Monday, May 28, 2007

The problem with RPV's response to the "registration" question

(Editor's note: The RPV responses below have been edited to remove individual names, changing them to generic pronouns)

A previous post contained my argument for why registration (and filing for registration) should not have a deadline prior to the night before the convention, which I sent to the committee chairs. I received a reply which included the RPV response.

The RPV response was as follows:
(PARA 1): I think it is reasonable to argue that application for registration needs to have been made by the date of election of the Delegates. Only those who meet the qualifications for participation are eligible to be elected a Delegate. Thus, if a person who is not a registered voter files a prefiling form, and if that person at least files an application to register to vote before their election as a Delegate, they would be qualified to be elected a Delegate.
According to that paragraph, a person should be allowed to register, or file for registration, AFTER the cutoff for the delegate forms. The date of cutoff, argues RPV, should be the date at which the delegate must meet the requirement -- in this case, the date of a mass meeting in the case where there was overfiling.

This is exactly what I argued before. The form clearly indicates you only have to meet the requirements ON THE DAY you take formal action as a delegate. I said that would be the convention date, but here the RPV says that, if you needed a mass meeting ahead of the convention to select delegates from an overfiled list for a precinct, you would need them registered (or filed) at THAT time.

And when are the mass meetings scheduled? June 1st, 2007: The call regarding mass meetings says the following:

The Republican Mass Meetings for precincts in the District shall be held, if necessary, on Friday June 1, 2007 at the McCoart Government Center, Woodbridge, or at an alternate site and/or time as determined by the Chairman, (...)

In the event the number of persons in a precinct who pre-file as delegate to the convention is equal to or less than the total number of delegates allowed from that precinct, all of those pre-filed persons from that precinct will be deemed to be elected and the Mass Meeting for that precinct will not be held.(...)

The results for each Mass Meeting shall be reported to the 51st House District Republican Committee Chairman or his designee no later than 7:00 a.m. on Saturday, June 2, 2007 at Gar-Field High School, Woodbridge, Virginia.

So, if we had overfiled a precinct, the RPV would allow delegates to apply for registration up until June 1st, 2007. That was the Gill campaign request, and the RPV says that is a reasonable date. Except, in our case, we have no over-filed precincts, so there will be no mass meetings.

And here, the RPV in my opinion mis-applied their own argument:

(PARA 2): If, however, there is no separate election for Delegates because there was no overfiling, the date of election as a Delegate is the same as the date of the prefiling. Thus, if the person in question has not applied to be a registered voter by that date, they are not qualified to be elected a Delegate.
I have two objections to their "date of election of delegates" argument. First, I would argue that the date the delegates are "deemed" to be elected should be the date the mass meeting was SCHEDULED, not the date the forms were filed, or some other date.
  1. The mass meeting date was the date specified for "electing the delegates".
  2. The mass meetings are not cancelled until a formal ruling that there were no overfilings, which doesn't occur at the filing date.
  3. Imagine that on Tuesday, the credentials committee finds that a boundary was mis-specified, and therefore one precinct IS in fact overfiled. The mass meeting for that precinct would be held. So really, until the date of the mass meeting, we cannot be absolutely sure that the mass meeting will be cancelled.
  4. There are NO dates specified in the call or RPV plan for "delegates are deemed to be elected". Absent any other date, the date used SHOULD be the date upon which they would HAVE been elected, had the election been necessary. If the RPV plan wanted to specify a different date, they could have -- so again, when a different date could be specified, but isn't, the law requires that no such date be arbitrarily assigned.

Therefore, the date at which the delegates are "deemed to be elected" should have been June 1, 2007, and the RPV informal recommendation would be to allow delegates to apply for registration up until that date.

Second, I don't believe the "date of election of delegates" was itself important. The purpose of invoking the delegate election in (PARA 1) was NOT because electing the delegates was itself specified as the date registration was required. Rather, it was simply the first formal act by delegate. IF you had to elect the delegates, that was a formal action which would require that the delegates being elected be VERIFIED, thus meaning they had to meet all the requirements to vote at the time of the meeting to elect them.

So in the absense of a formal action to elect the delegates, the date of requirements should have been set to the first date the delegates DID take a formal act, which would be on the day of the convention (Although a uniform application of the date of the mass meetings would make sense)

Beyond the logical arguments above that the RPV mis-applied it's own rational argument (which SHOULD have lead to a June 1, 2007 cutoff date), there is an equal protection argument to be made against their ruling. In fact, their ruling sets TWO different cut-off dates, based on circumstances beyond the control of the delegate, and which could apply differently to different delegates.

