Rules and Bylaws Committee Report (April 13-14, 2022)

Updated: May 3

To learn more about this DNCwatch blog, please read the Introduction and General Considerations.


The following is an unofficial summary of the in-person DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting held on April 13-14, 2022 in Washington, DC. Links to videos (YouTube and Facebook) of the meeting are included, as well as related media coverage of the meeting. All relevant documents are also linked. Background and additional information are in light yellow boxes.


Related Media Coverage of this RBC meeting


Links to YouTube Videos

April 13, 2022 - Day 1

April 14, 2022 - Day 2

Links to Facebook Videos

April 13, 2022 - Day 1

April 14, 2022 - Day 2

Note: Times noted below in parentheses align with the YouTube videos, however the timing in the Facebook videos are 10 seconds earlier on the April 13 Facebook video and 14 seconds earlier on the April 14 Facebook video.


DNC Rules & Bylaws Committee

April 13 & 14, 2022

About the Rules and Bylaws Committee, or RBC: The 33 (give or take depending on term) members of the RBC are appointed every 4 years by the national chair of the DNC and ratified by the DNC. Among other things, this committee drafts and administers the delegate selection rules which govern the process of selecting delegates and alternates from 57 jurisdictions (50 states, Washington DC, Democrats Abroad, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) who nominate our presidential and vice presidential candidates, adopt our Party’s platform, adopt other Party policies for the future, and sometimes provide for a post-convention commission to review and revise our national delegate selection rules and other matters. Here is a list of the RBC members for the 2021-2025 term. James Roosevelt and Lorraine Miller are Co-Chairs.

What's Happening at this meeting: At this particular time, the RBC is heavily focused on drafting the 2024 Delegate Selection Rules and the Call to the 2024 Convention. Following the problems with delayed reporting of the results of the 2020 Iowa caucuses as well as other concerns including lack of diversity, difficulties in some Partys’ inability to effectively administer their caucus process in the context of the presidential nominating system, and that an unintended but important consequence of caucuses precludes fullest participation by voters, the RBC is considering changing the states that are allowed to have their primary/caucus in the “pre window” period (also referred to as the “early window”) of the nominating calendar. The current window opens on the first Tuesday in March after which states are permitted to select their dates to initiate their delegate selection process (primary or caucus). Before that date, the “window” is closed, meaning that absent explicit permission by the DNC, no state/territory may initiate its delegate selection process while the window is closed. In 2020, for example, only 4 states: [IA, NH, NV, SC], were permitted to conduct their delegate selection process while the window was closed. There is more background and information on this in the section on the Resolution on the Principles and Framework of a Transparent and Fair Review of the Presidential Nominating Calendar section below.

The most recent RBC meeting was conducted as follows.


Day 1 - April 13, 2022


(03:58) Roll Call - Attendance

Agenda provided to RBC members

(08:46) Agenda discussed at beginning of meeting


Documents discussed: Charter and Bylaws (does not include amendments adopted at the March 2022 DNC meeting) Delegate Selection Rules for the 2020 Democratic National Convention (“DSR”) Call for the 2020 Democratic National Convention (“Call”) Resolution on Nominating Contest Window


(12:11) Update on Charter and Bylaws Review Subcommittee (“Review Subcommittee”)

About the Charter and Bylaws Review Subcommittee: This ad hoc subcommittee to which the members are appointed by the RBC co-chairs is relatively small and includes only RBC members. The purpose of the Review Subcommittee is to review the national Charter and DNC Bylaws as mandated by the DNC Bylaw art. 2, sec. 10(d)(v) which states, “the Rules and Bylaws Committee shall conduct a continuing study of the Bylaws, Rules and Charter which shall include a regular review of the Charter and Bylaws by the Rules and Bylaws Committee every four years, following the presidential general election and make periodic recommendations for amendment, extension or other action, provided that any such recommendations by the Rules and Bylaws Committee be submitted to the members of the National Committee at the time the agenda is presented;”

Although the schedule for the Review Subcommittee has not been determined, Co-chair Roosevelt announced that it will meet over the next few months and bring recommendations to the June RBC meeting, and action, if any, will take place at the July 15-16 RBC meeting.


Roosevelt announced that Carol Fowler will chair the Review Subcommittee and that the members will be: Artie Blanco (NV), David McDonald (WA), Stuart Applebaum (NY), Frank Leone (VA), Leah Daughtry (NY), Carol Fowler (SC) and Tonya Williams (DC).

