Call to the NPC for a Democratic Election

- Caucus Statement

The National Convention of the Democratic Socialists of America, where we will be deciding on the membership’s proposals and electing the new National Political Committee is just a few weeks away. We have recently received yet another last-minute surprise, which was only brought to the attention of the membership through Steering Committee member Zac Echola’s choice to whistleblow.[1]

Last week, the Election Subcommittee of the Convention Committee presented two options for election systems for the NPC election: Single Transferable Vote, and Opavote’s Borda Count method. No decision was made, so the topic was passed over to the Steering Committee call on the evening of July 24th. This call was not announced to the NPC and amounted to a secret meeting. Echola explains in a post to the DSA National Discussion Board:

“...Steering Committee member Jeremy Gong argued strongly against the STV [Single Transferable Vote] option, claiming that the script was bespoke and “untested” (despite knowing it had been tested against NYC election results, and was under “line by line” staff review). Instead of arguing for option two, he argued for his own bespoke, and actually untested system that would be written less than a week and a half before convention. His argument was that this would be “simple” to write and that ‘even he could do it.”’

The Steering Committee then decided to use this third unvetted option, which is a variant of the Borda system, ignoring the work of the Elections Committee and choosing an option that alternative voting systems advocacy organization FairVote has described as “...most suitable for elections by impartial judges, rather than voters with a stake in the outcome.” This is concerning enough without the additional fact that the majority of the Steering Committee are candidates in the NPC election, giving them an obvious conflict of interest.

The choice of a Borda variant voting system is also alarming. Echola describes the problem as follows:

“Both Borda and STV are ranked voting, but they differ in how votes are counted. This can lead to significantly different results. STV is much, much better, and is a proportional voting system by design. Borda is not. In fact, OpaVote specifically recommends against using it for board elections. We already know that members of DSA do not trust Borda count. The issue of using Borda has come up in a very public credentials challenge against EBDSA [East Bay DSA] leadership, of which Jeremy Gong is also a member. To insist on this method in the face of that (as of yet not credibly answered) criticism is not only foolish, it’s disrespectful and unprincipled.”

Both the process and results of the Steering Committee meeting on July 24th raise a number of alarming questions:

  1. Why is a 5 person body which is not directly elected by membership responsible for deciding how an election should be run mere weeks before the convention?
  2. Why was the Steering Committee meeting held in secret, and why were they allowed to do this?
  3. How is it that the Steering Committee asked the Elections Committee to research and present options for the NPC election, only to reject both choices given and choose a third unknown option?
  4. Why did the Steering Committee choose an option which is widely considered a less democratic and more easily abused voting system?

Borda is particularly unsuitable for this kind of election—it works best in situations where the number of voters and the number of options are roughly equal, whereas in our case the 1056 voters far outnumber the choices on the ballot. Its proportionality can also be called into question, and it has a known tendency toward selecting entire factions. According to Jean-Charles de Borda himself, “[m]y scheme is intended for only honest men”, and while we can expect most delegates to vote their conscience, even the appearance of impropriety could seriously damage the integrity of our organization’s democracy and any amount of gaming at all will result in an NPC which in no way represents the will of the whole convention. Unlike the Borda voting system, the Single Transferable Vote system would make the NPC proportionally represent the various points of view in the organization.

Therefore, for the reasons stated above, the Libertarian Socialist Caucus of the Democratic Socialists of America echoes Zac Echola’s call for the full National Political Committee of the DSA to review the memos produced by the election committee and overturn this undemocratic and factional decision. Further, the LSC calls upon the NPC to reject the use of the unreliable Borda system and instead choose the Single Transferable Vote method presented to them by the Elections Committee. If the NPC chooses not to do this, we call upon all delegates to vote down any set of rules which includes the Borda system.

[1]Due to a clerical error, this statement was posted July 30th, though it was written and passed by the Caucus on July 26. We apologize for the error. -DSA-LSC Website Team