Monday, January 28, 2013

HB 2208: Party Conventions Outlawed?

Virginia House Bill 2208 is a really strange one, but I'm told there are some strange ones before the Legislature this year...maybe because citizens are using the Internet to participate in the process. On the surface of it, HB 2208 looks perfectly reasonable to me.

http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?131+ful+HB2208

So does its counterpart, Senate Bill 1260:

http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?131+ful+SB1260

Here are the controversial words:

"No political party, through its duly constituted authorities, shall determine that its candidates for statewide or General Assembly district office shall be nominated by a method that will have the practical effect of excluding participation in the nominating process by otherwise eligible active duty military personnel, including military reservists and Virginia National Guard personnel, or by individuals unable to attend meetings because of injuries suffered in military service, regardless of the duty station or location of such personnel or individuals."

How bad is that? Well...Carol Stopps warns that, if enacted in their current forms, these bills would effectively outlaw traditional political party conventions.

I'm still not sure for how long, or what the ramifications of this bill might be. A political party that can afford, or justify, renting a convention space undoubtedly has members who have free cell phone minutes and could allow military personnel to participate via live chat, so how many conventions could this bill even slow down? Or is the idea that, in order to allow military personnel to participate in political party conventions via live chat, somebody out there will have to be authorized to run background checks on everyone who wants to use live chat, and the real target of this bill is anonymous access to the Internet?

I can see how these bills could be fixed. "Eligible" military personnel could be defined as military personnel who had arranged in advance, either (a) to get leave to participate in a convention, or (b) to have a proxy who could confirm their identities read their nominations and recommendations.

Seriously, for those who've not heard of proxy voting before, my local telephone co-op has been using the system regularly for years. If you want to attend a board meeting and can't, you designate a relative to attend and vote in your place. This person is your proxy. Proxies can be instructed how to vote in advance, or can check in via cell phone at the last minute.

Proxy voting, as it might be done by family members, would ensure our troops the right to participate fully in the convention process even if they were in combat during a convention. It's legal, ethical, effective, and even traditional. Write it into these bills, and they'll be just fine.

Without writing in something about proxy voting, however, these bills could be ruled unconstitutional.