Follow up: I spoke with Ms. Fowler after this meeting and she assured me that these meetings would be public meetings.

(14:04) Upcoming Meeting Schedule for the Rules and Bylaws Committee

Roosevelt announced the meeting dates (and locations - some still TBD) for the RBC over the next several months, as well as the purpose of each meeting. The RBC will approve drafts of the 2024 DSR and the 2024 Call prior to the Fall DNC meeting, which will likely be in late August or September.

Date (all 2022)

Where

Purpose

May 18

Virtual

Discuss the process for reviewing applications from states for pre-window period.

June 22-25

DC

Continue drafting 2024 delegate selection rules

July 8-9 and July 15-16

In person, TBD

Determine what states are approved for the pre window and finalize 2024 delegate selection rules Action, if any, on recommendations of the Charter and Bylaws Review Subcommittee

August 5-6

DC

Finish drafting the 2024 Call to Convention

(22:09) Virtual Listening Sessions related to changing the pre-window states

There will be 4 public virtual listening sessions related to changing the pre window states. These will be held on:

May 5, May 16, May 25, June 1


The virtual listening sessions will feature a range of speakers on the nominating process. The listening sessions will be open for the public to attend and listen. However, the speakers will be selected by the co-chairs. Roosevelt asked the RBC members for recommendations for speakers.


(26:46) Resolution on the Principles and Framework of a Transparent and Fair Review of the Presidential Nominating Calendar

Background: To clarify, the “pre window” period is the time before the first Tuesday in March (super Tuesday). For the last several presidential election cycles, only 4 states have been allowed to hold their primaries/caucuses in the pre window. These are, in order, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina. States that hold their primaries/caucuses in the pre-window without approval from the DNC risk not having their delegates seated at the national convention, as well as risk other sanctions. Because presidential candidates need a certain number of delegates to win the nomination, losing delegates can seriously harm a candidate’s chances of winning. To disencourage states from having their primary/caucus in the pre window without DNC approval, there are punishments (sticks) the DNC may impose. To encourage states to go later throughout the window (to prevent jamming multiple elections on the same day - such as super Tuesday) bonus delegates (carrots) are given to states that begin their processes later in the window. The window closes a number of weeks before the national convention, typically in mid to late June. Over time various states have been allowed to be in the pre window. However, since 2008, only 4 states have been allowed to have their primary/caucus in the pre window – they are, in order, Iowa (since 1972), New Hampshire (since 1920), Nevada (since 2008) and South Carolina (since 2008). The RBC is considering adding a 5th state to the pre window and none of the current 4 states are assured to maintain their current pre window status. It’s also interesting to note that:

  • Iowa has a state law requiring it to have caucuses before other states.

  • New Hampshire has a state law that mandates that it must be the first primary.

  • Nevada recently changed from having a caucus to a primary and passed a state law mandating that it precede any other state – primary or caucus. hey go first.

  • South Carolina is the home state of DNC Chair Jaime Harrison and of Rep. James Clyburn, who is touted as paving the way for Joe Biden to win the nomination in 2020.


There was much discussion about this resolution (lasting over an hour). Several amendments were made to the draft.

The Resolution was adopted by the RBC.

Relevant text from resolution:

1. The RBC seeks to review and approve a 2024 presidential nominating calendar that (1) reflects the principle that our party’s diversity is its strength; (2) puts Democrats in the best position to win across the ballot in November 2024; and (3) contributes to a fair and sound electoral process.

2. In accordance with historic practice, the RBC will prohibit states from holding the first determining stage in their presidential nominating process prior to the first Tuesday in March or after the second Tuesday in June (the “Window”), unless the RBC explicitly grants a state an exception to this requirement in the Delegate Selection Rules, and every state seeking such an exception must apply to the RBC, regardless of whether they have previously held pre-window contests.

3. The RBC will evaluate applications and select no more than five states to be allowed to hold the first determining stage in their presidential nominating process outside of the Window.

4. Consistent with the mission outlined in subparagraph (1) of this clause, the RBC will approve a pre-window schedule of contests that satisfies the highest standards on the following pillars

a. DIVERSITY; as required by Article 8 Section 3 of the Charter: including, but not limited to, racial and ethnic diversity, geographic diversity (including a mix of rural and urban voters, and including but not limited to one state from each region of the four regions as defined by the DNC), union representation, economic diversity; and

b. COMPETITIVENESS: contributes to the party’s ability to win in the general election; and

c. FEASIBILITY: comprised of three components: (1) the feasibility of scheduling a pre-window contest; (2) the ability to run a fair, transparent and inclusive nominating process; and (3) the cost and logistical requirements of campaigning in-state;


(2:01:27) Discussion about State Party Applications (for selection for one of the 4 or 5 pre-window states) - what do RBC members want to see in the applications?

