Over the last few years, Democrats have been expressing the need to protect the concept of democracy, and rightfully so. With Trump’s and the GOP’s assault on democratic ideas and values, combined with a strongman theory of authoritarianism, it’s important for Democrats to be the opposition voice during these turbulent times. However, to truly support democratic values, Democrats themselves have to adhere to democratic principles as well.
The way in which the Florida Democratic Party elects its chair and other statewide officials is not only arcane, but harks back to the medieval feudal system of Europe’s Dark Ages. Without any say from the people, the nobility decides who gets the riches and spoils, with the commoners being left behind. In many ways, the commoners in the Florida Democratic Party have no say in who becomes the next party chair; the lord of the local fiefdom has complete control of the process.
Those in Florida Democratic Party circles have been talking about reforming the way in which statewide elected officers are voted on for a while. And while a number of solutions have been provided, none have stuck. Still, at the end of the day, the solutions provided do not address any of the problems at hand. Creating a “one county, one vote” system is ridiculous, as larger counties tend to put a lot more blood, sweat, tears and, yes, money, into the electoral process. However, the need to decentralize the vote, and taking away the power of a few well-placed state committee members, is paramount.
So, what are the biggest problems that we have with the current system? Many might say that it’s the weighed voted systems. However, I would argue that isn’t the case (as I mentioned in the blood, sweat, tears and money above). Instead, it’s that several individuals have complete control over with their county’s weighed votes. It’s basically an electoral college system where all the votes go to one candidate. But unlike the electoral college, only one person gets to decide where these votes go. Again, the nobility decides the fate of their fiefdom, as well as the king.
Over the last decade, I’ve been trying to come up with a solution where respect for the contributions of larger counties is recognized, but also removes the decentralization of these counties where only two people from those counties have a say when it comes to the FDP’s elected officials. At the end of the day, there is really only one democratic way to do it, ‘one person, one vote’.
The idea is simple, each person who is elected precinct committeeman and precinct committeewoman in their local DECs gets one vote. That’s it. So, if a county has 50 precinct committee members, they have 50 votes when it comes to electing FDP’s statewide officials. However, these votes would not be in the hands of just two members, but in the hands of each precinct committee person. This allows the vote to be split. Therefore, if a vote is held among these hypothetical 50 members, the vote could split numerous times based on the number of candidates that are running for these positions. Basically, it a popular vote system with precinct committee members having the franchise.
Another benefit of this system is that it rewards DECs who have organized well. So, if a smaller DEC has filled all of its precinct committee member positions, then it should be rewarded by having more of a say than if they had not been well organized.
Of course, a majority vote should be the rule when deciding the new FDP officers. Therefore, an instant runoff voting system (similar to what we are seeing in Alaska) would mediate that problem. With this type of system, it might encourage more people to run for statewide positions, as it will require winning votes as one does in a democracy, not in a fiefdom.
Speaking of fiefdoms, another benefit of this system is that party leader candidates will have to actually talk to rank-and-file DEC members to get their votes. The “you scratch my back, I scratch yours” lobbying efforts of state committee members and candidates would end. Essentially, these members would no
longer have any clout, and therefore cannot make any demands which solely benefits that specific state committee person, and not the local party.
One thing that I’ve heard is that this is impossible because it would be hard to get so many people in one place at one time. One word answer: Zoom. Come on people, this is 2022. We don’t need to all gather in one place to determine who the chair is. On one day, all of the counties will meet in their counties and conduct the vote, as well as the IRV. This is how we do it (essentially) for delegates to the national convention. It isn’t rocket surgery people!
If we truly want to change the way that the Florida Democratic Party runs, then the party needs to be democratic, full stop. The fiefdom ways of conducting business has to end. Opening up the process to each and every DEC member (again, one person, one vote) is not only the best way to pick party leaders, it’s also the right thing to do. And if democratization of the process does not sound like your cup of tea, then maybe you shouldn’t criticize the GOP for being anti-democracy. Remember, glass houses and stones.