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Postman on Politics

Chief political reporter David Postman explores state, regional and national politics.

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March 31, 2008 10:32 AM

Obama caucus delegates face challenge

Posted by David Postman

Aimee Curl has a story at The Seattle Weekly about people elected in the Democratic presidential caucuses Feb. 9 who weren’t properly registered to vote or were elected from the wrong precinct.

Jim Sharpe, a member of Kitsap County's credentials committee, estimates that more than 10 percent of the 2,300 delegates and alternates elected in his county fit into one of these categories, with the vast majority falling into the former.
I’ve been hearing since days after the Feb. 9 caucus that supporters of Hillary Clinton were going to challenge Barack Obama delegates. But that’s always been denied by the Clinton campaign. Obama handily beat Clinton in the caucus. But even a shift of a few delegates could prove to be meaningful.

Clinton’s caucus organizer, Jim Kainber, wouldn’t tell Curl what the campaign was doing to vet delegates prior to the county and legislative caucuses.

He says it speaks to strategy.

I don’t know if it’s the Clinton campaign, but someone is challenging Obama delegates. I just looked at a list of 38 challenged delegates in Skagit County. Every one questions the validity of an Obama delegate. There are no challenges against Clinton delegates.

The spreadsheets show delegates challenged for one of three reasons; not registered to vote, caucusing in the wrong precinct, or the delegate name does not match the name on the voter registration roles.

This really appears to be less an issue of voter misconduct or sloppy record keeping then it is about an aggressive, post-caucus attempt by Clinton supporters to increase their numbers before the next round of caucuses.

I just talked to Dan O'Donnell about this. He’s the Skagit County Democrat’s credentials chairman.

The goal is transparent. They want to change the delegate ratio.

And what has he heard from Obama supporters wanting to challenge Clinton delegates?

Not a peep.

O’Donnell, 77, remains neutral in the presidential race. He said that was important for the credentials chairman, a job the veteran Democratic activist takes very seriously.

I’ve researched this so that we can run an unimpeachable credentials committee and avoid any possibility of a floor fight.

In doing that, O’Donnell has found little reason to think there will be any large number of delegates removed when Skagit County Democrats meet April 12th.

Sometimes, in an example he gave, a John W. Smith may have signed in as “Jack Smith.” A non-registered voter may be just 17 now, but will be 18 by Election Day and eligible to caucus.

And some people, particularly the elderly he said, may have gone to an old precinct location from prior to a recent realignment. If they can show that they attended at the location of their previous caucus, O’Donnell said they should be seated.

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Posted by Clinton Party Machine

12:00 PM, Mar 31, 2008

The problem with these statements is that many people might not have been registered prior to the caucuses or they changed their registration at the caucus. Therefore, they will appear as improper delegates until the most recent voter file is checked.

Additionally, there was no standard procedure for the caucus conveners to collect voter registration forms. This will hurt the Obama campaign because their delegates are far more likely to be first time participants than Clinton folks. The same reason why the Obama delegates are getting challenged, the party insiders (like Jim Sharpe, who is a Clinton supporter) are able to weed out Obama delegates in the hope that Clinton will pick up more delegates at the conventions.

Posted by upchuck

3:14 PM, Mar 31, 2008

the instructions at our caucus was to error on the side of inclusion and allow minors who would be 18 by the time of the upcoming election and out of precinct people so everyone's voice could be heard... if these instructions were in compliance with the state party rules, then is this the clinton campaign trying to change the rules for themselves? maybe a worthwhile strategy to fight for the nomination but not to win the general and dissuade a stronger mccain/nader vote.

Posted by midnight rider

4:05 PM, Mar 31, 2008

Jim Kainber is a crank please don't believe anything he say's!

Posted by Katza

6:22 PM, Mar 31, 2008

It's so, so, ... Rovian, ... so, so, .... BIAW. Desperation of the Clintonistas. Has the "Goldwater Girl" reverted to her root stock? It's also very ageist; the old guard feels like it needs to attack the young upstarts who succeeded at caucus recruitment.

