Major Convention Mistake

John Walsh, you know I have immense respect for you — I think you’ve done amazing things for our party. This, however, was wrong. It tainted the entire convention and platform — and was not the open process Democrats were promised and expected. There clearly needed to be a roll call over this important vote.

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  1. Get this fixed!

    See this comment for my thoughts on remedying this.

    • too late

      Hundreds of people made a call to roll call. Since, on even non-close votes, they've at least used hands. I'm sorry, but this is fishy.  

      • Not the correct way.

        In your comment above and I believe on the other diary you talked about people chanting, "roll call, roll call!"  That IS out of order.  As I mentioned, a delegate needed to be at the microphone and formally raise a point of order and call for a division of the house.  Frankly, this turn of events was kind of predictable and a delegate should have been preassigned to be close to the microphone and ready to jump as soon as the result was announced.

  2. It's easier to be loud yellling $quot;no$quot; than $quot;yes$quot;

    Don't believe me?  Try it.  Yell both.  

    Why do you think they use "yay" and "nay".  Using similar sounding words makes it easier to gauge volume.  

    You're right, it is fishy, and the system of voting was stacked against you before you went in there.

    • Also,

      it seems to me that with a large crowd like that in a large hall, and with a relatively close vote (which this certainly was), there will be random distributions of people with louder voices on one side or the other that will affect the way the chair hears the votes.  

      • Are you there, David?

        Was it more distinct that the NO's won it in person that isn't so clear in video?

        • No, I'm not there.

          But Ryan is there, and he didn't seem to think it was so obvious.

          • I was there

            from where I was sitting (nowhere near Mr. Walsh), I thought the ayes had it by roughly a 2:1 margin.  Of course, on Ryan's film, it's much much closer.  The point is that there is doubt from at least one part of the room, and given that Mr. Walsh was good enough to ask for hands, and then a standing vote on other amendments when there was question, I tend to think that while his ultimate ruling may have been correct, a show of hands or more would have been appropriate.

            • Do you mean you think the $quot;nays$quot; had it by 2:1?

              • I mean that the new platform folks

                seemed to win by a 2:1 margin from where I was sitting.  I thought in my head that would be the ayes, but going back to the video, I clearly meant the "nos" had it by a 2:1 from where I was sitting.

                Which brings me to this question: Aye vs. Nay takes 2 seconds.  Showing hands takes 3 seconds.  Why not always just show hands?

  3. Bullshit

    Why have a voice vote on something controversial? So the DSC isn't embarrassed. This goes beyond a battle. This is war.

    (I was there and left at 9 AM with a toothache and then went to the dentist).

  4. That vote was so close

    I was shocked he called it on the voice vote.  

  5. I was there down on the floor in front in the 1st Worcester

    and I think that Walsh handled it just fine.  Maybe it sounded different in other places in the arena?

    Once the new platform was voted, the amendment process went smoothly.  Overall, I think it was fine and most people are happy with it.    

    • $quot;Maybe it sounded different in other places in the arena? $quot;

      Quite likely.  It's a big room, and the acoustics of spaces like that with a lot of people in them are unpredictable.  Also, as I noted above, different people have voices of different loudness.  If I gathered a cadre of my opera singer colleagues together for a voice vote, we could probably outvote a group twice our size! :-)

    • Maybe, but...

      ...given the circumstances the right thing to do would be to at least call for a rising vote if not a full roll call.

      • It wasn't close from my perspective

        so I don't see why such a move would have been necessary.

        Apparently one's perception of the closeness of the voice vote was entirely dependent upon your location in the arena.  Where I was, about 25 feet from the state where John Walsh was standing, it wasn't close at all.  

        • you don't think it possible

          that the voice vote wasn't anymore accurate there than anywhere else? What happens if, for example, there were proportionately more "nays" close to the front than the back?

          I don't like voice votes at town meeting, either. We're very quick to call either standing or rolls. Often they just confirm what the town moderator thought, but a few times they haven't.  

          • I think anything is possible.

