, I gotta say: This doesn't seem like a fair process! What happened to "One Person, One Vote?"

I'm reminded of what Winston Churchill once said: "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those others that have been tried." Likewise, the MDP's delegate allocation method is the worst way to select party officers and nominees - except for all the other methods. I'd submit to you that this system offers the following advantages:

  1. It ensures that the interests of Democrats across the state are represented, and that candidates have to listen to the views of people from across the state and ask for their votes.
  2. It gives yet another incentive for Democratic activists to get out the vote in their county/district. Had 26 more Dickinson County residents shown up to vote for Jocelyn in 2010, they would have 7 delegate votes instead of 6.
  3. Let's be honest: Some of us don't have to drive as far to Cobo as others. If you live in Hamtramck, Cobo is a quick jaunt down Woodward. It's about three hours for me to drive in from Kentwood. And for our friends in Marquette, it's almost a half-day-long trip. This system rewards those of us who are dedicated enough and who care enough to make a long trip down to Cobo.

 

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This (4.00 / 1)
was a good read, thanks for writing it. Conventions are so complicated.

Thanks for the Reminder (0.00 / 0)


The main thing this method does (4.00 / 4)
is to take away the motivation to 'pack' the Convention with local attendees.

I can't agree with you that it provides any significant motivation for GOTV. I worked hard for Jocelyn because I wanted a competent Secretary of State, not because I was thinking about what additional fraction of a vote I might get to cast at an MDP election several years down the road that might not ever happen.

By the way, what we call a 'floor fight' in MDP circles is what other folks call.... an ELECTION. Why is it this big, scary thing? Yes, this is a very consequential election for the future of our Party, and I hope everyone is carefully considering the options, and the likely consequences. But the fact of HAVING a contested election is not significantly damaging to the Party. We'll get over any hurt feelings quickly.

I submit that having a (meaningfully) contested election for Party Chair is a good thing, in that it at least makes people think about the future of the Party, and which direction is likely to produce better electoral results, and a progressive direction for Michigan. That may lead to positive changes regardless of who wins.


Agreed, for the most part (4.00 / 1)
I agree that the incentive is negligible, and I doubt there are that many of us who, on GOTV Weekend, are thinking of how many more votes they get at a convention. Nonetheless, it can't hurt.

I completely agree with you on everything else.

Why are people so worried about the 'optics' of a floor fight at a convention. The only people who care about that kind of thing are activists, pundits, and the like - and it's not like that's going to affect how we vote in November of an even-numbered year!

In August 2010, the Tea Party wanted to have their own guy (Bill Cooper?) nominated for Lieutenant Governor, instead of Brian Calley. It was a chaotic scene, as far as conventions go. But just a couple months later, well, let's just say the Republican Party wasn't the Party that was hurting.

Heck, what's wrong with having floor fights for everything at MDP conventions? If three candidates want to be nominated for Wayne State Board of Governors, then why work out a backroom deal? Let's vote for two of them!

Great Lakes, Great Times, Great Scott


[ Parent ]
I have immersed myself in the rules (4.00 / 2)
and I can vouch that your explanation is correct.

As you suggest, there will be multiple people there with laptops running Excel with all the counties' SADV plugged in, running the numbers as they are announced. There will be no way to fudge anything, without starting a firestorm. Not that anyone would think of such a thing. (I think it was Ronald Reagan who said "Trust, but verify").


Just remember (2.00 / 1)
the guys with the UAW jackets on mostly are all in appointed positions clamoring to move up the UAW International ladder.

They have no ideas and do very little to advance the Dem Party. The best chance for the Dem part to survive is to shake loose the UAW International shackles and as hard it may be to say... vote for Brewer.

The Party needs to advance without the sole direction of the UAW.
   


You know (3.80 / 5)
You know, your posts are really starting to smack of intellectually dishonest concern trolling, and I say that still as someone who doesn't have a dog in this race, quite yet.  The reason I characterize your posts as such is because it's ridiculous to argue that either Lon Johnson or Mark Brewer are not tied to the UAW.  These are both UAW candidates, and I'm almost certain you know that.  To imply that a vote for Brewer is a vote against the UAW is so ridiculous as for me to think you're trying to deceive and troll, because that is not hardly an honest argument.  

The UAW wins, regardless.  That's not even a question or an issue, here.  This race is not a referendum on the UAW, they made sure of that.