At the next virtual May 18 RBC meeting, the RBC will finalize the application process for states seeking one of the 4 - 5 pre window slots. This discussion was about what RBC members thought factors would be important to consider and how the process might work (what resources, technical assistance would be available, etc).


  • The application will not be a checklist.

  • If states have a state run process, is the state legislature willing to work to move the state primary up or add a presidential primary?

  • There will be technical assistance to the states on this process.

  • The RBC co-chairs will decide which states will present to the RBC - all states that apply for pre-window status will not necessarily get to present to the RBC.

  • State party presentations will be during the June 22-25 meeting (in DC).

  • The RBC will select the 4-5 states and the order they can go in the pre window.

(2:14:09) The timeline for states to apply for the pre window status is as follows:

  • “Within 7 days” [of April 20], state Parties will be notified of the process agreed upon.

  • May 6 - confidential and non-binding letter from those states of their intent to apply for pre window status.

  • May 18 - RBC meeting to decide on formal application.

  • June 3 - Application due.

  • June 22-25 - States selected by RBC Co-Chairs will present to RBC in DC.

  • July 8-9 - RBC will select the states approved for the pre window.

(2:15:50) Other Topics for Consideration:

  • Rules enforcement

  • Automatic delegates (superdelegates)

  • Allotting bonus delegates

(2:15:50) Roosevelt re: Superdelgates- “There was [unintelligible] consensus at the end of our last meeting that automatic delegates was not on the table again, but that was not a formal vote, so we will get to that. So, just wanted to mention that that is out there. As usual, I have already heard from people on both extremes on that question.”


Continue “Other Topics for Consideration”:

  • Clarify what it means to suspend a campaign vs. withdraw a campaign and what impact it has on delegates that have previously been won by candidates and how to share at-large delegates.

  • Information requested from staff regarding the district level delegates - which states are senate district levels, which states are congressional districts?

(2:19:53) Rules Enforcement

Background: There are several states that want to go in the pre window and even to be the very first state in the process. Nevada passed a state law in 2021 mandating that they go first. Michigan, New Jersey and Minnesota are making a push for the pre- window designation. While it was not explicitly said in this meeting, the RBC appears to be gearing up to add more sticks to their rules regarding those states which have their primary or caucus in the pre- window without DNC approval, and carrots to those states which hold off initiating their process until later in the window. I suspect that the RBC is concerned that some states will hold their primary or caucus in the pre- window even without approval from the DNC.

Discussion: What should the RBC do if a state Party’s delegate selection plan is not in compliance with one or all of 3 important rules:

  1. Timing - does a state/territory hold its first determining step (primary or caucus) outside of the window?

  2. Proportional representation - what if the state party’s plan for allocating delegates in a state/territory does not comply with [DSR] Rule 14 which provides for delegates to be allocated in a way that fairly reflects the results of the primary or caucus?

  3. Threshold - does the state’s plan allow for something other than the minimum 15% of delegates before a candidate may receive delegates?


[DSR] Rule 21 has the following automatic sanctions to be imposed on states which violate any one of these 3 rules:

  • Reduce the number of delegates allotted to the state/territory in each category by 50%.

  • Removing voting privileges for all of the state’s automatic delegates, including DNC members.

  • Sanctions for any presidential candidate who campaigns in a state/territory found out of compliance. Such candidates cannot receive any pledged delegates from that state/territory.

  • Sanctions are automatic and effective immediately upon the RBC’s determination that the state/territory is out of compliance with one or more of these 3 rules.

  • Rule 21 allows the RBC to impose additional sanctions, such as:

  • Including allowing the DNC to set up an alternate delegate selection process.

  • Reducing delegates more than 50%.

  • Reducing or eliminating the state’s representation on the convention's standing committees – Credentials, Resolutions Rules.

  • Reducing or eliminating the state/territory’s guest or other credentials.”

  • Changing the delegation's seating location.

  • Changing assignment of the delegation's housing location.

