Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Ok, fair's fair...somebody from the DNCC left me a voice mail eventually

For those who read the previous post on this site, you know it ended with a cliffhanger: would the DNCC manage to answer my questions before I participated in a radio interview planned for this evening?

Answer: Not really. But they still have time as it turns out. I had told the people at the DNCC, to whom I had been referred to by the press office at the DNC that I had been asked to speak on a radio show tonight about the delegate nominating petition drive and about concerns some delegates seem to have about the way the DNC is treating delegates attempting to put together a nominating petition for Senator Clinton, to be used from the floor during the Convention. I explained that I would not be easily reachable by phone after 3 pm eastern.

As it turned out, I was unable to do the radio interview on this occasion. But let it not be said that I never heard from the DNCC. I was able to check my messages at around 6:00 pm eastern, and I had a message that came in at 5:40 pm, from Marie M___ at the DNCC in Denver.

A rough transcription:
Hi Heidi!
This is Marie M____ at the DNCC in Denver. I understand you had some questions about the platform committee and roll call at the convention. I think the person you should contact is Phil McNamara at the DNC in Washington, DC. The number is 202-863-8000.
Hmm...this is roughly where I came in. Apart from the fact that my questions are not about the platform committee or the roll call vote (see previous post for the questions which I had conveyed to human beings and left on a voice mailbox at the DNCC), the problem with this response is that it refers me back to the DNC, the organization I had first called based on my understanding of the relationship between it and the Convention proceedings, but whose press office had told me matters related to the convention proceedings would best be answered by the DNCC.

True, I have now been given the name of a specific person to contact regarding the questions Marie M_____ thought I had. Marie neglected to tell me Phil McNamara's position, but a quick web search revealed that Phil McNamara is the Director of Party Affairs for the Democratic National Convention. It also turned up this page, titled "Ask Phil", as part of the DNCC's "How We Choose a Nominee" section of their official website.

Before disturbing Mr. McNamara, who is, I trust, at least as busy as I am, I explored these pages to see if I could learn why delegates organizing a nominating petition have been occasionally confused about how to do so or whether the website addresses the concerns that some delegates have about misleading information allegedly provided by the DNC itself in recent days.

Some highlights from the DNCC site:
Section: Convention 101, How We Choose a Nominee
When the 45th Democratic National Convention is called to order on Monday, August 25, 2008 in Denver, Colorado, it will be the culmination of more than 24 months of formal planning by the Democratic Party to structure a nominating cycle and nominating Convention that represents the Party’s principles of openness, fairness and diversity.
That sounded promising, so I went on. From Convention 101, Chapter Two, Delegate Voting:
The votes of unpledged delegates cast at the Convention do count towards a candidate securing the nomination. In past nominating cycles, individual unpledged delegates have endorsed a specific presidential candidate. Regardless of such endorsement, unpledged delegates are able to cast their vote for any presidential candidate at the Convention. [note from Heidi Li - the main bloc of unpledged delegates is the superdelegate contingent]

Pledged delegates are not bound to vote for the candidate they are pledged to at the Convention or on the first ballot. A pledged delegate goes to the Convention with a signed pledge of support for a particular presidential candidate. At the Convention, while it is assumed that delegates will cast their votes for the candidate they are publicly pledged to, it is not required. Under the Delegate Selection Rules, a delegate is asked to “in good conscience reflect the sentiments of those who elected them.” This provision is designed in part to make the Convention a deliberative body.
If neither candidate reaches a majority of delegate votes on the first ballot for president, the nomination and the race for delegates becomes competitive.

Still sounded reasonable and consistent with my understanding of the Call to the Convention, so I kept reading, and found this fun fact:

The last time the presidential nomination required more than one ballot was at the 1952 Democratic Convention in Chicago. At the 1952 Convention, 11 names were placed in nomination in a heated contest between Adlai Stevenson, Estes Kefauver, Richard Russell, Averell Harriman and Paul Dever. Adlai Stevenson became the nominee on the third ballot with 617 ½ votes.

But still, no answers to my particular questions. Over in Chapter 4, though, I learned this:

There are presently a total of 4,048 delegate votes to the 2008 Democratic National Convention that will be cast by 4,069 delegates. The difference is that certain delegates from American Samoa, Guam, the Virgin Islands and Democrats Abroad cast ½ delegate votes.

A candidate needs a majority of the total number of delegate votes in order to secure the Party’s nomination. Presently, 2,117.5 delegate votes are needed to secure the nomination. [note from Heidi Li: I am not sure how these figures calculate the delegates from Michigan and Florida and the webpage does not say.]

