Grievance filed over Fla Dems' delegate selection
Anthony Thomas, a Democratic activist in Lee County, has filed a grievance with the Florida Democratic party, alleging that an Obama campaign staffer trying to streamline the delegate elections broke the party's delegate selection rules. The upshot, Thomas says, is that Congressional District 14 elected an all-white slate of delegates.
Below is his letter to state party chairman Rod Smith, followed by a response from executive director Scott Arceneaux, responding to a state committeeman inquiring about the grievance.
The Honorable Rod Smith
Chairman of the Florida Democratic Party
June, 5, 2012
Re: My formal grievance of FDP violating DNC delegate selection process rules
Dear Mr. Smith,
I am writing this formal complaint to you to protest the election results of the delegate selection in the 14th Congressional District. My name is Anthony Thomas, I’m an African-American male and I was elected by Lee County Democrats to represent them at the state convention in Tampa over the weekend. I attending the opening ceremony and was given the finalized copy of the election rules for the delegate selection process on Friday night. I studied those rules very carefully, the next day during our caucus meeting things were running smoothly at first. We were able to elect three of the seven delegates on the first ballot. Then we have several rounds of voting where no delegates were elected and our county caucus chairman brought in someone from the presidential campaign and she try to help us streamline the voting process.
She informed us that we could take a vote and the top vote getters would be elected. I approached her in between the voting and the counting of such votes and informed her that she was incorrect and the rules did not call for such action. I showed this Obama staff member the rules for voting on delegates and it clearly stated that delegates were to be elected by a 50 plus 1 vote margin to secure their seats. She left the room and talk with a Democratic Party attorney, upon her return she informed me that I was correct and we had to continue voting. If her initial ruling would have gone on unchallenged it would have favored me and I would have been elected as a delegate because I was one of the two top vote getters in that round of voting. I spoke up even though it was not in my best interests because what was taking place was in violation of the rules approved by the DNC.
The Obama staffer then proceeded to arbitrarily and contradictory to the rules approved by DNC, set a higher threshold then the 10% for elimination. As more and more white candidates got eliminated they consolidated the white voting bloc and eliminated the remaining two African-Americans and thus deprived the 14th Congressional District of any minority representation. It is my position that if the rules had been followed as approved by the DNC this disenfranchisement of African Americans would not have taken place. I am therefore requesting your immediate action to remedy this situation. There are multiple ways this situation can be addressed and corrected.
First we must count every vote by that I mean everyone elected as a delegate to state convention should be reconvened in Lee County under the direction of you or your designee and a revote should be conducted using the rules approved by the DNC. This can be done in a fair and equitable way either by re-voting on all seven members of the delegation or re-voting on those last seats that were elected in violation of the election rule as approved by DNC.
Mr. Chairman I feel very strongly in making sure this process is done correctly and I am prepared to protest to flawed and incomplete election result with the Democratic Party Florida to make sure African-Americans have a seat at the table or if need be contests this flawed and incomplete election results in the circuit court in the 20 judicial circuit. If our voting rights are not protected and the rules are not follow in the party then I will have no choice but to go to court to protect our voting rights. I hope this matter can be resolved within the party and the rules approved by the DNC.
I anticipate your written reply,
Anthony Thomas Jr.
Delegate to state convention, representing the 14 Congressional District
Cc. Valerie Jarett, senior adviser to the President
Cc. Nicholas Pellito, operations manager for FDP
And from Arceneaux Monday:
I have read the letter and find it to be without merit and we do not plan to take any formal action from this office. Having been there on Saturday, I remember this issue and I also remember that the individual Congressional Caucuses were allowed to, by motion, raise the threshold level on subsequent ballots.
If Mr. Thomas wishes to file a formal complaint pursuant to our established rules, he should do so.
I will note finally that this year’s Florida Delegation has the largest African-American representation ever and exceeded our goal for African-American representation by 10%. We have the most diverse delegation in Florida history, something we can be proud of.