Home 2019 Elections “Fundamental reforms are needed in how General Assembly delegates are elected”

“Fundamental reforms are needed in how General Assembly delegates are elected”


Excellent points by Ben Tribbett and other commenters on last night’s Democratic nomination process in the 74th House of Delegates district. Astoundingly, just 43 votes were cast, 40 on the final ballot, to select the person who will almost certainly be the next delegate in that district. Even if you believe that this process was forced on Democrats, that’s about as far away from “democracy” as you can get and not acceptable in my opinion. Anyway, first here’s Ben’s comment, followed by a few other interesting points by other commenters.

First of all, congratulations to Kevin J Sullivan on his nomination tonight, I’m glad to see someone from organized labor heading to the General Assembly.

That having been said, the process used to select a nominee was disgusting. Voting was limited to those who had joined a Democratic committee and all other voters were shut out of the process. This type of undemocratic way of selecting a nominee is completely unacceptable. Unfortunately as I said many times in 2012 when I was running for DNC- the DPVA officials keep these rules as fluid as possible to allow for committees to make rules to influence the outcome of the process. I don’t believe in that, never have and never will. These seats are for the public to decide, and we shouldn’t be putting people forward in them who are not selected by the public to run.

Yep, I largely agree with that. Next, former Fairfax Dems Chair Rex Simmons argues:  

Joe Morrissey is ultimately responsible for this. Plus this district is gerrymandered like all the rest of them. Essentially 24 voters will have chosen the next delegate. I wish Mr. Sullivan all the best, but fundamental reforms are needed in how General Assembly delegates are elected. Ethic reforms and non-partisan redistricting are sorely needed…

I agree it is not democracy. But neither are hyper-gerrymandered districts that aren’t politically competitive and designed to virtually assure incumbents’ re-elections. The system of campaign financing, with no limits on special interest contributions, further erode democracy. It adds up to an illegitimate governing institution. Conservatives have long had outsized voices in Virginia state government and people need to rebel, figuratively speaking of course, against this kind of government.

Strongly agreed!

Democratic activist Paul Friedman also makes some strong points:

This was a special election. There are times when just one person is able to select not just a low level Delegate but a U.S. Senator to fill out a seat that opens mid-term.

In a reasonable amount of time there will be a real opportunity for a full primary and general election to give more voters a chance to be heard.

Unfortunately, even then, way too few voters will participate due to their own lack of interest.

Rex’s points are far more salient. The heart of our democracy is being ripped out by a system that has been captured by big money special interests.

The idea that Virginia can elect three Democratic state officials and two Democratic U.S. Senators but our House delegation and state legislature is GOP dominated is directly due to a failed system at the federal and state levels.

The people will ultimately rebel if their will is thwarted long enough. We must hope that rebellion will find peaceful and effective paths.

On a very-much-related note, I’m reading Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy by Francis Fukuyama, and his analysis of the “decay in the quality of American government” really ring true (especially after watching events of the past few days regarding Joe Morrissey and the nominating process to replace him).  There are, of course, many aspects to this phenomenon, but a few are the gerrymandered district problem, mentioned above; the lack of an “informed, engaged citizenry,” and manipulation of the system in various ways by “elites” (as we saw last night, even if the intent was understandable given the circumstances – to prevent jailbird Joe Morrissey from winning the nomination).

P.S. Another bad outcome from this fiasco is that Republicans will throw this in our faces every time we complain, justifiably, about their efforts to suppress voting rights. It won’t be fair, but since when do Republicans play fair? The point is, we shouldn’t give them any openings at all to claim the Democrats are not “democratic.” Stupid on our part, even if they are utterly dishonest, devious, etc.


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