[ Parent ]
ahhh no (4.00 / 1)
Actually the UAW has thrown Mark under the bus, which has made this race a referendum on UAW

your either for the UAW or Against it


[ Parent ]
Utter Bull (4.00 / 3)
The UAW will be the boots on the ground, regardless, and everyone knows that.  This is largely kabuki for the UAW.  If Mark ends up winning, they'll still be running much of the show.  The truth is that the UAW has two candidates in a two-candidate race; they just like one guy more than the other.  To say that a vote for Brewer is a vote against the UAW is a bold-face lie.

[ Parent ]
Referendum on the Democratic Congressional Delegation? (1.00 / 1)
Are you either with the Democratic Congressional Delegation or against them? How about the other unions which have not endorsed, where does that put them on your list?  

[ Parent ]
Really (0.00 / 0)
What the UAW has done a month before the convention is nothing short of brilliant.  They've taken a rather embarrasing record of political failure that they are at least as complicit in as the party chair if not more so, and turned it into a referendum on the party chair to get the heat off of them.  It's really a brilliant political manuever around Brewer to deflect blame.  

Brewer may end up being a casualty of this shrewd political manuever.  And really, maybe he should be.  There is certainly strong arguments for not keeping him on.  But let's not get silly, here, and misrepresent what this move by the UAW is.  It's a cynical run-around to try to keep them relevant in the party.  This is all intra-party political incest.  Lon Johnson almost doesn't matter in this.  Can't feel too sorry for Brewer, though.  He's been so blind to what's been going on at the roots, that he really has no one else to blame but himself for the precarious position he finds himself in.  

That said, this is really just the UAW wanting to switch out horses.  People are fooling themselves if they think a UAW-backed Lon Johnson candidacy is "change" in any meaningful sense of the word.  I don't care who people end up voting for, but I'm not going to let them try to bullsh%t me any everyone else about the effects of trading out bosses.  


[ Parent ]
I think I agree, to a point (4.00 / 1)
It does generally have a shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic sort of feel, in that there's ultimately going to be no change in who the major power brokers are, regardless of who's chair. For better or for worse (and really, it's a mixed bag), the UAW is still the most important factor in Michigan Democratic politics.

But I don't think I agree that the change would be entirely meaningless. I mean, the chair does something when he goes to work every day, right? He's not just fielding calls from Bob King all day.

So if Johnson wins, I'm interested to see if any restructuring of the party administration happens, and what the result will be. It might not solve the bigger issues holding the MDP back, but a really well-run organization might make a difference in a few races. (A really badly-run organization might too, since there's no guarantee that Johnson would be better.) And a party that's able to communicate better might help fire up some casual Democrats, though getting people to care about state politics is always an uphill battle.

Not that I'm necessarily supporting either one, nor am I in a position such that my support matters. But I don't think it's an entirely meaningless exercise.


[ Parent ]
Where does the financing come from for wholesale change? (0.00 / 0)
Where, exactly, do you think the funding for Dem politics comes from?  If the organizations who traditionally fund the MDP's efforts aren't willing to do any more than the current staffing levels, I sincerely doubt that anyone can change that.  It most certainly won't change by paying Lon Johnson at $150,000+ (at Brewer's current salary, that's room for another senior staffer).  I respectfully ask that everyone step back and really analyze where the funding for staff positions originates and where if will it originate after the convention.  Be honest.

"Action is what separates a belief from an opinion."

[ Parent ]
... (0.00 / 0)
...apologies for the typos.

"Action is what separates a belief from an opinion."

[ Parent ]
Change or rescue? (2.50 / 2)
Your comments suggest that you don't believe there are any changes that can be made to the MDP. That it isn't possible for the MDP to have better fundraising, training, outreach,candidate recruitment and party building. That that party could not possibly be more inclusive. And what is most stunning is that you say the UAW doesn't put their time and money and focus on issues and candidates so that they win, but that they want power. Well what power is there to be had in a party that has absolutley no control or power in our Michigan State government? After 18 years of the same old same old, where losing is the norm, how can anyone call this a power grab? Seems more like an attempt by the UAW, Teamsters and our Democratic Congressional delegation to rescue the party.  

[ Parent ]
Hi Scott. (0.00 / 0)
This was a great write-up. Thank you for it.

For us troglodytes who will be at home and not in attendance, I hope you'll get a chance to share some updates throughout the day from the state party convention.

Cheers!  

Great Lakes, Great Times.



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