Posted by Dave Gibney

6:27 PM, Mar 31, 2008

Look's like Particle called this on accurately.
It was a givne that relaxing rules and the Precinct level would result in some ineligable delegates being elected and that corrected by Credentials Committees. I just hoped and assumed it would be evenly spread over both camps.
The Obama folks need to do their own dud diligence in this matter.
I know we elected at least one such delegate at my in my precinct. I didn't even look at the signed in addresses until after we were finished.
Also, this should just mean somewhat higher rates for seating alternates.

Posted by upchuck

8:02 PM, Mar 31, 2008

if the dem's state caucus rules don't require actual proven voter registration for participation, then all of the elected delegates should be seated regardless of voter registration status or their actual address.

Posted by Dave Gibney

9:10 PM, Mar 31, 2008

Actually, the rules are/were clear. Vetting and such happens at the next level. Probably LD Caucus for you, and County Convention for me.

Posted by Pale Rider

9:12 PM, Mar 31, 2008

If they're basing it on the State Voter Registration database, they're in trouble. That thing has plenty of incorrect data in it.

Posted by R. Travaille

8:27 AM, Apr 01, 2008

It seems like I heard that the Clinton's are also challenging the Caucus results in Texas! Ya Obama won the Caucus there too but Clinton did win the Primary vote. Hummm I guess now its if we don't win then Challange!

Posted by Particle Man

9:14 AM, Apr 01, 2008

Most districts, I expect, have done some detailed checking regarding registered new voters in order to identify where caucus delegates were determined based upon ineligible attendees. Then we have the issue involving caucus delegates who were elected but are not registered in the precinct where they were elected. And then we have the whole affidavit voter issue. The Clinton campaign is looking into these issues only as it relates to Obama delegates. Gibney is right that the Obama folks should be doing the same thing in order to eliminate the gain that cherry picking can give one over the other.
What I explained some time ago involved the issue of affidavit voters and conflicting deadlines for qualifying, which created a lack of clarity as to who was qualified to have their vote counted. This should have been eliminated from play by the state party since any lack of state wide clarity and uniformity will only cause hostility at this next level.

Posted by GettingFedUp

9:44 AM, Apr 01, 2008

My wife and I are both Clinton supporters. We have been involved in Demcoratic politics for 15 years. Between us, we've served on the State Committee, as LD Chair, on County executive boards, and on various committees during previous state conventions. We served as caucus managers in both 2004 and 2008. In other words, we're your typical Democratic activists.

During the data-entry process, someone badly typo'd my spouse's name. I can assure you that if she is challenged and excluded because of that, we will be done. We will immediately resign our positions, and someone else can put in the 20-30 hours a week we give to the party in addition to our full-time jobs.

If it turns out that all you have to is misspell a delegate's name during data entry in order to have that delegate removed, there is no reason to be involved anymore; the process will have become the very definition of 'corrupt'.

Posted by Greg Rodriguez

1:15 PM, Apr 01, 2008

All the more reason to get rid of the caucus system.

We are also experienceing Obama supporters running for Clinton delegate spots here in California, but they are getting caught. Even in a big state it is small enough politically to catch those who really can't play by the rules.

Posted by Dave Gibney

1:52 PM, Apr 01, 2008

It's not a flaw of the caucus system, except for the size the invovled population has grown.
I'll ask again, without caucus/convention, how do we determine who the specific 97 individuals are in the National Delegation? I'm sure that just letting the Chair name them wouldn't fly very far.

If someone isn't registered correctly, but is a resident of the precinct, just fill the form out at the credentials table. Any nitpicking to the level of name spelling is just flat excessive and any reasonable vetting system woud correct the misentered name.

Posted by Piper Scott

3:36 PM, Apr 01, 2008

With all the grief Republicans took at the time of their caucuses, Democrats ought to be showing a little humility instead of what's become their trademark and the one thing voters are coming to associate with them: bickering.

