First off, I truly hope all the dedicated staff of the Alabama Democratic Party are sleeping in this morning ... until at least this afternoon. They earned it!!! Countrycat and I spent all of a lovely spring Saturday driving to Montgomery and recording the marathon (5 hour) SDEC meeting, but it was nothing compared to what Judge Kennedy and his staff did.
Aside from meeting preparations, most of them were up until 2 to 4 am the night before because of a procedural fight over how the remaining convention delegates would be elected. The new administration put forth a plan to increase diversity in the delegation -- with proportional representation for African American, hispanic, native American, Asian/Pacific islander, GLBT and disabled populations, as well as those 35 and under. The old guard dug their heels in against including other classes in the diversity requirement -- and eventually won in the wee hours of Saturday morning. Minority still means "black" and nothing else to certain people on the SDEC Board.
Judge Kennedy and the staff also deserve huge credit for some procedural changes that made the voting process much more secure. The votes taken were done via paper ballots. Those were color coded and printed on-site (required because the winners of early votes had to be removed from consideration in the later ones) and were counted on the spot. Ballots had to bear the signature of the voting member or they were regarded as spoiled and did not count. The old method of voting was for people to stand while counters circulated, making it very easy for those who keep track of such things to see who votes in a particular way -- and also making it difficult to ensure an accurate count.
Another very good innovation at this meeting resulted from a request by Maitland Adams of Etowah County that all members of the SDEC remain seated during the voting process and the aisles be cleared. Not only did this make it easier for the staff distributing and collecting ballots to circulate, it eliminated concerns that members might move around and receive more than one ballot and -- most significantly -- it stopped the practice of prowling through the aisles to see how people were voting. Mr. Adams had to repeat his request twice, but eventually Dr. Joe Reed did sit down and the aisles remained clear.
Why was this meeting a marathon ...
Now back to the counting of paper ballots, the main reason the meeting ran to 5 hours. Hand counting of ballots is very accurate, open and above board, but it is also time-consuming. Judge Kennedy and the staff had wanted to bring in voting machines to automate the process. We were told by several people that Vice-Chair Nancy Worley vetoed that idea. Someone certainly vetoed it. As a result, the meeting ran three hours longer than planned and members were forced to choose between staying for the delegate ballots or leaving to attend the Save Our Schools rally at the State Capitol.
If you have rules, follow them ...
Dr. Reed indicated that the paper ballot system should be scrapped to move the meeting along, but Judge Kennedy maintained that the rules required paper ballots. Again, it was too bad someone had vetoed the voting machines which would have speeded things up. Dr. Reed also suggested that the meeting be temporarily adjourned so members could attend the AEA rally but Judge Kennedy explained that the DNC rules prohibit such an adjournment in the middle of the delegate selection process. Once started, they had to continue until the job was done, which they did -- although with fewer and fewer voting members as the afternoon wore on. Hunger took its toll, as well as a desire to attend the rally.
Progress for the SDEC ...
All in all, the process for selecting at large, alternate and party leader/elected official delegates this year was much improved over what transpired in 2008. It wasn't perfect -- the delegation does not meet the diversity goals set forth -- but it was done in a much more orderly and fair manner than last time and I expect there will be less hard feeling as a result.
In addition, the running of the meeting was vastly improved over the last two SDEC meetings we've attended. The packets provided included the agenda, a very useful "Guide to Parliamentary Procedure," a list of SDEC vacancies to be filled (although Dr. Reed did "find" two additional vacancies and fill them, which may or may not have been in accordance with the Bylaws but went unchallenged), a copy of the Delegate Selection Rules and a copy of the SDEC Bylaws. There was also an outside parliamentarian present. And at the previous meeting, they adopted Robert's Rules of Order, a much needed innovation.
Joe Reed's Invisible Army ...
One thing that hadn't changed is the high rate of absenteeism among SDEC members. SDEC membership isn't just an honor, folks, it's a job! I noticed that of the 12 elected members from my home county, Madison, only 3 made the trip -- 4 if you count Nancy Worley who actually lives in Montgomery but "represents" district 22 in North Alabama. Those who are elected, but don't bother to attend and vote are a big part of the problem with our state party. I understand that some of them no longer attend because they feel "there's no point since Dr. Reed will always get his way."
Bull! If they don't like the things Reed pushes, they need to show up and vote the other way, not just stay home and whine about the outcome. In reality, the absentee committee members are Dr. Reed's Invisible Army, helping him to win most votes with less than a majority of the SDEC. I hope Judge Kennedy will exercise the rule allowing removal of members who don't attend ... including removal of my other SDEC rep (a nice guy, btw) who never attends the meetings.