            I'm not claiming others are wrong.  All I'm reporting here is my own perception from my own perspective.  Others, like you, are free to disagree.  

            Personally, I'm inclined to give John Walsh the benefit of the doubt.  It's possible he made a mistake.  If, in retrospect, he realizes he did, I'm sure he'd be man enough to admit it.  It's also possible he made the right call.  (shrug)

  6. as a totally disinterested party

    ryan's right.

  7. My feet hurt

    And I'm finally heading for home so I won't be able to make this extensive.

    Thanks, Ryan for the kind words.

    I can't listen to your video right now but I will. Without question, the vote was called correctly. The voice vote was clear from where I was standing - which was the exact direction that everyone shouting, btw.

    Doubt it? That's your right, but think about this:  (1) I did not hesitate to use other methods to confirm my hearing when it was doubtful.  (2) The PROPONENTS of the motion and all of the prominent speakers in favor of it were standing next to the microphone and could have easily questioned the call (to Christopher's valid point).  Interestingly, they were standing very close to me and observing (and hearing) the vote as I did.

    I love the disussion on the platform here and other places.  You are USING it - and that was the goal.  I've worked hard on this process starting before the first of the year in organizing and thinking about it.  Seventy people served on the committee.  I don't suggest it was a perfect process nor that the end product is perfect - but the suggestion that this was either a conspiracy or worse persists here and honestly it's insulting to the people who worked their heart out on this.

    The first part is over. Now is the time to organize about what you are passionate about.  

    Check out The Community Organizers' Initiative  (www.TCOI.MassDems.org.)

    John Walsh Chair Mass Democratic Party

    PS - Springfield and the Mass Mutual Center were fabulous hosts and I want to express my sincere gratitude to our Executive Director, Stacey Monahan who is a masterful organizer and pulled off this complex event with a small under-paid staff and a band of remarkable volunteers.      

    • I was there

      with all due respect Mr. Chairman, Ryan is absolutely right.  It was entirely unclear whether there were more "Yes" or "No" votes.  

    • Chairman Walsh

      I thought a roll call was the prudent step to take to dismiss the above doubts.  That said, I am amazed at how well the process worked with the many controversial items to consider and move.  Take a well deserved break.  Thank you.

      Appreciation to all who contributed (including myself-:), even if we did not get everything we wanted.  I drove away reflecting on how my forefathers fought for the right for us to meet, debate and decide without weapons and coercion today.

      Blessed be.

      • Agreed

        Aside from the substitution amendment vote, this was (to my eyes) a very, very fair convention.  Were the substitution amendment not the one with the greatest potential to change the direction of the party, I'd be singing high praises.

        sabutai   @   Tue 4 Dec 7:00 PM
    • Second that - the Mass Mutual site was the best so far for several reasons:

      A sufficient number of clean, well stocked rest rooms - even for the women.  I never had to wait - not to gross anyone out but that makes a real difference to me at this point.

      The breakfast events were sufficient - there was enough real seating, the food did not run out, and the selection was reasonable, even as to juices.

      The break out rooms had good acoustics, good electrical hookups and Wifi.

      The welcome from the Springfield Host committee was energetic, bounteous, and truly welcoming.

      Even the staduim seating was not as steep, and so physically, the site was much less exhausting, even though my feet also still hurt from walking on the hard concrete.

      My congratulations to Stacey.

      I admit that I remain less than thrilled about the Platform - but I will use what is there, and simply get on with the business of working on behalf of the issues I have chosen to place high on my agenda, which are not issues that are likely to be "high on the agenda" for many.

      These issues include:

      1.  Trying to ensure that kids in DCF custody through CHINS proceedings receive the same services and care that those in DCF custody via a C & P receive.

      2.  Improving transitional services for young people who "age out" of DCF care as wards of the state, and out of Chapter 766 education without the ability to support themselves or live independently.

      3.  Access to justice.

      4.  Support for the constitutional nature of the judicial branch, rather than treating an equal branch of government like a mere agency as appears to me to be the case at the present time.