Still no answers to my questions. Onward then to the original "Ask Phil" page, which can be accessed by clicking on the graphic here at the lower right, where Phil is referred to as "our go-to guru on all things delegate - pledged and unpledged." While I did not find answers to my own questions, I found two questions from delegates to Phil with answers I did find edifying. I have emphasized the portions of the answers I found particularly useful with bold italics.

Question: Is a simple majority required during the delegate voting at the Democratic National Convention? If neither candidate receives enough votes in the first round of voting, is it possible for the ballots to go to a second, third and fourth round and so on? If so, is there a point when delegates are free to change their vote for a different candidate? Pauline, Houston TX

Answer: All very good questions. The Convention's Procedural Rules require that the Party's Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates be nominated by a majority vote of the delegates. A majority is more than 50% of the total number of delegate votes that can be cast at the Convention, not merely those present and voting.

Balloting continues until a nominee is selected. A candidate secures the nomination upon receiving a majority vote, no matter which ballot. Pledged delegates are not legally "bound" to vote for the candidate they were elected to represent. They can, and have in the past, cast a vote for another presidential candidate at the Convention.

It is entirely possible for the vote to go to a second or third (or more) ballot and there are many examples of that in past Conventions. However, the last time more than one ballot was needed for the Presidential candidate was at the 1952 Democratic Convention and the last time the Vice Presidential voting went to more than one ballot was at the 1956 Convention. Looking to more than 50 years of history as our guide, it is likely that the Party's nominees will be selected on the first ballot.

Question: I have heard that delegates vote for the vice presidential nominee just as they would vote for the presidential nominee. Could this mean that the vice presidential nominee is not the choice of the presidential nominee? Could you please explain this process? – Fred, Snoqualmie WA

Answer: Very good question. We fully expect that the Party’s vice presidential nominee will be an individual, who along with Sen. Obama, can lead the Party to victory in November. Under the Party’s rule and the Call for the Convention, the vice presidential candidate is nominated in the same manner as the presidential nominee. At previous conventions, an actual roll call vote of states has been conducted for the vice presidential nominee. At still other conventions, the rules have been suspended and the vice presidential candidate is nominated by acclamation. ...

Wait just a minute. Contradiction spotted. The answer to the first question I have copied above makes it clear that Convention procedures dictate that at this point the Democratic Party does not yet have a nominee and discusses the voting procedure that will be used to actually elect one. But the answer to the second question seems to presuppose the Democratic Party does have an official nominee, Senator Obama.

So now, when I ring Phil McNamara, per Marie M___'s suggestion, I will have to ask about this inconsistency along with the questions for which I began seeking answers to today.

No wonder delegates are frustrated.


Blogger jbjd said...

Obfuscate... obfuscate... obfuscate...

I called the DNC a couple of days ago to ask whether HRC's name would be placed in nomination at the Convention. The woman answered the phone professionally enough - “Chairman Dean’s Office - but discovering the purpose of my call, interrupted. ‘Her name will be on the roll call, just like other conventions!’ I corrected her. ‘But I want her name allowed into nomination.’ She sounded nasty. ‘It’s the same thing.’ ‘No,’ I corrected her, politely. ‘I am a lawyer and I have read the DNC Call; I know that when a candidate whose name has not been accepted into nomination on the ballot, receives roll call votes, these votes are recorded as “Present.” Please tell people this.’ Now she said HRC would be on the ballot (whatever this means to her).

Looking forward to reading the rest of your story.

August 7, 2008 at 12:17 AM  
Anonymous kavala007 said...

Heidi you have the patience of Job.

I have friends in psychiatry who say that organizations can exhibit signs of mental disorders. If that is the case perhaps the DNC suffers from some type of illness that leaves them disorientated and confused.

August 7, 2008 at 12:44 AM  
Anonymous Mirlo said...


I always enjoy your comments here.

I have been a business consultant for Corporate Identity and it was standard procedure for us to determine an organisation's "character" as we would a person's, including disorders. That was a very efficient way of finding out what the next steps would have to be, if the organisation wished to advance as a healthy entity.

With the DNC, I suspect that the "disorder" displays the intention to obfuscate the correct procedure.

August 7, 2008 at 7:08 AM  
Anonymous Sally said...


How did the chosen one's name come to be entered on the ballot?

August 7, 2008 at 7:53 AM  

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