County Breakdown in FDP Chairs Race: Should the Weighted Vote Go?

The Florida Democratic Party uses a weighted vote system with its State Committee members. This system is controversial as at least in theory disproportionately favors the three urban southeast Florida counties over the rest of the state. These counties arguably have little in common with the other 64 counties, yet can ostensibly control the party under this system with little coalition building.

This weighted vote has made the current chair’s race close. Were the rules that govern the RPOF Chair elections in place, Allison Tant would have already wrapped a victory. It is worth noting that the geographic variation of recent Republican Party Chairs has been far greater than among the Democrats at the same time, with the RPOF having been led in the previous ten years by chairs from just about every corner of the state, SE Florida excluded. The Democrats who have become overly dependent on urban areas for votes have not had a Chairman from a major urbanized area since Bob Poe left the job on January 2003, a statistic not lost on many from those areas. The last three chairs have failed to build the party structure in large counties both from the standpoint of donors and activists.

While this has been a nasty chairs race, not much has been written about the Democrats dependence on urban areas for votes coupled by the continued unwillingness of the party to either select chairs from urban areas or set up the type of field operation in areas outside Tallahassee the GOP thrives on. The Republican turnout and field operation in second tier counties like Pasco, Lake, Brevard, Lee and Sarasota are particularly impressive.

The weighted vote is controversial. Perhaps with 67 county DECs in the party it would be only fair if they were given equal standing in our party. Lawton Chiles won five statewide elections treating every county equally, having a county and steering committee in each county and spending roughly as much time in each place. His Gubernatorial running mate Buddy MacKay describes in his book “How Florida Happened” that this differed from his own approach. MacKay, who unlike Chiles had actually represented much of north Florida (Chiles was from Polk County) in the State Senate, realized when he ran for US Senate in 1980 he had to focus on “vertical counties” ie. large voting blocs in southeast Florida. It is also worth noting that even though both were DLC Democrats, Mackay had a more liberal reputation and track record on social issues so he was probably better received by liberal groups, while Chiles was stronger in north Florida.

MacKay stated that Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach had condos and residential developments which actually had more people than some counties in his State Senate district and thus campaigning more in these places was imperative. Dempsey Barron in those days often implied publicly that population numbers in the urban counties were embellished. Recent elections prove that Barron at least posthumously was flat out wrong.

As we’ve repeatedly pointed out on this site through empirical evidence, the Democrats in Florida have become more and more dependent on urban areas in the past decade. This reliance has despite the best effort of party consultants allowed some DECs to completely collapse in smaller counties. These parties even if still meeting are having more trouble raising money and getting the attention of candidates running for office. Plainly this situation is unacceptable.

At the same time this reality has created a situation where DECs in larger counties are being threatened by well funded outside organizations, and themselves are not raising money they way they could or should. So despite the weight these counties provide in FDP elections, many Democrats and those associated with the state party itself seem perfectly willing to bypass functioning DECs. Much of this is the fault of the local DECs whose organizations have become beset by factionalism and personality conflicts.

Factionalism is perhaps the biggest problem in larger DECs. Unity is difficult to come by although the recent near unanimous vote of the Palm Beach County DEC in favor of Alan Clendenin’s candidacy (Clendenin won the endorsement of that DEC 80-2 over Allison Tant despite Committeeman John Ramos’ open support for Tant) was a sign that larger county executive committees are beginning to pull together on matters such as this.

What do our readers think of the weighted vote? Below we have listed the vote from each county (please note each county has two committee members so they in fact have twice the number of votes listed below):

Alachua                8

Bay         3

Bradford              1

Brevard                15

Broward               59

Calhoun               1

Charlotte             4

Citrus    4

Clay        3

Collier   5

Columbia             1

DeSoto 1

Dixie      1

Duval     24

Escambia             7

Flagler   3

Franklin                1

Gadsden              2

Gilchrist                1

Glades  1

Gulf       1

Hamilton              1

Hardee 1

Hendry 1

Hernando            5

Highlands            2

Hillsborough       33

Holmes 1

Indian River        3

Jackson                1

Jefferson             1

Lafayette             1

Lake       7

Lee         13

Leon      11

Liberty  1

Madison              1

Manatee             8

Marion 9

Martin  3

Miami-Dade       59

Monroe               2

Nassau 1

Okaloosa             3

Okeechobee      1

Orange   31

Osceola                  7

Palm Beach         41

Pasco    12

Pinellas 27

Polk       14

Putnam                2

Santa Rosa          3

Sarasota               11

Seminole             11

Seminole             11

St. Johns              4

St. Lucie               8

Sumter                  2

Suwannee          1

Taylor    1

Union    1

Volusia 14

Wakulla                1

Walton 1

Washington        1


26 thoughts on “County Breakdown in FDP Chairs Race: Should the Weighted Vote Go?”

  1. I’ve long maintained either we go to one county, one vote or weight votes based on population NOT Dem performance. Counties like Lee, Duval and Brevard are underrepresented based on this formula.

  2. Not pertinent to this article but equally important is the fact that those voting in this race are required to sign their name to the ballot. How in the world can this be fair when everyone will ultimately know who you voted for?

  3. What always strikes me is despite the perceived unfairness of the RPOF system they continue to get chairs from varied areas and the infrastructure of the party maintains the advantages they have built even with bad chairs.

    The reality of the RPOF system is that suburban and exurban areas have not been hurt by not having vote weights. But at the same time the RPOF has consistently had lots of statewide elected officials and powerful legislative leaders who could dictate the choice of a chair from an urban or suburban county onto the masses. The Democrats lack anyone with that sort of credibility or moral authority. That is being proven again this time as DWS’ recommendation of Tant seems to have actually hurt with some areas of voters. I am told Tant on her own merits could win this race if DWS didn’t interfere so aggressively. I am not sure I agree with that, but people are whispering that across the state.