      I think these four issues are enough for me, for now - I expect that I will, as part of my concerns sometimes be an "worker bee" on other issues, but I don't think, if I don't pay attention to and work on 1-4 above, that as much progress will occur as if I continue to work on them.  #1 is a feeder into the school to prison pipeline, as is #2 - and that issue concerns me deeply.

      Health Care and Casions [etc.] have plenty of movers and shakers without me.

      As to the vote, I admit that my hearing isn't great.  In loud and echoing set ups I have trouble hearing at all and cannot tell you anything as to this - even the video from Ryan doesn't help because the acoustics varied all over the map at that stadium, which I expect is typical.

      David's point is also relevant - some people are louder than others [I am sometimes told I am unusually loud - just ask my family!] - so louder may not mean "more voted that way" it may just mean louder people voted that way.

      I admit I prefer hand or standing votes, where written ballots are not used for those reasons.

    • Thanks

      I'm glad you didn't take this the wrong way, I actually had a tough time being so critical of you when you've been so helpful to me and many others in the past. I think you're doing a great job as Chair. Furthermore, I fully admit things could have sounded very different up front than from where I was, but I don't actually think that's conclusive. Coming from a guy who's done one too many theatre productions, acoustics are funny, funny things and each room is as unique and complex as the Green Monster in Fenway, or the old Parquet at the Garden.

      Perhaps one thing we should take from this into the future is more standing votes. I'm a firm believer that there's a lesson to be learned in everything -- and so long as a lesson is learned, then nothing wrong really happened. David and others pointed out the pitfalls of voice votes -- perhaps they should only be relied on when something is near unanimous? A standing count looks the same from just about any angle and doesn't take much longer. If something's not near unanimous, raising hands or a standing vote can be used just to double check, without taking more than a minute or two.

      Again, I appreciate the fact that you've commented. I indeed hope the platform continues on the way you've described.  

    • Rules Changes

      First, I want to thank both John and Stacey for their work in keeping people informed about important process issues and their worok to ensure and open and accessible Convention process.

      I'd like to acknowledge the Rules Committee and their behind the scenes role in some of the changes that were put in place since the last platform convention. Under the leadership of Gus Bickford, the Committee voted to reduce the signature requirement for platform changes to 250.  And the Committee also voted to change the discussion on amendments to twenty minutes.  I believe that these were important and appropriate changes and that the proponents and opponents used their time wisely.  Also the delegates used their vote on calling the question wisely.  Many delegates sought me out to tell me how much pleased they were with the process and how the convention went. (Full disclosure - I'm sure that regular readers of BMG will not be surprised to learn that I serve on the Rules Committee.)

  8. This video is from the back of the hall

    I was sitting in the back as well, and you absolutely could not tell from the back how anyone other than the immediate people around you were voting.  I would not trust any sound that came from anyplace other than the front of the hall.

    A standing vote or show of hands would probably have been prudent, but audio from the back of the convention hall proves nothing.  I really could not tell how any of the votes went except where the dissenting side was met with crickets.

    For the record, I didn't really care which version of the platform passed today (so much so that I abstained from voting).  But, I have to say that the people who brought the amendment to strike the entire draft platform and keep the old one really took the wrong tack.  If they instead proposed amendments to the draft (now current) platform, I bet that every single one of them would have passed.  Aside from the fathers' rights language, all the proposed amendments were passed -- some with no debate.  You could have added anything you wanted back in.

    • I agree that reasonable amendments likely could have been passed

      But don't diss those who had many changes they wanted to see to the draft and preferred reverting to the previous, more specific platform to attempting to pursue the amendment process for each one.  Getting together a team and gathering the 250 signatures was not a cakewalk.  I made the decision to propose the Safe Schools amendment; I would have liked some other amendments to pass that did not make the signature threshhold, including Sabutai's education amendments; I would have liked to propose an amendment relating to healthcare calling for parity in medical, mental health and dental benefits, but felt I only had the oomph to pursue one.

      I think today's process was fair, open, and well-run (kudos to John Walsh for modelling how to herd cats and giving the amendments a fair hearing, while keeping the proceedings on schedule), but I'm still rather disappointed with the resulting document.  It's better as amended today than it was, but still more general and noncommital than I would like.  