  • However, if a state/territory can show provable positive steps that they tried to change state law related to these rules, the RBC may allow all or some of the automatic sanctions to be reduced.

(2:28:10) Elaine Kamarck on the 2008 Florida and Michigan rules violation:

Background: In 2008 both Florida and Michigan held their primaries in the pre window without approval from the DNC. Initially, delegates from both states were disqualified, however, the RBC committee voted ahead of the convention (in June) to allow delegates from those states to have ½ vote and Obama received delegates (with ½ vote) in Michigan, even though his name was not on the ballot. At the national convention, the convention’s credentials committee voted to allow both delegations to have a full vote, which was ratified by the convention.

Kamarck - “One of the issues that is constantly brought up is, ‘Oh they say they're not going to let the delegates from these states vote but then they do, in the end they do,’ and in the end, they did. However, what people always miss with that argument is, well, yeah, of course we do because it was unanimous, there was only 1 person to vote for it. By the time you get to a roll call, it’s all done, ya know, it’s all finished, so sure, Florida and Michigan, they all got to cast their full votes…”


“If there is a contested convention, there is always a test vote, or 2 or 3 or 4, right? And the test vote was generally over rules, this happens to both Parties. It was the “robot [rule]” vote for Kennedy-Carter [1980], it was the Mississippi delegation for Reagan-Ford [1976]. You know, there is always a vote before the actual roll call. That’s why we’ve had so few roll call votes in recent history that were contested. We may want to think about saying specifically that Presidential candidates who, from delegates from states where candidates campaigned illegally, or against our rules, are not allowed to vote on standing committee issues prior to the roll call. Because it’s those votes on the standing committees issues, whether it’s a credentials vote to seat a certain delegation, or whether it’s a rules committee vote,whether it’s a platform vote, those tend to be the key, critical votes. And, so, one more effective way to punish them is to say you can’t vote on those things. You’re out of the vote on those things. And, I think that might add some teeth to these, you see, because, in the end, by the time you get to the roll call [for the presidential nominee], even if it is contested, things are generally worked out.”

Relevance: The importance of Elaine’s comment is that it explains what many people do not understand - that the power of the convention is in the standing committees decisions, decisions which delegates either ratify or reject. Therefore, not allowing delegates of states in question to vote on standing committee issues limits their ability to significantly impact critical decisions made by the convention.

(2:37:57) Discussion about State Parties and Delegate Selection Rules/Call (start)

Roosevelt announced that he wanted to hear from state parties about the delegate selection rules and the delegate selection plan process.

  • Maryland state chair provided feedback

  • Discussion held over for more discussion on Day 2.

(2:45:31) Continue “Other Topics for Consideration:

  • [DSR] Rule 2.G related to casting a vote over the internet.

Day 2 - April 14, 2022


Presentation on Ranked Choice Voting (“RCV”)

Background: In 2020, 5 states used RCV in their delegate selection process. It is anticipated that more states may want to use RCV this cycle. A presentation on RCV was requested by RBC members at the March RBC meeting.

(01:43) Presented by Andy [Andrea] Levien, lawyer, Perkins Coie, and Reyna Walters-Morgan, DNC Director of Civic Engagement and Voter Protection


Slide information - Note that information below is taken from slides in the presentation. Each slide title is underlined. Also note that some slides were difficult to read, therefore, the information below may inadvertently be incorrect.


How it works:

Elections rules will set a percentage threshold a candidate must reach in order to be elected.

  • If a candidate receives that percentage in the first round, they're elected.

  • If no candidate does, or not enough do, to fill the number of seats up for election, the candidate with the fewest first choice votes will be eliminated and the votes of voters who ranked that candidate first will be redistributed to those voters’ second choices.

  • This process of elimination and redistribution continues until the correct number of candidates reach the threshold or until all candidates below the threshold are eliminated.

Some common RCV terms:

  • Exhausted ballot: A ballot where all candidates ranked by the voter have been eliminated.

  • Continuing ballot: A ballot that is not exhausted.

  • Undervote: An instance in which a voter casts a vote for fewer candidates than permitted under the elections rules.

  • Overvote: An instance in which a voter has ranked more than one candidate in the same ranking. Ballot will be exhausted once the overvote is registered.

Ranked Choice Voting in the Delegate Selection Process

[Five states used RCV in 2020 - Alaska, Hawaii, Kansas, Wyoming and Nevada]


How ranked-choice voting was incorporated into delegate allocation

  • Hybrid system: Remote or early vote supplement to in-person caucusing, with traditional in-person alignment and realignment (Nevada).