  4. It is important you consider that the vote weights are incentives for DECs to perform in their counties. If we changed the vote weight to overall population or registered voters, places like Collier and Okaloosa would be wildly overrepresented. The fact is elected officials make up close to 15% of the vote in the election which in some people’s opinions is too much and explains why we keep getting former electeds or those tied to the electeds and we continue to be on as Kartik likes to say a two decade long losing streak.

    From my vantage point the only people voting on this should be seated DEC MEMBERS. Elected officials have had years and years to fix the party and have not. They have destroyed the party. I honestly am not in love with Alan Clendenin but under this highly flawed system he is the best we can offer so I hope he wins.

  5. Fla Dem Insider, in response to the point you made, I have decided to look at a weighed vote purely on population. The results are very different. I will publish my findings later today.

  6. According to Orange County DEC Chair & Tax Collector Scott Randolph elected officials have more at stake than anyone. They profit off politics while we lick envelopes, walk precincts, take sick time at work to attend rallies and give up our personal lives for the party. Screw this thinking. I’d like ZERO elected official votes in the formula.

  7. Time For Change!

    No system of voting for FDP Chair is perfect, but how in the world can you compare Hillsborough, Orange, Miami-Dade and Broward with Leon? Unless you compare that to where the power structure is and that surely didn’t help the White minority rulers in South Africa.

    The RPOF have been “lucky” that despite the one vote one county vote they have helped elect people from different areas (although I would hardly consider Jim Greer a “prize”!).

    The voting system is an interesting argument, however it does not negate the fact that we have a chance to break the stranglehold that the current worthless loosing power structure in Tallahassee and DC of telling us what to do, as the White minority power structure did under the gun to the majority in South Africa.

    We have an opportunity to break the chains of the DWS and rulers who installed their “puppet” ruler in Allison Tant as Leon DEC Chair who never showed up to a DEC in her life and who’se husband fought us in court and defended George W Bush in his election against Al Gore.

    How stupid do we Democrats have to be to not see though this dog and pony show that Scott Arceneaux and DWS are forcing us to believe.

    Wake up Democrats!

    Every loosing consultant and staffer in the FDP loosing “gravy train” payroll has to go!

    That is what we Florida Democrats, and any business with common sense, has to do.

    Clean House! Start Over!

    What do we have to loose? More Tallahassee cronyism?

    Oh yeah, more elections!

    Elect Alan Clendenin for FDP Chair!

    The broom is ready to clean house!

  8. The bias of people outside south Florida is incredible. You know nothing of the rest of the state, the majority of the state and should not be allowed to force your will on us with Clendenin or anything else.

    Democrats lose statewide because we lost north Florida. In the mid 1990s we held the majority of seats up here and controlled the cabinet. Now we cannot even field candidates here and have no statewide cabinet officers. Yet your snobbish and condescening attitude towards those who want to support Democrats and are the ancestoral backbone of our party is incredible and no different than racism itself. Yankees have for years looked down on the south and we have now seen this in practice at the party level. Hamilton County has been voting Democrat a lot longer than Broward, Madison a lot longer than Pinellas. Yet these southern Florida counties dominate the process and with all the Yankees new to our state and knowing nothing of our history, our history is ignored.

  9. Kartik, normally you do excellent work here, and there may be a story in this, but you haven’t made your case. You seem to be saying that, because the large counties get more votes for the state chair, that the state chairs come from other areas, which results in reduced fundraising state wide. That doesnt make any logical sense, that I can see.

    You also dont offer any proposed solutions. The feds did it by having 2 legislative bodies, but wouldn’t that be overkill for an org like ours? We hardly have any voting opportunities in the current system – perhaps once per year.

    No, I don’t think we can change things by a mere change of the vote-weighting. If we want a more active party, we need to create a more participatory governance system I’m not suggesting, necessarily, the we create an extreme Greek-style system (where every D would vote on every issue), but I think DEC’s should ALL be actively responsible for ALL state-party activities, such as fundraising, voter ID, etc. If we knew that 66 other counties were counting on us to do our part, then we would be more motivated….

  10. Pingback: Trotter’s Analytic Study: Is the current FDP weighed voting system fair? « The Political Hurricane – Florida Political Blog.

  11. If the vote weights are eliminated it would be like pre 1968 Florida where each county had a minimum of one member of the state house. Even as it is the small counties have a disproportionate influence. For example Broward produced 555 times the votes for Obama than Liberty did yet still only has 59 times the weighted vote so the system actually FAVORS Liberty.

  12. I have pointed that out before that the weights do not necessarily discriminate against north Florida counties based on Dem performance, they do based on Dem registration. It could be argued the weights should be based on Dem registration which would radically change the formula benefiting north Florida.

    Again north Florida actually fares okay under the current system. According to your map, Liberty has even with 1 committee vote for both women & man a disproportionate influence in the FDP vis a vis the actual county performance.

  13. Some questions I have?

    1. Why did Debbie Wasserman Schultz pick her best friend to run for chair when she lacked any experience for the job?

    2. How much monies was promised and by who and why?

    Allison Tant husband was the chief Republican lawyer to the Supreme Court for Bush, who prevented a recount in all 67 counties in the 2000 election only to find out 10 months later Bush would have lost.

    To me this is NOT about North or South Florida but a power grab by big money interest that felt the next Governor of Florida will be a Democrat and they want to stay in power.

    4. Should Debbie Wasserman Schultz be brought up on charges for this sell out?