      I should add that I was standing at the front of the hall waiting at the Sergeant at Arms table for the Safe Schools amendment to come up, when the vote was taken on whether to revert to the old platform.  Although there was strength on both sides, I think John Walsh did get the call right.  

    • People tried both ways, Sco

      1) I completely disagree with you on not hearing beyond the people nearby. I wasn't anywhere close to anyone voting. I heard the room pretty well. I will admit that I heard it differently than upfront, or above, or any other angle... but that doesn't make what I heard 'not trustworthy.' It would have taken less than a minute for a hand-raised count and that would have eased any misgivings. All I ask in the future is that this becomes the norm for votes that clearly aren't unanimous: acoustics can do funny things and shouldn't necessarily be trusted, be it from the front of the room or back.

      2) Amendments take organization, even ones that would otherwise 'easily pass.' Just look at the education issues: there's plenty of support for those issues, but there wasn't enough organization. Your comment ignores the quick organization it takes to gather the votes in a very short amount of time.

      Furthermore, no one would have tolerated dozens and dozens of amendments: things only went so smoothly because there were so few amendments. There were only so few because intelligent people realized it was best to hedge their bets on a reversion. Otherwise, none of the amendments would have gone anywhere. There simply would have been too many.

  9. Good Evening all

    Glad to see everyone made it home safely from the convention!

    OK on to the issue, Ryan I was up with the 4MI group on the left side in the nose bleed section, I was not happy with the outcome since I thought we had a strong case to substitute the platform and then continuing the process for another 2 years and really come up with a new platform for the future but alas it was not meant to be. I have to say clearly in an unbiased manner I thought John Walsh called it correctly from my hearing the crowd. as did my son and the others around me supporting the amendment. I do think it depanded on where you sat but sitting high up the sound was consistant with the other rullings.

    I spent from 7:30 AM till 9:15 AM handing out 1000 flyers to incoming delegates that I printed from the file sabutai forwarded me. So I don't think anyone can say I was on the other side on this issue. Certainly by the reaction at the door I felt very good going into the vote.

    I will say that many in the hall took a walk before the vote, which I did find disappointing to see, but again from my vantage point above the crowd John Walsh made the correct call. If I had thought John missed it trust me I would have let him and you know right here in no uncertain words.

    I would also like point out since I would like to be a an optimist who sees a half full glass that with the number of amendments and the areas we were able to change on the new platform on balance I think we split the day so I would call that a win considering the short time we had to organize. As a face off of the Activists vs the State Committee who had advance knowledge of the document not to mention the writing of it. I think that goes along way to show everyone just how strong the non state committee activists really are and for that there is true satisfaction.

    Let me also chip in with a compliment to the Chair. John held one of the most open Democratic events I have ever attended in 36 years and I was extremely surprised by the openness of the comments and the process. Trust me we would have been run out of the convention by past chairs and the issues would never be raised over some unheard of rule or a mystery ruling by a back room panel.

    Their was one glaring slip by the Chairman and that was John was to slow on pulling the trigger on Senator Tucker regarding her straying from the instructions she was clearly given on reading not lecturing on the anti slots issue it was a truly childish by a Senator I usually have a great respect for, her attempt to get it her own way was rather chidish and certainly cost her votes in my delegation.

    But on whole the breakouts went extremely well and we have some key points to work with in the platform and we know which we need to simply sharpen our elbows on and work to get back into the Platform. Maybe we should start organizing for 2011. John I will have you a list of Questions by next week thanks!

    So to the Chairman good job but we'll be back!

    Best to all who attended.

    As Usual just my Opinion

    • That is so true....

      Their was one glaring slip by the Chairman and that was John was to slow on pulling the trigger on Senator Tucker regarding her straying from the instructions she was clearly given on reading not lecturing on the anti slots issue it was a truly childish by a Senator I usually have a great respect for, her attempt to get it her own way was rather chidish and certainly cost her votes in my delegation.

