Local news channels brought reporters, freelance journalists wrote reports, the Associated Press published a couple of sentences they found relevant. Something happened. Something out of character for Republican conventions, with an outcome yet to be finally determined, but most of the news channels and outlets ignored much of what took place. What exactly happened on 12 May, 2012 in Norman, Oklahoma at the Embassy Suites Hotel? Were Ron Paul supporters there to cause trouble and stir up strife? Was a Mitt Romney power play in effect? Did fights break out as children within the walls of the convention hall? I will give my recount of the events that took place, and I shall conclude with a conclusion.
Good Morning, Welcome All
6:40 AM – I arrived on scene at Embassy Suites Hotel to assist in registration for the 2012 Oklahoma State GOP Convention. Registration began the day before, but most people came on the morning of the convention where from 7:00 – 9:00 the doors were open for all delegates to check in. When I made it behind the table, there were a small number of volunteers (about 20 or so) getting ready to start checking people in and issuing credentials (badges worn on a lanyard to identify delegates and distinguish them from guests).
With a cup of Starbucks coffee to aid me, I took the helm of one of the computers and checked people in one-by-one for the next 2 hours. Some controversy came later of this so I will mention it now: the process to check someone in was very simple. I am good with computers, but it was not difficult at all. There were radio buttons (only one option is selectable at a time) to indicate whether a delegate or guest had paid or signed up for any of the several events of the day. It was not necessary to register online, though most of the people I encountered, probably 90% or more, did at least pre-register online. If someone’s name was not found by search on the computer, it was possible to determine whether that person was a delegate based on whether or not there was a credential badge printed and on our tables. I do remember one or two people who were listed as “Guest” on my computer screen which I had to change to “Delegate” because we found they had a badge and determined they were legitimate delegates. No one listed as a delegate said they were supposed to be a guest.
In regards to later controversy, let me state that many of the volunteers, whose help is certainly appreciated no doubt, were not quite as comfortable on the computer interfaces. I noticed the person whom I replaced trying to use the down-arrow on the keyboard to scroll down on the page. In order to do that, in computer terms the “focus” must be off any other “objects” on the page. One such object was a drop-down menu which indicated “Guest,” “Delegate,” or not specified yet (I think it might have said “Choose one” or something). If a volunteer happened to use the up or down buttons without navigating to a different object or clicking the background of the page, it is very possible the status of that highly important field could have been changed. It is possible this could account for every single discrepancy in the delegate count. Keep that in mind as you read on.
9:02 AM – Doors closed. I was instructed to close them promptly at 9, and for good reason. The registration schedule was given more than a month prior to the convention and rules are rules. I will refrain from venting at this time about the consistency of the desire of the convention leadership to enforce all rules with equal priority. That is for a later post (coming soon!).
Please Take Your Seats
Exact times won’t be given very much from this time on, mostly because I don’t remember the exact times unless I compare it with a picture I might have taken at the same time. The convention started off with a few special speakers, notably Senator Jim Inhofe (in the video above), Jimmy McMillan, better known as The Rent is Too Damn High guy. He informed us that Saturday morning that also the deficit “is too damn high.” He got lots of applause and some laughter, but I would like to also inform you that he (sort of) tried to run as a Democrat in 2010. Here is my source. The actual petition is available on that page as well. I just find it interesting that he was asked to speak at a Republican convention. It was still funny, though.
As the morning went on, business, of course, had to begin. The first order of business at any convention of this sort is the approval of the credentials report. Forgive me if I do not articulate everything with 100% accuracy, but I will do my best as I do have some basic knowledge of Robert’s Rules of Order. This report is basically a report of all those who actually checked in and were registered delegates to the convention according to all applicable rules. Someone brought up around this time that there were 22 (correct me if that is the wrong number) extra delegates that had not been checked in on the computer system but did physically show up in time for registration. The credentials report was at that time approved with an amendment stating those 22 would be added by a majority vote of the convention. At the time this did not seem to be a problem, but very soon it became the most time-consuming issue of the whole convention.
