Ensuring access to Oregon's 2020 DNC delegate process

By Jeanne Atkins of Portland, Oregon. Jeanne is the former chair of the Democratic Party of Oregon and former Secretary of State of Oregon.

On April 1st, a proposed Delegate Selection Plan for Oregon’s participation in the 2020 DNC Convention was released to the public for comment. This Plan was the combined work of a Committee made up of 11 volunteers and supported by hardworking staff from the party office. The group was led by our three elected DNC Committee members and included DPO volunteers such as caucus leaders and representatives of county party organizations. I’d like to emphasize the volunteer nature of this work.

Such a plan is required by the DNC and has complex requirements. Because of concerns coming off the 2016 primary process, state parties are required to provide the greatest possible openness to participation, and are encouraged to find new ways to include more people in the choice of delegates. A separate affirmative action committee also has to be set up to assure diversity in the delegation sent forward to the convention. There’s more, but I’ll spare you.

Some 26 days after the plan was posted, a “Press Release” was issued by the Chair of the 1st Congressional District Committee of the DPO. The release was not sent to the DPO or its officers, but of course through the magic of Facebook it was brought to their attention; and since it included my name, it was forwarded to me.

The release is headlined “Malfeasance Plagues the Democratic Party of Oregon”. It says the plan was “illegally developed” because it wasn’t the work product of the DPO Rules Committee, and warns that as a result of this, the plan is fatally flawed and may lead again to what the author claims was a “near riot” at the 2016 state convention. Here’s a link to the release lest I be accused of misrepresenting its content.

There are factual inaccuracies big and little in this “Press Release”. The central complaint – that the Rules Committee was not the source of the plan – is irrelevant and completely wrong. That is not, and never has been, the Rules Committee’s job. The author fails to understand that the Delegate Selection Plan is not a set of Rules for holding the relevant regional and state conventions which are part of the plan; it is an overall plan with many steps both leading up to and following those conventions. Once the plan is adopted, proposed rules for those conventions will be written by the Rules Committee as required by the DPO by-laws. Nothing in the plan “violates” DPO by-laws – just because a process is not explicitly authorized in the by-laws does not mean it is prohibited. To the extent that the approved plan creates the need for new standing rules to executive the plan, the Rules Committee will be the source of that work, which will continue through 2019 and into 2020.

Bottom line, instead of focusing on what is good or bad about the proposed plan – and commenting, as all are allowed to do -- what is happening is an effort to kill it altogether by attacking and misrepresenting the process.

Since my election as Chair in 2017, the leadership of the DPO has been faced with a self-appointed “policing” effort purportedly aimed at improving our Democratic processes, but with the actual result that volunteer leadership’s time and energy are continually diverted from achieving our goals and spent instead arguing about whose version of state law, by-laws, and parliamentary law are correct and whose are not.

I tried, and I know the new officers will try, to respond respectfully and accurately to these questions and concerns. They will consult with parliamentary authority and maybe even pay for legal analysis by actual lawyers in order to determine if any mistakes were made. But I can tell you it is very demoralizing when one’s credibility and honesty are regularly impugned, as they are here.

What’s behind these attacks? I have tried to assume the best: That folks want a fair process and understandable rules.

But I’m not biting this time.

This time I firmly believe it’s about keeping us from expanding the accessibility of our processes. This time, there are folks who believe their passion and their opinions matter more than the passion and opinions of others and they want to stop the DPO from making participation in our delegate selection process easier. They know that their “team” can dominate when too much is required of others.

You can read the plan for delegate selection and you can comment on it before the Committee completes its work. They are required to detail all comments made by April 30th, and to send those comments and responses to them to the DNC with their final draft.

At the Wayne Morse Gala on April 13 I urged the some 500 Democrats present to support and work in partnership with the brave souls who have stood up to be the officers of the Democratic Party of Oregon. Now would be a good time to weigh in and let them know your support of their efforts.

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