  • All RCV: All voters use a ranked-choice ballot, whether voting in person or by mail (Alaska, Hawaii, Kansas, and Wyoming)

Ranked-choice voting in Alaska, Hawaii, Kansas, and Wyoming

  • Originally planned for in-person voting and vote by mail options, but parties switched to all vote by mail in light of covid-19.

  • Paper ballots run through vote tabulators programmed to comply with party rules.

  • Voters ranked up to 5 candidates using grid ballots.

  • Candidates who received 15% or more of first choice votes received delegates.

  • If there were candidates under that threshold, the candidate in last place was eliminated and the votes of voters who had ranked that candidate first were redistributed to those voters’ second choices.

  • Process continues until all candidates under 15% were eliminated.

  • Once the counting was complete, the resulting percentages were the percentages used to measure presidential preference.

Example of Ballot (Alaska)



Visualization of the Count



Nevada

  • Combined in-person caucuses with early voting using ranked-choice ballots.

  • Nearly 70% of voters voted early using ranked-choice ballots, and 99% of early voters ranked at least three candidates.

  • Early vote participants were counted as eligible caucus goers on Caucus Day to both determine viability and to award delegates.

Maine

  • Extended use of RCV to [sic?] presidential primaries and general election in 2019 [sic?] [2020?], but delayed use in primaries until 2024.

  • If Maine uses a state-run primary, it will need to use RCV for the presidential primary unless the law is amended.

  • The law providing for RCV in the presidential primary doesn't specify how the count will work. Secretary of State may promulgate rules, but the count will also be dependent on party rules.

Questions for the Committee

  • Does the Committee want to address the permissibility of RCV in the Delegate Selection Rules or the Regulations or address it if proposed in plans?

  • Does the Committee want to impose requirements on the use of RCVin Delegate Selection if RCB is permitted?

[End slide presentation]


Discussion

  • Concerns about potential challenges

  • DNC needs to establish method to provide uniformity

  • Voters need education and training

(56:10) Discuss Bonus delegates and Delegate Selection process

Presentation by Jeff Berman and Tad Devine (both by phone)

(59:10) - Jeff Berman

(1:06:15) - Tad Devine


(1:17:27) In-State Implementation Process

This discussion is continued from Day 1 to capture the thoughts from state party representatives on the process of implementing the DSR.


Discussion included several state party reps and former chairs who are members of the RBC, and included, but were not limited to:

  • Lack of resources

  • Lots of new executive directors and state party chairs

  • Concerns of variations in the percentages of groups in the Democratic electorate to be used in the affirmative action plans

  • Technical assistance

  • Need for prompt response to security issues

  • Inability of some states to meet all of the rules in the DSR

  • Need presidential candidates to do their part

  • Affirmative actions committees and on-going use after the delegate selection process

  • Party leaders are gatekeepers who can allow many people a seat at the table


(1:23:24) Frank Leone - “The other issue that I wanted to raise is the affirmative action part of our guidance. The model plan provides that the chair should appoint an affirmative action committee, and I don’t know how it works in different states. In Virginia, we have an on-going affirmative action committee, but that doesn’t necessarily have the same requirements that the DNC does, so that we have a temporary Delegate Selection Rules affirmative action committee and then we go to our regular one, and I think there should be a way to use our Delegate Selection Rules to encourage the creation of permanent affirmative action committees, or outreach committees, that continue to work and that work seamlessly with the delegate selection process, instead of having a different process that makes things more complicated.


“So, I think we need to step back and take a big picture look at that, and see how we can strengthen our [state] parties and their affirmative action efforts.”


(1:41:11) Donna Brazile - “Listening to your comments about the process, what you go through, what your staff goes through, what you try to do. All I can tell you is, that there's so many Americans out there who are eager to participate, but they don't know how to become a delegate. They don't even know how to get involved. And, some of the basic questions that I get, not just because I'm a teacher and lecturer, is that, ‘How do I do it? How do I find my seat at the table?’ And, as Party leaders, and activists, and organizers, you're the gatekeepers. You're the ones that have to open this process up. I just want to remind people that our democracy thrives on the active participation of ordinary citizens.”


(2:08:26) Carol Fowler - Related to people not filing to be delegates. “This last time, we had delegate slots that the campaigns did not file anybody, or they didn’t make sure that somebody filed.”


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