Later, when a roll call vote took place, it turned out that 83 or 84 more people voted than the total number of credentialed delegates were present. You don’t have to understand the Rules of Order to know that isn’t right. Pam Pollard, the state vice-chair of the party, came to the mic to explain what was going on. Well, she attempted to explain; I am still not entirely clear what she meant or what actually happened. She stated that when the credentials report was revised that the numbers just didn’t get typed in correctly in the Excel spreadsheet. The re-typing was shown live on 3 giant projector screens in the convention hall, so again, I’m not sure how that happened or exactly what happened. The typing was done again, but the numbers still didn’t add up. More than 40 extra votes showed in Oklahoma County alone.
Why is this significant? Not all votes on the convention floor count for exactly 1 vote. If, for example, your county had 50 registered delegates appointed to the state convention, but only 25 of them showed up, those 25 votes in that county would be worth 2 each. However, if everyone showed up in another county of, say 30 delegates, those 30 would be worth 1 a piece. Thus, the 25 from the former county would have more of a voice than the 30 of the latter. It is important to ensure that an accurate vote takes place. In some instances party and/or convention rules specifically call for a roll call vote so as to account for the weighted vote situation.
To summarize, it was after 2:00 PM before we thought we had the numbers right. Ballots were re-counted (I think), counties were re-counted, computers were checked, and a huge delay occurred. To be fair and impartial, I do not believe this was any one person’s fault or a plot by any group of people. To report what happened, I must note that an almost identical paradox took place at the county and congressional district meetings I attended prior to the state convention. As a relatively new participant in this process, it seemed to me like this was the first time there had ever been conventions. It was as if the party leadership didn’t have a clue how to count people and determine if they were supposed to be there. That is my opinion, and I would like to note it as such since I am attempting to be impartial in this report.
Lunch was supposed to take place at 1:00-2:00 PM. It was around 2:30 before we dismissed for lunch. Matt Pinnell called for a 30 minute break and informed the convention that there were restaurants in the area. A friend of mine was very gracious and offered me a protein bar. Richard Engle, a candidate for National Committeeman, offered food and drinks to anyone for free in his “hospitality suite” on the 2nd floor of the hotel. This was also open the previous night and earlier that morning to anyone who wished to come in. It was one way in which he campaigned for the position he sought.
Entropy is a law of thermodynamics which refers to the idea that everything tends toward disorder. Entropy was in full effect on Saturday, 12 May at the GOP State Convention. I stated in the previous section that a roll call vote (by ballot handed out to the delegates) took place. The ballots were identified with numbers this time. At the 5th congressional district meeting, where 3 delegates, 3 alternates, one elector, and one alternate elector were selected to go to the national convention in Florida later this year, the ballots were indicated with the following sequence of letters: “OKGOP“. Let me ask you a question. How many times do you see the letter “O”? Can you imagine that could cause a problem when ensuring the validity of votes is an issue? Can you guess which letter got used at that convention? Again, the impression to me was the thought, “Have these people never had a convention before?” I’ll bring this up in a later post where I will state my opinions more directly about the process. Let that information serve to indicate that not everything was in order.
The business of the convention started with a temporary chairman who was later elected permanent chair of the convention by a voice vote.
Ballot 11 was used to vote on a motion. Unless I remember incorrectly, the motion was to have a vote on a slate of delegates supplied by a group (not an official caucus) from the ground floor as opposed to a yes/no vote on the slate of delegates chosen by executive committee. Typically, a yes/no vote on the executive slate is taken. If the slate is voted down, then nominations can take place from the floor. The motion in question would have changed the process to make it a “Slate A” vs. “Slate B” vote instead. The motion did not pass by roll call when the percentages were reported. This did, however, reveal that the number of delegates in the counties and their corresponding weight/value was also not correct. This could potentially change the direction of the vote. At this time, somehow it was determined that 83 or 84 more votes were cast than actual delegates had been counted in the spreadsheet. Someone (I think the chair or Pam Pollard) stated that if the “yeas” outweighed the “nays” by more than the number of votes in dispute, we could go ahead and certify the vote then take a lunch break while the numbers were fixed. And when I say fixed there is no pun intended. At least not in this post!
Mathematically the 83-vote margin of error is not accurate, but either way it would be close and that was agreed upon by the convention. Eventually we dismissed for lunch which I described earlier. We re-convened at around 3 PM or a few minutes after.
