update on Feb 9, 2008: Please skip this diary and go straight to the Texas precinct Convention training diary. It's more timely and relevant at this point.
Ok, lots of diaries in the past 48 hours about the upcoming Texas primary. Since most of you aren't familiar with how things work down here, I thought that it would be helpful to write up a handy dandy guide to the Texas primary and delegate selection process. Click through for all the info. I am urging everyone to rec this because I'd rather have the community fully informed NOW, long before the results start rolling in.
The late great Molly Ivins once wrote that Texas is a petri dish for bad government. I'd venture to say that it's also a petri dish for wacky politicking, as evidenced by the process for which the Texas Democratic Party will select it's delegates to the Democratic national convention. The selection process is convoluted, to say the very least, and it can be intimidating for new participants. For outside observers, it can be both frustrating and amusing. You see, we won't know on primary night who's getting what delegates. Someone may be able to claim victory in the primary vote, but it'll be impossible to truly determine the delegate winner until this Summer when we hold our state convention on June 6-7. I hope that this post will help everyone understand the process, especially those who are planning on participating for the first time this year.
Texas has a primary/caucus/convention delegate selection process. 228 delegates are up for grabs. The Lone Star Project states that "126 delegates will be assigned based on primary results...67 are determined through a convention process." Visit that link for a further breakdown of the numbers, and make sure to keep your eyes on Burnt Orange Report over the next few days, as they're working up some posts analysing the numbers. I won't focus on those numbers in this post, but rather, the process. (Update: I've just been alerted that the post is up now. Head on over there!)
Our primaries are open. Anyone who is registered to vote in Texas can participate in the primary and caucuses. In addition, since we do not have "hard party registration", voters are allowed to vote in either the Democratic or Republican primary, but not both. It's either/or.
Now, which ever party's primary ballot you pick (D or R) is the one you are eligible to caucus for. So, for example, you can't vote in the Republican primary and try to caucus with the Dems, and vice versa.
Our caucus/convention system has three teirs: precinct level, senate district level, and state level.
The first caucuses are held at the precinct level. You'll most likely caucus where you cast your primary vote. If not, your caucus location should be posted at your polling place. The caucuses are run by the elected precinct chairs. Most caucus locations host multiple precincts. If there is no elected precinct chair for your caucus, you'll wait for the other caucus to finish and that precinct chair will help run your caucus. If you have no precinct chair, one may be elected on caucus night. The number of delegates allocated to each precinct is based on voter turnout in the last Gubernatorial election. The more people who voted in your precinct, the more delegates you get allocated to move on to the Senate District convention (the 2nd part of this three-tier process).
The caucuses are held on the night of the primary, March 4, at 7:15pm SHARP. DO NOT BE LATE or you could get locked out. I've seen this happen, although most precinct chairs will wait until 7:30 to start. If you become a delegate to the Senate District convention, you'll get a mailer shortly after the precinct caucus telling you where it'll be held, as well as whether you'll need to attend a county convention OR a senate district convention (more on that in a moment).
Senate district or county conventions are held on March 29. Each Senate District has a number of state convention delegates they are allotted. The actual number of delegates alloted is based on the Senate District's voter turnout from the last two general elections (again, see the Lone Star Project link). In addition, each Presidential candidate will be allotted a percentage of these delegates based on how much of the primary vote they garnered in each Senate district. For example, if your Senate District has 10 delegates to state and Obama got 50% of the vote in that Senate district, he gets at least 5 pledged delegates. In addition, any candidate who does not get at least 15% of the primary vote is considered not viable.
The map to the right is a picture of each Texas Senate District. As you can see, the high population clusters have quite a few districts bunched together, while the rural districts in some cases are spread over hundreds of miles. Due to that fact, many rural districts hold county conventions. If you live in a rural area and you'd like to caucus, your best bet is to get in touch with your county Democratic party and ask them when and where your caucus will be held. You can also ask the election officials on primary day. Regardless of location, these events are held on March 29.
And finally, at the state convention On June 6-7, our delegates for the national convention are chosen. This is important for everyone to remember on primary night, because I'm sure the media and the campaigns will be claiming certain numbers when in fact we won't know the real number until our convention this Summer.
So where do things stand right now? Well, the latest poll I could find was from IVR, taken back on January 30/31:
Est. MoE = 4.2%
Hillary Clinton 48%
Barack Obama 38%
Mike Gravel 3%
I don't know anything much about IVR other than they do phone polling using automated systems. According to their methodology page they use registration based sampling instead of random cold calling. So they are reaching actual registered voters instead of random people. I found nothing recent from any other polling outfit, although I'm sure many will forthcoming in the next week or so.
Here is a list of endorsements from Texas elected and party officials, courtesy of Vince at Capitol Annex. It is current as of 2/5/2008. The latest breaking Texas Obama news is yesterday's endorsement from popular Dallas Rep. Rafael Anchia.
And finally a personal observation. Clinton has a lot of institutional support up here in North Texas. North Texas is basically anything north of the I-35 split all the way up to Oklahoma (see map here, the I-35 split south of D/FW is pretty obvious). Most of the party people I have worked with were supporting Clinton as early as last year. But the voters that I speak to every day... that's another story. It seems there's a generational split. Generally speaking, if you're over 50 you're for Clinton and under 50 for Obama. Black folks are definitely in Obama's camp as are the under 25s. Yes I know I'm painting a broad brush and there are exceptions but I'm just calling it as I see it. Here is a Dallas Morning News article about how the Clinton and Obama campaigns are gearin up in Texas. Obama is opening several offices in Tarrant county. We are just to the west of Dallas county, which turned blue in 04. We recently won a special election in Tarrant, electing a Dem and picking up yet another Texas House seat, so things are certainly trending in the right direction. In fact, we are one of the reddest counties in the country and that's probably part of the reason our victory in the special made the FP here. It's big news to hear about wins here.
Anyway, I hope this was helpful. Thanks to everyone who made it all the way through!! LOL
P.S. The good folks at Three Wise Men sent me a link to this pdf "how to" guide for becoming a delegate. Interested parties should feel free to download it. And thank you to everyone in the Texas Progressive Alliance (our blogger coalition) for their editing help and to BigTex for his promotional help.