In the South Dakota Republican Party, the Governor pretty much picks the party chair. We Democrats, having no Governor and (theoretically) much less fealty to tradition, hierarchy, and divine right of kings, hold an election.
However, the South Dakota Democratic Party puts its own not quite democratic twist on the election for state party chair. Next month, when the State Central Committee convenes (at Oacoma, I hear), members in attendance will elect a replacement for current chair Deb Knecht. But not every member's vote will count the same. The SDDP, like the SDGOP, uses a proportional voting scheme based on the total vote cast by each member's county for the last Democratic candidate for governor. This system applies to the selection of nominees for statewide constitutional offices as well.
Have some more coffee: here comes math!
Minnehaha County provided a tick more than 20% of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Susan Wismer's votes. Pennington County gave Wismer not quite 11% of her statewide tally. Those percentages mean that when the SDDP Central Committee votes, Minnehaha County chairman Jeff Barth's vote will count almost twice as much as Pennington County chairman Mike Wilson's.
Under this proportional voting scheme, seven counties—Minnehaha, Pennington, Brown, Lincoln, Brookings, Codington, and Yankton—can elect the chair of the South Dakota Democratic Party. My friends Lake County chair Lorri May and Hyde County chair Nick Nemec get a say, but it would take 13 Mays or 133 Nemecs to outvote one Jeff Barth. Worst off in this math is Harding County chair Linda Stephens. Her county's 0.07% share of the Wismer vote means Stephens would have to vote 314 times to beat Barth.
This math gets wonky if a county does not bring its full contingent of committee members. The vote weight is assigned to each county delegation as a whole, then divided equally among however many voting delegates that county sends. If Stephens is the only delegate from Harding County, her vote will count as Harding County's full 0.07%, while Barth, who will likely lead a full contingent from Minnehaha, will cast a vote worth only a fraction of Minnehaha's full 20.86%. But the basic comparison holds: the Minnehaha delegation wields the chair-selection power of 1.95 Penningtons, 12.21 Lakes, 132.58 Hydes, and 313.11 Hardings.
An ambitious aspirant to the chair could make some calls and help organize some party committees in the twelve counties that currently list no committee members. However, those twelve counties combined would wield only 5.65% of the chair-electing power.
This proportional voting scheme is arguably democratic. To the extent that county committees represent their local Democrats, this House-like scheme is more representative of a Senate-like scheme that would give each county delegation four votes.
But what if we apportioned voting rights in a way that rewarded county performance? The current system gives Minnehaha County the most say in picking a chair because it turned out the most votes for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate. But the biggest county in the state will get that advantage in every election. Suppose we gave credit to counties based on how much their Democratic turnout beat the statewide average?
Imagine this scheme: each county still gets its proportional vote based on the number of county voters who picked the Democrat for governor in the last election. But then we allot each county bonus votes based on how many more Democrats they turned out for governor than the statewide percentage would have predicted. After all, if a county can turn out a higher than average percentage of Dems, they may know something about who ought to be chair.
For example, had Minnehaha County given Wismer the statewide 25.43% of its vote, they would have given Wismer only 13,800 votes. Minnehaha turned out 14,716 Wismer votes, 6.63% better than the statewide turnout. Thus, we give Minnehaha County 6 bonus votes.
But look who else benefits. Shannon County's Democratic turnout was 176% better than the state average. Shannon County gets 176 bonus votes in the SDDP chair election.
If bonus votes only go to the above average, then a lot of counties get no bonus vote. 42 counties gave Wismer fewer votes than the statewide average would have.
Weight the proportional vote equally with the bonus vote, and here's how the power in electing the SDDP chair would break down:
|County||over/under state avg||bonus vote||bonus weight||Adjusted SDDP Chair Vote||status quo chair vote|
Minnehaha stays on top, and Harding still comes out at the bottom of the pile. But a number of counties that more successfully brought a higher percentage of their neighbors to the polls for Dems get a bigger say in picking the chair.
The Democratic Party has bigger fish to fry than reworking its voting system for picking a chairman. But what system do you think offers the fairest vote for the party leadership?