      Since no debate was allowed with regard to the resolutions, we only heard one side of the story, the anti-casino side.  I am not impressed or pleased with that process.  The vote was so close that it was roll called. I say it was a solid tie. This resolution should be ignored because of it.  The next time, if a proponent of the resolution is going to give all of the "for" arguments, then an opponent of the resolution should be allowed to rebut.  

    • I mean head count

      and we were not counted. He did a quick visual survey.

    • It's about confidence

      It's very difficult for someone to have their concerns assuaged when they heard things a certain way. I heard, as the video clearly shows, what amounts to a very, very close vote. I wasn't at the front of the room. I can't verify what it sounded like there. There was enough reason to doubt the call that a simple standing count was warranted - why force hundreds of people not in the 'ideal' area to hear to be in doubt? What kind of confidence does that inspire?

      There was a simple resolution to the situation and it unfortunately wasn't resolved. I'm glad there are others who agreed with my stance on the issue who also agreed with the way John called it. That does make me feel a little better. But it doesn't make me feel nearly as well as if I could have visually seen the results. Transparency in a democracy is perhaps the most critical element next to actually letting people vote - in this case, it would have been nice for the metaphorical paper trail.  

  10. Confidence in the process

    A show of hands would have inspired confidence in the process. I was in the middle of the hall. While the no's seemed a bit louder, the actual vote could have been either way due to factors previously mentioned.

    I wish that this amendment had been the last, not the first, to be considered. That way people could have voted on the new platform as amended vs the old platform.

    Who determined the order in which amendments were considered?

  11. Time to Thank John Walsh!

    I was near the front when the questioned vote took place. Although close, it sounded like the nays had it. It was difficult to hear what the crowd was shouting, roll call or just boo. Watching the posted video clip, clearly it sounded different in the back of the hall. A show of hands may have been called for, but it is not clear that it would have made a difference.

    The main controversy in this discussion is process. Having chaired a variety of events, (none of the magnitude of this), I can attest the pressure is enormous and it is rare not to reflect later seeing things you could improve. Having said that, John did a magnificent job!

    This was the most open and inviting platform process ever.  John ensured that every Democrat had participation equal to his own.  This is not easy to accomplish and took a tremendous amount of effort and care. John and Stacey sat down with us and went over the process, to make sure everyone had a fair hearing of their amendment. Every step of the way they went beyond what they were required to do. Has there been a previous convention with so many amendments and resolutions being heard, debated, and passed?

    These amendments passed or failed on their merits. This would not have happened without the leadership of John Walsh!  

    • I agree he did do a great job

      after the first vote on the platform. I am very impressed with how clear he was to articulate the process, what a yes or no vote meant for each amendment presented.  The debates on the amendments were concise and informative. It was amazing.  I would argue though that the resolutions were presented, they were not debated.  I question the call on the slot machine resolution.

  12. *shrugs*

    I still think it's funny that the vote at the convention with the greatest potential impact on the party was processed the quickest.  From where I was sitting, the nos had it.  Then again, from where I was sitting, the nos clearly had it on the slot-machine resolution that was judged to have passed.

    I guess the nos won, but we will never -- never -- know.  Different people saw/heard different things, and John would later say how easy it was for a "no" group to be overheard at the fathers' rights amendment.

    This is where doubt is created.  There are many, many ways to erase doubt, with a hand count the quickest, cheapest, and easiest.  The fact that none of the ways to erase doubt was even considered only causes it to fester.

    This was the fulcrum point of the convention and it was dealt with as an annoyance.

    sabutai   @   Tue 4 Dec 7:00 PM
  13. Hey How about an new Amendment

    How about a Charter change that contains a clear set of procedures for amending the Platform in the future one that calls for the showing of hands for all votes followed by a standing vote followed by the ability to call for a roll call.

    It maybe worth the debate and the effort to avoid this in the future and here again make the system open and available for all parties. This would reduce the need for time lag in legal rulings.

    As Usual Just my Opinion but I would be willing to work on this to help strengthen our party system.  

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