(Note: I prepared this based on the rules that have been used in recent conventions, including the 2010 Endorsement Convention. It's possible that things have changed/will change for the upcoming convention; I am not aware of any such changes.)
So it's looking very likely that we will have a contested vote (a.k.a. "floor fight") for Chair at the MDP Convention two weeks from tomorrow! Okay, a part of me thinks it will be settled before it gets to the floor, but what happens if we go to a floor fight?
No, it won't be a 'direct' or 'popular' vote. If 1,501 people show up at Cobo and vote for one candidate, while 1,502 people vote for the other, the latter won't necessarily be Chair.
For purposes of voting at conventions, the MDP divides up the state based on two things: Counties and Congressional districts. Currently, 73 of our 83 counties are entirely within a congressional district; eight counties are covered by parts of two congressional districts; and Oakland and Wayne each cover part of four congressional districts. That gives us 97 different territories (to use a field term, I'll call them "turfs") to which votes are allocated.
Each turf gets one convention vote for every 500 votes Jocelyn Benson got in 2010 in said turf. For example, I live in Kent County and the 2nd District, where Jocelyn received almost 16,000 votes; 16,000/500=32 delegate votes.
When it comes time to vote on the 23rd, a person will note our county and congressional district (it will be printed on our name tag that we pick up when we register at Cobo), and we will tell them whom we support. (Alternatively, those supporting Johnson will be asked to stand in one place, while those supporting Brewer will be in a separate group.) Keep in mind that this will be a public vote; MDP (and I think DNC) rules proibit secret ballots.
The person chairing the convention will call on the chair of each District Party, who will then announce how many convention attendees from each county in the district voted for each candidate. The secretary will then plug those numbers into a spreadsheet that is projected onto a screen for all to see.
A turf's delegate votes are then allocated to candidates in proportion to how many people voted for that candidate. (This is where that spreadsheet comes in handy!) So if there are 32 of us from the Kent/2CD turf, and 17 vote for Candidate A while 15 vote for Candidate B, then A gets 17 votes while B gets 15. In the unlikely event that I'm the only person from this turf to show up at Cobo, then my candidate of choice will receive 32 votes. If there are five of us there, and we vote 4-1, then our votes will be divided up 25.6 to 6.4. Note that those numbers are not rounded; decimals do play a role.
What if no one from a turf comes to Cobo?
Now, of those 97 turfs, I can almost guarantee you one thing: Some turfs will not have any voting MDP members on the floor at Cobo. That will particularly be likely for counties in the UP and Northern LP. So, what happens to their delegate votes? Are they lost into the ether, never to he seen or heard from again? Nope. They will get allocated to candidates based on how well candidates do in the rest of the congressional district.
Take Dickinson County, for example. Located entirely in the 1st District, Dickinson County gave 3,224 votes to Jocelyn in 2010; thus, they can expect to have 6 votes at Cobo. Suppose that no one from Dickinson shows up at Cobo, and that in those 1st District counties that do have representation, one candidate gets 58% of the delegate vote, while the other gets 42%. In that case, Dickinson's 6 votes get divided up 3.48 to 2.52.
If I'm a candidate for Chair, I'm making sure I get at least some support from as many of those northern counties as I can. That way I can "run up the score" by winning all of the delegates from some of those counties, while simultaneously getting votes from the counties from which no one showed up.
But how will we know if the count is accurate?
As the votes for each turf are announced, we will see those votes plugged into the spreadsheet - and each turf's delegate votes will appear instantaneously. At any point during the process, check the spreadsheet to see how many votes each candidate has amassed. I'd bet the house that both Brewer and Johnson will have folks keeping an eagle's eye on process to ensure that no foul-ups take place.
But Scott, I gotta say: This doesn't seem like a fair process! What happened to "One Person, One Vote?"
I'm reminded of what Winston Churchill once said: "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those others that have been tried." Likewise, the MDP's delegate allocation method is the worst way to select party officers and nominees - except for all the other methods. I'd submit to you that this system offers the following advantages:
- It ensures that the interests of Democrats across the state are represented, and that candidates have to listen to the views of people from across the state and ask for their votes.
- It gives yet another incentive for Democratic activists to get out the vote in their county/district. Had 26 more Dickinson County residents shown up to vote for Jocelyn in 2010, they would have 7 delegate votes instead of 6.
- Let's be honest: Some of us don't have to drive as far to Cobo as others. If you live in Hamtramck, Cobo is a quick jaunt down Woodward. It's about three hours for me to drive in from Kentwood. And for our friends in Marquette, it's almost a half-day-long trip. This system rewards those of us who are dedicated enough and who care enough to make a long trip down to Cobo.