Today is the first day of the annual CA Democratic Party Convention, hosted online for the first time ever. Prior to this convention, I’ve only ever been to the vendor hall as a booth volunteer so I don’t really know what to expect. Last week, we got the results of the Party Officer races. Rusty Hicks was re-elected as chair which means that a lot of the hopes I and my cohort had of democratizing the democratic party are likely dashed for the entirety of my term. Alas, all the power continues to reside with the Chair and the Chair’s committee appointees. I’m very grateful for the trainings that the Progressive Delegates Network has been holding the last couple months. It’s really been eye-opening to see some of the power dynamics and disparities at play in the few short months I’ve been a delegate.
I wanted to have a clearer understanding of how power inside the party is distributed. Most folks use an illustration of a 3-legged chair to demonstrate the makeup of the Democratic State Central Committee (DSCC) which consists of 3,549 members from 3 branches: Party Officers & Elected Officials (PLEOs), Assembly District Delegates (me, in the ADEM race), and County Central Committee delegates (elected during the democratic primaries in election years). In theory, each delegate would have 1 vote to vote their conscience, however that is not how it works in reality and that is written into the bylaws.
There are a lot of special ways to become a DSCC Delegate without being elected (appointments). I don’t have access to exactly how many people are members of county central committees or have seats another way; I simplified the math using the assumption that all the state districts are Dems (which is not true, but is the best way I could figure to account for the 9342857 ways to include the also-delegates-with-appointing-privileges), which adds up to the correct number of delegates according to the CDP. I’m sure the actual distribution differs somewhat so please do not take these numbers to be anything more than rough estimates. I am not PDI, I’m just a new delegate trying to understand the scope of how the votes shake out and why things are the way they are.
Here’s what I found:
Less than 200 people hold 1/3rd+ of the power in a party with 3,549 delegates.
The ~1,120 (14 delegates x 80 Districts) Assembly District Delegates get ~1,120 votes.
The ~1,130 (used subtraction) County Central Committee Delegates get ~1,130 votes.
But the ~190 Party Leaders/Elected Officers get 2 – 36 appointees make up the remaining ~1,299 delegates. Giving 190 people many times more power than the rest of the delegates.
Sure “every delegate gets 1 vote” but ~1,299 delegates are appointed to vote as directed and serve “at the pleasure of the appointing member.” Notably, The CA Assembly Speaker, CA Senate Pro-tem, and Leader of the CA Delegation to the US House get +30 on top of their +6 appointments.