Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Staggered Primaries Revisited?

At the Convention, Liberals voted against the proposal to hold five staggered regional primaries. Liberals also voted to allow "supporters" the right to participate in the leadership process. Given, the initial rationale for the supporter inclusion was woven within this idea of primaries, it's fair to say the Convention provided a confusing result. As it stands now, all Liberal members and supporters will vote on one day, in essence a national election. However, I note that immediately following this vote, some indications coming from the Liberal Party that the issue of staggered primaries might not be dead yet.

It is worth considering, 58% of delegates did vote for the staggered primary option, and although that failed to meet the 2/3rd requirement, it still represents a healthy majority. This fact does provide a certain "legitimacy", the idea did find wide support amongst the assembled delegates, which may be important moving forward, should "revision" arise.

As I understand it, the party will now constitute a Leadership Vote Committee, made up of two co-chairs, the National President, two persons elected from the PTA's, two representatives appointed from Caucus and "another number of other members" appointed by the co-chairs. The mandate of the LVC is as follows:
The Leadership Vote Committee is responsible to plan, organize and carry out the Leadership Vote.

I view the above as fairly ambiguous, but also demonstrating the potential to implement staggered primaries. Given the Convention didn't specifically endorse one primary, there appears certain latitudes, this group will have CONSIDERABLE power as they develop a formal leadership process. Staging one national primary will be a huge logistical endeavour, perhaps that angle will be provide another motive for more "manageable" regional primaries.

I expect to see some form of staggered primaries to be at least considered. The fact there is a naked majority underpinning allows for some democratic justification (although I understand it was defeated based on required support). I do believe there was some "confusion" as to this voting process, and frankly I'm not sure why the two questions of supporter vote and primaries were separate questions, given they were initially considered as parts of a alternative hole. I don't believe this primary question is over and Liberals would be wise to keep an eye on their Leadership Vote Committee as we move forward...

12 comments:

Jeff Jedras said...

The logistics was just one element of the primary proposal that was never considered going into this, and really should have been.

But anyway, on the wider point, section 54 of the constitution deals with leadership selection. And it offers little flexibility. It's the national executive, not the committee, that sets the date:

(54)(3)(b) set a date for a Leadership Vote to be held within five months

Operative word being "date" and not "dates." The regional staggered votes as envisioned by the failed amendment are completely outside the scope of the constitution, and would not be permitted.

Where there is flexibility is likely in the manner of voting, ie. it needn't be in person, and I don't expect it to be. I'd expect to see online and tele-voting, which renders the organizational argument moot.

if they want to revisit some form of the staggered primary system they would need to go back to the membership, possibly through extraordinary convention. But whether it for 50+1 or not, constitutional amendments require 2/3s for a reason.

Steve V said...

Jeff, I'm not sure "date" really binds anyone, but we'll see.

Jeff Jedras said...

Date and dates are very different words and are clearly binding. You could try to argue for voting over a weekend would be in the spirit, but in an intervention from the mic at convention Jack Siegel, who knows far more about this stuff than me, said no, the language is clear: one day.

Trying to resurrect staggered votes without constitutional amendment would be unconstitutional, period. With online voting there is no logistical argument to be made. The amendment failed, that was the will of the convention. If we're going to ignore it, why bother having conventions?

Dan F said...

I like the idea of staggered votes in theory, but the reality will end up giving one region far more influence then they deserve. On the upside, if PEI becomes our Iowa, then within a few years all our cars will run on potatoes! :-)

Steve V said...

I understand that, and I get the 2/3rds stipulation, but fact is only 42% of delegates disagreed with this idea, so my view of democracy wasn't served. Was the 2/3rd requirement ever voted on or was that dicated, I'd be curious to know how this developed?

Steve V said...

Dan

If Ontario was last, it would speak to influence. Anyways, I'm just throwing it out there that I don't think this issue is quite dead just yet. Time will tell...

Jeff Jedras said...

it says in the constitution that 2/3s is required to amend the constitution. You could amend that, at a convention with a 2/2s vote. This is a standard thing in modern democracies. Look at the amending formula for the Canadian constitution, for example.

Democracy also means following your rules and not throwing them out when you don't get the result you agree with.

Jeff Jedras said...

If the executive wants to revisit this, then bring another constitutional amendment to a convention, or an extraordinary convention. But anything else would be an unacceptable subversion of democracy.

Steve V said...

I agree in one sense, but I also believe in majority decisions, outside of how parties arbitarily set up their decision making. Philosophically I have a hard time accepting 58% of people's views are irrelevant, but YES I understand that we must play by rules. Let's see if it is dead, I suspect it might not be and perhaps some consultation would be in order. I could be wrong, this might the end, it's just speculation, uninformed at that, on my part.

Jeff Jedras said...

I'm not saying its necessarily dead. I'm just saying if they want to revive it, it must be done through the proper constitutional channels.

Steve V said...

Yes, if they just arbitrarily decide, I suspect another round of angst.

CuriosityCat said...

Hold staggered primaries. Elect represenatives for each riding, based on the percentage votes cast in each riding. Have these representatives then cast - as agents - the "vote" for the Leader on the single "date", on which date the votes cast by supporters and members in each of the primaries takes effect.

Voila! Staggered primaries; one "date" as per the constitution; and no amendments needed. Just be imaginative in how the indication of preference of members and supporters is to be made.

Sound a bit like the old Electoral College but without any flexibility to vote by the agents? You bet it does.

However, we should not play games with something as important as this.

Let's just work out the details for staggered primaries and put the whole thing to the vote - electronically - a new convention for agreement by two thirds of those voting.