The RPV says that if there is no overfiling, the date for application for registration is May 21, but if there IS overfiling, the date for application for registration is June 1st.

So, what if SOME precints were over-filed, but other precincts were NOT overfiled? According to the RPV guidance, the delegates from the over-filed precincts have until June 1st to apply for registration and be accepted to the convention. But the delegates from the other precincts had to apply for registration by May 21st or be rejected.

Surely we run afoul of equal protection under the constitution when two delegates to the same convention have different rights and deadlines simply based on whether there is a mass meeting for the district.

I believe the credentials committee should use the reasoning presented by the RPV in their first paragraph (PARA 1), and set the cutoff date to June 1, 2007, as the RPV would have recommended had there been mass meetings.

It makes NO sense, notwithstanding the RPV guidance, to set a cutoff date for the application for registration EARLIER when there is no mass meeting than it would be if there WAS a mass meeting.

That said, I am impressed by the work of the 51st credentials committee, and wish that everybody would treat them with politeness and respect. We can disagree about the decisions without resorting to personal attacks.


Rick said...

Good reasoning, Charles, but I think the RPV position is the correct one.

But isn't this all a moot point? Didn't voter registration close 29 days before the June 12 primary, which means anyone who hadn't filed for registration by then can't be a "registered voter" in time for the convention?

I'm guessing part of the confusion is coming from the relatively new "qualifications" section in the State Party Plan that says,
"2. A person who has made application for registration and meets all other requirements of Section A, but whose name does not appear on the local registration books solely because of the books having been closed in connection with a local election, will nevertheless be deemed a legal and qualified voter."

I don't believe this section applies, although I can see where the confusion comes from. I don't think this primary election is what was meant by "local election," but I could be wrong. (I think it refers to municipal elections, such as the Dumfries town elections.) I also think it means a case where the person is registered, but just isn't showing up on the books because they were being prepared for the local election. (Again, I'm prepared to be wrong about that.)

The main point, of course, is whether delegates can be "elected" by a mass meeting if they aren't yet registered. So the date when they are "deemed to be elected" is critical.

The best corollary I see is when a primary is canceled because only one candidate files. Once the filing deadline passed, that candidate is considered to be nominated. We don't wait until the date of the primary to declare the candidate to be the nominee.

Using that logic, those who file for election as delegates at mass meetings are deemed to be elected once there is no over-filing. I think you're over-reaching with your example of discovering a problem with boundaries, but even that can be worked out consistently.

I don't think there's an equal protection problem, although I would leave that for others to say. Personally, I think people should be registered by the filing deadline anyway, but that's just my personal opinion.

The bottom line is, people have to be registered in order to be elected as a delegate and if the filing deadline turns out to be that date, there's no way around it.

Charles said...

First, the qualifications item 2 (which is actually now item 5) is not new. Anke has noted it's been there as long as she can remember.

There's never been a question about voters who were able to register. If they could get that voter card by the convention, they were excepted.

The only reason this became an issue is because of the "application for registration" exception when you can't actually register.

SBE does suspend registration for "local elections", in this case our June 12th primary, and the rule exists precisely so delegates aren't treated differently simply because of SBE book closures.

You state the RPV position correctly, that delegates are "deemed" to be elected at the time it is clear there is no mass meeting. My argument on that point is that there use of the "elected as delegate" argument was NOT that being elected as delegate was important, but that the "election as delegate" was a formal act taken by delegates (who show up at the mass meeting and vote). If the delegates were going to vote at the mass meeting, they had to be qualified by that point.

The interesting thing is, accepting the RPV argument, the delegates are not "deemed" to be elected until someone examines all the delegate forms and determines there aren't enough for a mass meeting.

Suppose we were really close to having too many, and it took the credentials committee a week to figure out there weren't enough to need the meeting. On the day they voted how many were valid, THAT should be the "day they are deemed to be elected". In fact, that should be the day the credentials committee finally approves the list, NOT May 21, since on May 21 they had no idea.

But I do see part of their argument. You can't say they are "deemed" to be elected PRIOR to may 21, since it wasn't until may 21 that we knew no more delegates could be added.

The analogy I thought of to support them was the Clerk convention. When Lucy dropped out, the convention was cancelled and McQuigg was our delegate. But realise McQuigg could be a candidate without at this time meeting the requirements, so long as she met them on election day. We might require she meet requirements at the convention, but with no convention there's no other rule.

I go back to the DeLay ruling -- he was NOT qualified to vote or run in the election, but a judge ruled he was still a valid candidate, and could not be JUDGED to be unqualified until the DAY of the election.

Rick said...

I'm on a State Central Committee subcommittee that may end up reviewing the entire party plan. This will be another good area to clarify.