Big changes are coming for the Alabama Democratic Party.
On Friday, after months of haggling, the Rules Committee of the Democratic National Committee voted to approve a plan that should significantly alter the way minority candidates are selected, limiting the power of the ADP’s minority caucus chairman Joe Reed. The plan details were laid out in a letter that went out to several party leaders, a copy of which was obtained by APR.
“We hope this is the first step in the right direction,” said attorney Richard Rouco, who represents several of the parties who filed challenges to ADP’s most recent party elections. “We’re not there yet, and there are still several issues pending, but we believe the DNC is working towards a solution that will lead to a stronger Alabama Democratic Party.”
The DNC’s investigation into the way the ADP operates began after several people filed challenges to last year’s party elections, in which Worley narrowly won re-election. The challenges filed included allegations that national party bylaws weren’t being followed and that improper votes were cast. The DNC’s Rules Committee found several of those allegations had merit and ordered new elections. It also demanded that ADP leadership start work to address many of the bylaws deficiencies.
The primary issue with the ADP bylaws concerned the manner in which at-large minority members were selected. The State Democratic Executive Committee — the body which votes to elect party leadership — is required to be comprised of a membership that accurately reflects the racial makeup of the state. The DNC’s bylaws state that minority members include a wide variety of groups, including LGBTQ people, youth, Hispanics and Asians. The ADP’s selection of minority members usually began and ended with African-Americans.
That process provided Reed with tremendous control of the party. Instead of conducting the mandatory outreach that other state parties require, Reed would simply show up at the SDEC meetings and hand pick at-large members. The ability to select 30-plus at-large members, as he has done at the last several meetings, gave Reed basic control of the party.
And over the last several years, Reed’s power within the ADP has been heavily criticized by those who watched the party become increasingly irrelevant under the leadership of chairwoman Nancy Worley. Despite several attempts to unseat her, Worley has been able to hold her position thanks to Reed.
Following Friday’s ruling from the DNC, however, those days are likely over, thanks to two big changes.
The first concerns the way the minority caucus will select its members. Instead of Reed handpicking and appointing members to the SDEC, the minority caucus will now nominate potential at-large members. Those nominees will have to be approved by the full SDEC before they become full voting members.
The second, and perhaps biggest, change concerns the definition of “minority” members. Moving forward, a new Diversity Caucus will handle the appointment of all at-large minority members, except African-American members who don’t fall into the “youth” category.
All other minority members will be nominated by the new caucus, and with a focus on youth, its numbers will likely far exceed the members selected by the old Minority Caucus.
“This brings the party more in line with how it was supposed to be operating all along,” Rouco said. “The ADP operated differently than any other state party. This change should address the inclusiveness that has been absent.”
The new rules will be in place prior to the new elections for ADP’s leadership. The date for those elections has not yet been set and is likely at least a month away.