Sunday, August 17, 2008

How to ensure a free and fair election at the Democratic National Convention - Part 1

Now we have been told that there will be a roll call vote, with both Senator Clinton's and Senator Obama's names formally in nomination at the Democratic National Convention. Various commentators and even the candidates seem to be presupposing the outcome of this roll call vote. I cannot see how anybody could know the result of a genuine vote beforehand; predictions are one thing, but the entire point of a roll call vote with more than one nominee before the voting body is to decide who the nominee will be.

I prefer to work from the premise that all those party to running this roll call vote understand this elementary premise. So now the question becomes, how can the Democratic Party, through the auspices of the Democratic National Committee and the the Democratic National Convention Committee, make sure that the actual roll call vote is above reproach? I have already written about the need to stop interfering with delegates who are pledged to Senator Clinton and the need for the Party leaders to leave superdelegates absolutely free to vote their consciences on the question of who, as of August 27th, 2008, they believe will make the better candidate against Senator John McCain.

Whether or not the voices of those of us calling for these measures are heard, the question remains: what will be the actual mechanics of the roll call vote? And, in a year when some states had difficulty running orderly caucuses and in a time when national elections turn on hanging chads and butterfly ballots, how can rank and file Democrats be sure that the particular mechanics chosen will be likely to be tamper and error resistant?

The DNCC should consult experts in elections operations and figure out the nuts and bolts logistical questions as soon as possible. But a more serious problem confronts the Democratic Party right now. Regardless of their preferences for a particular candidate, many rank and file Democrats have lost faith in the Democratic Party's commitment and ability to run processes fairly and appropriately.

Here's an idea, one I will elaborate in my next post. I recommend that for its roll call vote on August 27th, and in the days leading up to it, the Democratic Party use election observers, trained to monitor and report instances of problems that arise in voting. In my next post, I will suggest organizations with members who have such training and I will discuss the concepts behind election observing.

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