This Democratic Primary Wasn’t Very Democratic


I’ve become very disillusioned with the Democratic presidential primary process after reading, researching, and participating in it during this primary cycle.

The first issue, which caught the attention of quite a few people, was the debate schedule initially presented by the DNC. They significantly reduced the number of debates to be held, all the way down to a mere six debates. The Republicans also reduced their number but still planned to have twice as many debates as the Democrats.

It was widely believed the reason for this limited debate schedule was that it would help the one candidate the Democratic establishment wanted to see prevail: Hillary Clinton.

Hillary’s initial competition consisted of four (remotely serious) candidates:

  • Martin O’Malley and Lincoln Chafee, governors with little name recognition and very few diehard supporters.
  • Jim Webb, a military man and one-term Senator with some views far too conservative to earn the Democratic Party’s blessing.
  • Bernie Sanders, who made the decision to run as a Democrat after years of successfully winning against them as an Independent.

None of these four opposing candidates were going to receive much love from the Democratic Party. The party had every reason to favor Mrs. Clinton, and the best way to give institutional support to Clinton, already the betting-man’s favorite to win the nomination, was to see that absolutely nothing interesting happened during the primary cycle. A quick and quiet primary season would be beneficial to the Clinton campaign, and fewer debates would mean fewer opportunities for a Clinton slip up that might knock her out of her frontrunner status.

Not too long after this, there was another startling development, but this one did not get nearly the same level of attention. Lawrence Lessig, after declaring his candidacy and raising sufficient funds, reached out to the DNC in the hopes of appearing in a televised debate. The DNC refused to recognize Lessig’s candidacy. It then set a requirement that to appear at the first debate, a candidate must receive at least 1% support among likely voters in three or more national polls. Lessig wound up excluded from most polls because of the DNC’s withholding of recognition for the candidacy.

After being excluded from the first debate, Lessig set his sights on appearing at the second and appeared primed to do so. Lessig registered at 1% in two national polls and only had one more to go.

Then, the DNC changed the rules.

They added a stipulation that any polls conducted within six weeks of the debate would not count.

That was the end of Lawrence Lessig’s campaign to be the Democratic nominee.

I live (and vote) in New York, and while my voting experience in this year’s primary went smoothly, I can’t say the same for many of my friends in the state. My cousin, an 18-year-old first-time voter, received a piece of mail acknowledging her registration as a Democrat and informing her of polling location for the presidential primary. When she showed up, she wasn’t on the poll workers’ list and was turned away. I instructed her to demand an affidavit ballot which she did. I do not know if it will ever be counted. I instructed her to refuse to accept provisional ballots, as these simply do not count (Democratic Party Election officials acknowledge this). Anyone who submitted a provisional ballot this year appears to have simply wasted their time. Perhaps the same is true for the countless voters like my cousin forced to submit affidavit ballots. A friend told me she knew seven different people who were all forced to submit affidavit ballots for one reason or another.

Voting irregularities in Arizona and Brooklyn (which happens to be where Bernie Sanders grew up) are also cause for concern.

An examination of the kinds of things reducing voter access this primary cycle demonstrates an interesting pattern.

Some registered Democrats were taken off voter rolls because they had not voted in seven or more years. Voting rules stipulated that wearing pro-candidate clothes or accessories to the polls was illegal electioneering and anyone doing that should not be allowed to vote. Taking pictures of one’s ballot was deemed grounds to invalidate the ballot.

Voters falling into all three of these categories are in my view more likely to be Sanders supporters (Millennials excited about their first vote, wearing “Feel the Bern!” tees and snapping pictures of their first-ever vote, and older people so disillusioned with politics they haven’t felt inspired to vote since this fiery outsider showed up).

Finally, lets look at Wyoming. A state where Bernie Sanders won the popular vote by more than 10%, but received fewer delegates than Clinton. Granted, Bernie Sanders did agree to the rules which produced this result when he was recognized by the DNC and ran as a Democrat, but this result is wholly undemocratic.

If we vote for a candidate and give him or her a 10 point win in our state, but our candidate is awarded less delegates and comes out in a worse position to win the election after this result, how much should we really believe our votes are worth?




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