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04 September 2008

Georgia Runs Into First Delegate Selection Snag Of 2012

During the 2008 Democratic National Convention, the delegates adopted a resolution creating the "Democratic Change Commission" which is charged with examining the Democratic Party's delegate selection process and making recommendations for 2012 and beyond.

The Democratic Change Commission is scheduled to meet throughout 2009, will have thirty-five members (equally divided between men and women), and will report back its findings and recommendations to the DNC Rules & Bylaws Committee no later than January 1, 2010.

While the spirit and intent of the Democratic Change Commission is very noble, there is a section of the resolution that may end up causing Georgia --and the 21 other states with primaries or caucuses scheduled before the first Tuesday in March-- a lot of headaches come 2012.

Section 2 of the Democratic Change Commission resolution, adopted by the Democratic National Convention, states the following:

RESOLVED FURTHER: That the Delegate Selection Rules for the 2012 Convention shall provide that no meetings, caucuses, conventions or primaries which constitute the first determining stage in the presidential nomination process (the date of the primary in primary states and the date of the first tier caucus in caucus states) shall be held prior to the first Tuesday in March of the election, except as otherwise provided in the Delegate Selection Rules and recognizing the valuable role played by the approved pre-Window states in 2008; [Source: Georgia Politics Unfiltered, "DNC 2008: A Resolution Establishing the Democratic Change Commission", August 24, 2008]

What this means is the as the DNC delegate selection rules are written right now, Georgia, California, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey and every state who has a scheduled primary for the first Tuesday in February is now in non-compliance with the rules of the national Democratic Party. And under Rule 20.C., each of the 22 "Tsunami Tuesday" states would lose half of their pledged delegates and all of their unpledged (or super) delegates.

For states like New York and Massachusetts, it should be relatively easy to change state law to conform with national party rules. However, for a state like Georgia, who, for the moment, has a Republican governor and a Republican-controlled legislature, it will be very difficult to achieve passage of a presidential primary law that follows the DNC's rules.

To make matters worse, the Republican National Convention on Monday adopted its delegate selection rules for the 2012 presidential election. The Republican rules say that no state can hold a primary before the first Tuesday in February [Source: Associated Press, "Correction: GOP Convention Business", September 3, 2008]

Under the Republican delegate selection rules, Georgia is in compliance. But under the Democratic delegate selection rules, the Peach State is in violation.

The Georgia Democratic Party could ask for a waiver. The Party leaders could go to the DNC and say, "We tried our hardest to mold state law to fit party rules, but the Republican-controlled legislature blocked us at every turn." The DNC delegate selection rules say, "The state party shall have the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that it and the other relevant Democratic party leaders and elected officials took all provable, positive steps and acted in good faith to achieve legislative changes to bring the state law into compliance with the pertinent provisions of these rules..." [Source: Democratic National Committee, Delegate Selection Rules for the 2008 Democratic National Convention, August 19. 2006] Provable steps to me means pre-filing legislation to move Georgia's presidential preference primary back to the first Tuesday in March.

Provable steps also means using the time designated for morning orders in the state House and points of personal privilege in the state Senate to call attention to any gridlock in the legislative process when it comes to this particular bill.

This is not something the Democratic Party of Georgia should have to deal with, but since it's a mandate from the national party, it is something that state Democratic leaders will have to address sooner rather than later.