The national political conventions can be wild affairs. You’ve probably watched at least one on TV and see the raucous cheering, occasional protests, speeches, signs, balloons, etc. Those people look like they are having FUN, right? For the most part, they are. And if you want to be one of them in Milwaukee next year, it’s time to start taking action.
The majority of people on the convention floor are convention delegates who are elected/selected by their state parties. Selection methods vary by state, but in Alabama, we have a presidential primary.
Here are the basics of how delegates are selected and the deadlines you need to know if you want to run.
How The Alabama Democratic Party Chooses Delegates
NOTE: some of this information may change, depending on whether the state party can get into compliance with Democratic National Committee party rules for membership, party structure, conduct of elections, diversity, and delegate selection.
Alabama is required to follow the provisions set up by the national party, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and by the state party’s bylaws. The procedures for delegate selection seem (and are) pretty arcane and convoluted. This is in no way a complete description of the process!
Delegate Selection Plan: The year before a presidential primary, each state has a committee that creates a “delegate selection plan (DSP).” The DSP sets election procedures and goals for diversity in the delegation. For instance:
- States must have an equal number of male and female delegates,.
- They have goals to meet for age, racial, & ethnic diversity as well as GLBT and disability community representation.
- The DSP is submitted to the DNC, which approves it formally during a national DNC meeting.
The ADP submitted its delegate selection plan proposal to the DNC (here it is in PDF form) on June 7, 2019. Because of the issues surrounding the ADP’s non-compliance and outright recalcitrance regarding its by-laws review and update, the plan has not yet been approved!
In fact, there is a chance that Alabama may not be allowed to send any delegates to the convention, but is such an extreme outcome, it’s unlikely to happen.
Nevertheless, the Alabama Democratic Party opened qualifying on Sept. 27, 2019 and it runs until 5pm November 8, 2019.
After the primary, the party can “tweak” the delegation to make sure it meets the diversity guidelines in the DSP. If you don’t win a spot during the primary election, you can apply to be appointed to an “at-large” or “alternate” post. Those positions are voted on by the full membership of the Alabama State Democratic Executive Committee (SDEC).
Alabama 2016 Convention Delegation Basics
Alabama will send 61 delegates & 4 alternates to Milwaukee.
- 34 delegates elected by Congressional district during the presidential primary
- 4 At-large alternate delegates elected by the full SDEC on 4/4/2020 (in case elected delegates drop out before the convention)
- 7 PLEO (party leaders & elected officials) delegates elected by the SDEC on 4/4/2020
- 11 At-large delegates – elected by the SDEC at a meeting held on 4/4/2020
- 7 Automatic Party Leader & Elected officials spots. These are chosen based on their status, like Democratic Senator or Congressional Representative, Governor, etc.
YES, if you add up the bullet points, you get just 63 delegates and alternates, NOT 65. But these totals came directly from page 2 of the DSP submitted by the state party. Your guess is as good as mine which is correct.
Here’s a chart from page 55 of the DSP that has the same math error.
In addition to voting delegates/alternates, the ADP also elects 8 non-voting members to the delegation.
- 6 Standing committee members (the state gets to send 2 members to serve on committees at the DNC – Credentials, Platform, and Rules). These members are elected by the convention delegation members (both the delegates and alternates) at the SDEC meeting held on 4/4/2020.
- 2 Convention Pages – These plum patronage slots. Pages are selected by the State Democratic Chairperson and the state’s 2 members of the DNC. (Currently, we don’t have 2 two DNC members because the national party kicked them out for non-compliance with party rules.)
Delegates elected from Congressional districts
- CD-1: 5 delegates (3 men, 2 women)
- CD-2: 5 delegates (2 men, 3 women)
- CD-3: 4 delegates (2 men, 2 women)
- CD-4: 3 delegates (2 men, 1 woman)
- CD-5: 5 delegates (2 men, 3 women)
- CD-6: 4 delegates (2 man, 2 women)
- CD-7: 8 delegates (4 men, 4 women)
How to Run as an Alabama Delegate
“Qualifying” in political terms means that a candidate fills out a bunch of forms with the local or state party and pays a “qualifying fee” that’s set by the party. Representatives of each presidential campaign get to review its list of delegate candidates, and may refuse some applications, but that’s pretty rare. Basically, it’s a safeguard to protect the campaign from bad publicity.
The “qualifying period” for the 2020 Alabama Democratic Party’s March 3, 2020 primary is from September 27, 2019 – November 8, 2017
Delegate Qualification Requirements
- At least 18 years of age.
- Registered voter.
- Plan to vote in the Democratic primary (this is on the qualifying form)
- Pay a $50 donation to the state party – although it’s optional.
- Have the form notarized and delivered to the state party no later than 5pm on the closing date. Most people take use certified mail, just in case – and don’t leave it until the last minute.
How to qualify
- Qualification forms are available online at the Alabama Democratic Party Web site, or you can download a PDF copy of the Delegate Qualification Form here. NOTE: delegates don’t have to fill out a “Statement of Economic Interests” form or other paperwork. JUST the delegate qualification form.
- County party offices should also have forms. Contact your local county party office for details.
How Delegates Are Credited to Candidates
Primary voting is a two-step process. First, the voter selects a presidential candidate. Second, the voter may (but doesn’t have to) vote for up to 4 men and 4 women delegate candidates who are pledged to that particular presidential candidate. Most voters who bother to vote for delegates just mark the first 4 names on the list (and delegate candidates are listed alphabetically). Those of you with last names beginning with “A” or “B” should pat yourselves on the back. You get a huge boost in the race for delegate just from that!
- Delegates are awarded proportionally (it’s not a “winner take all” primary), but a presidential candidate has to get at least 15% of the vote in the district to be awarded any delegates.
- Delegate positions are awarded to the highest vote-getters in the district, alternating by gender. In districts with an odd number of delegates, there’s a long explanation of how those spots are awarded.
If you win, congratulations! You’ll have more fun than you can ever imagine – Democrats know how to party! – but keep in mind that you’ll be responsible for your travel and housing at the convention. That can be pricey, but the memories will last a lifetime.
Seriously, think about running as a delegate and taking part in a historic event. Even though the Alabama Democratic Party is a hot mess right now, the national convention will go on as planned. Be a part of it!