That some contend the goal was inclusion goes to the heart of the problem. The goal should be accuracy, which means ONLY those who are in fact registered to vote and reside and are registered to vote within a precinct are entitled to participate in that precinct's caucus . Period! The only conceivable exception is for those who are about to turn 18, but then only if they've actually registered, which state law allows.

I anxiously await the liberal blogs (Ahoy, David Goldstein) who castigated the GOP for caucus miscues to equally cudgel their own kind for what appear to be far more manifest sins.

I await, but I am not delusional.

BTW...were these errors the result of PTSS occassioned by dodging sniper fire in Bosnia? Or from having your ears shouted off by the fulminating Rev. Jeremiah Wright, he of the US of KKK-A?

Oh, you pure Democrats! Wiithout sin among you! Unstained, unsullied, unsoiled. Now, however, caught in the web of your own virtue only to find that rules, and the strict adherance thereto, do in fact matter.

The Piper

Posted by DemzRule

4:40 PM, Apr 01, 2008

Yeah, Piper. We allow debate and discussion (or 'bickering' , as you put it) in our party. I know GOPers wouldn't know anything about that, what with the Republicans' zero-tolerance policy for dissent. Still, we'll be sure and call if we ever need your friendly advice on how to run our shop - or better yet you could join us and actually have a vote...

Greg makes a great point about the caucus system. In answer to Dave's question, the majority of states hold primaries. The party can use any process it wants to choose specific individual delegates once the voters have determined allocations. Thanks for the yummy red herring, though. Absolutely delicious.

No matter. The pro-caucus side does a better job of presenting its arguments every four years, leading to the pro-democracy (primary) crowd being pretty much overrun. I guess this is what we get until we change the committee or make some better arguments, eh?

Posted by Piper Scott

8:54 PM, Apr 01, 2008

DemzRule -

"Debate and discussion" is issue oriented, while "bickering" - what you have now - is personal. The spat between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama long ago descended into the sewer of personal attacks and below-the-belt politics.

As for Republicans, we welcome many points of view. When was the last time Democrats allowed an honest debate on abortion or welcomed a critic of the gay agenda?

But where activist Democrats and activist Republicans agree wholeheartedly is that we love the caucus system; primaries are for summer soldiers and sunshine patriots. If you want to be a member of a party, be one 24/7/365 not just on Primary Election Day.

Where's your tolerance of those who favor the caucus system? Your opennes toward other points of view on this issue seems to begin and end with your opinion about it.

The Piper

Posted by Dave Gibney

1:59 AM, Apr 02, 2008

Piper et all, let's start here:
http://reasonabledebate.blogspot.com/

Posted by upchuck

10:28 PM, Apr 02, 2008

having a caucus has nothing to do with who makes a better argument for what is a better system. i suppose for once i agree with greg R. (not that i want the spouse of the man who ok'ed the bank deregulation that led to the mortgage meltdown we are now faced with!)

back to the point: we have a caucus, i believe, for one reason and one reason only - to recruit dem activists to help with the gotv effort. we get their emails, their phone numbers, their addresses, you name it. just wait and see how many appeals from pelz you all get in the mail over the coming months leading up to the election.

Posted by Claude M.

3:36 PM, Apr 03, 2008

Me thinks the Clintonites complain wastefully. As a strong Clinton supporter all year I think any effort to change the delegate ratio meaningfully is foolish. Having been down deep in the bowels of post caucus data entry for 7 weeks, 8-10 hrs daily, I have seen many strange attendee situations; however, in no way have they approached the aforementioned 10%. Let the vote stand; go to the various county conventions, elect your delegates and finally, lets quit the bickering nonsense: Lets nominate a single person and get behind him. Dems (my little party) waste a heck of a lot of time, treasure and energy on trivia.

Posted by Rob Dolin

1:58 PM, Apr 06, 2008

In the 43rd LD (where Obama had a huge margin of almost 80%), there were only three challenges and proposed handling of all three of these was agreed upon 3-0 or 4-0 by the credentials committee which included both Obama and Clinton people.

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