Convention season is one of my favorite times of the year. I love the opportunity to meet with Republicans at our County, District and State Conventions. I have been involved in planning and running our conventions for about 30 years. I used to serve on platform committees. The last 12 or so years I have chaired the county, district and state rules committees. I have also served as parliamentarian or chaired two district conventions. So, when I speak about rules or how our conventions operate, I speak from experience.
The most difficult thing to manage at our conventions is elections. I am not speaking about election integrity rather the mechanics of running an election at convention. We use secret ballots and for most elections we are electing multiple people for positions. For example, this year each congressional district will elect four people to the State Central Committee. Due to redistricting, there are 6 incumbent SCC members in the newly formed 2nd District. So, if all the incumbents choose to run, there will be at least 6 people running for for seats. Some districts will require people to be elected by a majority, so there will likely be multiple rounds of balloting. In addition the district convention will elect 4 members to the State Platform Committee, 2 members to the State Rules Committee, 2 members to the State Organization Committee, and 2 members to the State Credentials Committee.
That’s 5 elections, potentially with multiple rounds of balloting. For each round, the ballots will be counted by hand! Many years ago, it took 9 rounds of balloting (and a couple of hours) to elect 3 State Central Committee members! In a presidential year it’s even worse since the District Convention elects RNC Convention Delegates and a Presidential Elector!
So, I was thrilled when RPI decided to introduce electronic voting during the 2016 season. I was on the SCC at the time and the staff had a plan to introduce electronic voting at the state convention. I pointed out that since there were more elections at the district conventions they needed electronic voting even more than the state convention. I chaired the 1st District Convention, there were a few issues but overall electronic voting was a success and made the convention run smoothly.
In addition to elections, handheld electronic voting devices can be used in place of voice votes throughout the convention. But the real benefit is in elections.
This year, RPI will be providing electronic voting at the state convention but not at the district convention. The reason is cost. In addition to the devices, the voting companies send a technician to each site to run the system on the day of the convention. The problem is that while there will be 5 (possibly 6) elections by secret ballot at the district conventions, there will be none at the state convention. In my opinion, there is no benefit to using electronic voting during a non-presidential year state convention!
To be fair, it is hard for an organization like RPI to be good at organizational memory. Only a few of us nerds really deal with this particular bit of convention minutiae. So, I am not trying to be critical of RPI. I have mentioned this to a couple of our districts SCC members. It may be cost prohibitive, but my suggestion going forward is:
- When possible use electronic voting at district conventions.
- Only use electronic voting at state conventions during presidential years.