The “How to Become a Delegate” Meeting

Tonight there was a meeting for people interested in becoming a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. A guy from the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW) gave a presentation outlining the process for selecting delegates. There was also a lot of discussion on what to expect as a delegate at the convention.

The local Bernie activists were well-represented at this meeting. Many of us were curious about the idea of running, and came to get questions answered. I wanted to know about the process, and whether that process would allow someone like me to become a delegate.

The rules for allocating delegates based on primary voting are incredibly convoluted. The rules for selecting the actual delegates are even more so. And those rules are different in every state.

In Wisconsin, we get a total of 86 pledged delegates. 57 of those are divided among the eight congressional districts. In addition, there are 19 “at-large” delegates, and ten “Pledged Party Leaders and Elected Officials.” PPLEOS are different from Wisconsin’s ten superdelegates in that they are each pledged to a candidate.

At Large Delegates are selected to bring better balance to the diversity of the delegation. As a white guy, I can’t tick any of the check-boxes for diversity, so I will be applying as a CD delegate.

The process begins with the submission of a “statement of intent” form to the DPW. It’s a very simple form that asks for basic “name, address, phone, email…” info. There’s a space to fill in candidate preference and the diversity checkboxes. It took less than five minutes to fill the form out and hand it back before I left the meeting.

Our district gets seven delegates – four men and three women. These will be allocated between Hillary and Bernie based on the primary election results in the district, and chosen at the CD caucus. Our caucus will be at the OmniCenter in Onalaska (about 15 miles north of here) on Sunday May 1.

Delegates to the CD caucus are selected at county caucuses. Each county is allocated a number of delegates based on population (or more accurately, the population of Democratic voters), and those delegates will be divided between Bernie and Hillary according to the primary election result in that county.

In the case of La Crosse county, we have 51 delegates to the CD caucus. These delegates will be elected at the county caucus, which will be at Cartwright Center (the local university’s student center) on Sunday April 17.

We were advised on political strategy: Bring your friends to the County caucus and get them elected as delegates to the CD caucus where they can then vote to send you to Philadelphia.

At the CD caucus it may be necessary to form alliances. Since we vote for several people at a time, allies can say “my people will vote for you if your people will vote for me.” Someone at the meeting commented that that was rather unseemly, but many of the rest of us said, “that’s politics.”

Many of us who attended this meeting began to balk at the cost of attending the convention. The party provides no subsidies to delegates, so we must fund our own travel and lodging expenses. On the other hand, we’re told we “won’t have to worry about food.”

The Wisconsin delegation has a block of rooms in a hotel across the street from the main convention center, but rooms are $400/night. We are strongly encouraged (but not required) to stay in that hotel. The reason is that we meet for breakfast each morning and must pick up our credentials before 9, and it makes it easier to assemble the delegation on short notice… something that’s likely to happen more than once.

So I get it. Staying outside the official hotel will be a major pain. On the other hand, the rooms are spacious enough that lower-income delegates can double up and cut the expense. And we are not only permitted to fund-raise, we are encouraged to do so. So maybe the expense could be whittled down.

At this point, I didn’t know if that is ever going to become an issue. It’s a long shot. I mean, surely there must be many other Bernie supporters in the district far more capable than me who want to do this, right?

As the meeting ended, the room began to fill with local Democratic party activists assembling for their monthly meeting. Aren’t these the kind of people who usually become convention delegates? Do I have any chance at all against these long-time party stalwarts, many of whom have been office-holders for many years?

Even if I don’t go to Philadelphia, playing out my role in the delegate selection process will be a unique experience which shouldn’t cost much of anything. So, what’s to lose by trying?

Vicky, the county chairperson, looked at me suspiciously as I greeted people on my way out. With the county caucus coming in two weeks, all I could do was smile and say, “see you in a coupla weeks.”

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