The remainder of the convention could be characterized more accurately by the word chaos than order. I do not remember if the executive slate of delegates was voted on before or after lunch, but it was voted on by voice vote or standing vote, I think. I could be wrong on that, and feel free to correct me – I will revise if necessary.
The next order of business was to elect a National Committeeman, National Committeewoman, and one other position which escapes me at this time. The Committeewoman was running unopposed, and according to the official rules of the convention since she was unopposed she could be elected by voice vote. However, any candidate running with opposition may not be elected by voice vote, in accordance with the same rules. If you would like to see it for yourself, follow the link and look in Section V.A. There were two (2) men running for National Committeeman, a party official position. They were both given 5 minutes to have nomination speeches by their self and their supporters. This took place. A roll call vote took place to decide between the two. I thought I remembered the results being 51-52% and some change for Steve Fair, and 48-49% and some change for Richard Engle. Boy, that’s close. But when the voting was done, it was done and the convention went on. Nobody caused problems at that point. BUT THEN – a man named Leonard Sullivan (recognized as such by the chair) made a motion to make that vote “unanimous.” Now I don’t have enough understanding to know what was significant about that, but I watched him from a few rows behind stand up like it was scripted and he had been waiting all day to do this (I know, I know, that’s opinion and speculation). The chair called for seconds. W-wait, second a motion to make a 52-49% vote unanimous? What in the world does that even mean? How can you vote to make something other than what it is? That’s like voting that a spade is a diamond. As far as I’m concerned it doesn’t matter how much of a majority vote you get on that, a spade is still a spade.
Another vote took place for National Committeewoman, which actually was unanimous. Some other votes took place which occurred without much or any dispute except some light debate over a platform amendment, but then
The convention chair mentioned a dispute that was originally scheduled to be addressed by the convention would have to be taken care of by the state committee because it was so late in the day (almost 5:00 PM). A delegate rose to the microphone to state a point of order. The point was that a party rule stated the issue had to be addressed by the convention and not a later committee. During this discussion, (presumably) the hotel staff began to roll out partitions to block off a portion of the room. Tulsa County, the second largest county delegation in attendance, was cut off from view and hearing of the podium along with almost all others in that section. It was going to be used later for a prom or dance or something, and even though the meeting was still going on, they went ahead and started clearing the room. The chairman ruled that the issue would be handled by state committee.
The delegate appealed the ruling of the chairman, which was seconded immediately by another delegate. The chairman called for a voice vote. Video evidence indicates either that the convention didn’t really know exactly what was going on (not many voices on either side were heard, and they were not as loud as previous voice votes. View around minute 26 in the linked video for a better understanding). The chairman declared that the “no’s” had it and proceeded to give a closing comment. A delegate called a point of order and began to explain that not all of the day’s business had taken place, but was interrupted by Matt Pinnell, the state chairman, who called for a motion to adjourn. The chairman reiterated that there was a point of order, and the delegate continued. Matt Pinnell interrupted again and then called for a second to the motion to adjourn. Shouting went back and forth. The delegate stated again, “This convention’s business is not done.”
At this point many people were already leaving, as can also be seen in the video. The chair called for a voice vote on the motion to adjourn. It was unclear. With half of what was left of the room standing already, and a third of it cut off from view, he then called for a standing vote. If I understand the rules correctly, this vote requires a 2/3 majority, if not at least a simple majority to pass. With a third of the room cut off, it would be impossible to establish a 2/3 majority on anything, and realistically impossible to establish even a simple majority. At this point, the chair took a standing vote to adjourn and declared (or was it deemed?) the convention adjourned, and then –
The lights were cut off. People went nuts (that’s a metaphorical term), and someone else rose to the microphone after the podium was vacated. This person said something to the effect that the meeting was not properly adjourned, and since the lights had been cut and we were apparently supposed to vacate, the convention would be held in the parking lot to finish the business of the day.
I will write about this next, but it needs an article of its own, for it went on until 9:30 that night. My conclusion will be at the end of that article. REVISION: My conclusion with opinions will now have to go to a 3rd article.SHARE