Update: An earlier version of this story did not specify who took the photographs of the vote tallies at the end of the public counting. Christopher Barroso has confirmed that only Richard Duquette took the photographs and the story has been updated to reflect this point.
Update 2: On Tuesday night, the election for Vice-Chair of the San Diego County Democratic Party Central Committee’s North Area Caucus was held. Convener Richard Duquette was running as a candidate but was defeated by Melissa Vasquez 40 to 6. These results have been added to the article below.
This past weekend, Democrats across the state of California held elections, as they do every two years, to choose 7 women and 7 men from each Assembly District as State Delegates. These delegates will be the ones voting for the California state democratic leadership and, because of that, progressives seeking to shift the party to be more inclusive and issue-oriented are aggressively digging in. Adems2017.vote outlines the major duties of elected state delegates:
Delegates elect Party officers, endorse candidates for statewide, legislative and congressional office, attend the annual convention, network with other Democrats, represent your constituency, promote the California Democratic Party agenda, and vote to endorse resolutions and ballot measures.
From all early indications it looks as though progressive candidates have done very well (official results are due out Friday):
— RoseAnn DeMoro (@RoseAnnDeMoro) January 8, 2017
California, because of its large population, will also have a larger share of delegates able to vote for national DNC leadership as well. A good progressive showing in California, due to its size could very feasibly affect the national party. Thus, the local delegates elected this past weekend could be the earthquake that creates the tsunami that rises up and smashes the democratic establishment.
On Saturday, January 7, 2017, Democrats met in San Diego Assembly District 76 for an Assembly District Election Meeting (ADEM) to elect Assembly District Delegates (ADDs). While normally a routine process, the meeting on Saturday raised several concerns.
One of the first issues that voters in AD76 ran into was difficulty voting. Speeches were supposed to start at 11:30 A.M. and then voting would follow at 12:00 P.M., but the meeting started off late and some people left without voting due to other obligations. According to one voter, her husband asked if he could vote at noon because he had work, but was told the meeting had to follow the “30-minute rule” and so he was not allowed to vote. He left without voting.
One of the volunteers, Ruben Major, received permission to recruit extra volunteers to help with the large turnout and he did so. However, another official later overruled this permission and the extra volunteers were sent home. Ruben told Progressive Army that he had tried to implement a handful of changes to make the process more efficient, but was turned down each time by Convener Richard Duquette.
Additionally, as the turnout in AD76 was higher than expected, there was a shortage of ballots. Eventually, more were made, but in the meantime, people were left waiting in the sun to vote (see featured image from twitter). As a result, more people left without voting.
According to Article VI, Section 1. f. of the By-Laws & Rules Of The California Democratic Party issued in December 2016:
“f. A registration fee for all voting participants, for the purpose of defraying the cost of the Election Meeting, shall be collected. Such fee shall not exceed five dollars ($5.00). The registration fee shall be waived for those participants who claim economic hardship.”
Additionally, according to the Procedures for Assembly District Election Meetings for this year, “A person may participate in the ADEM if he/she… Pays a $5 fee to defray the cost of the ADEM or indicates on a form that to pay the fee would constitute an economic hardship.”
Although this registration fee was made known before the event, many were not aware. There was much outrage about the expectation to contribute $5 in order to vote, although Mr. Duquette made it known that “GENUINE hardship requests will be considered on an individual basis.” Those who were unable to pay the $5 were asked to step out of line in order to have their inability to pay “verified.” Then, they would be allowed to not pay the $5 and still vote. This flyer was handed out at the meeting to explain the situation.
In a comment on Facebook posted before the meeting to clarify the $5 fee, Duquette stated:
As you can see from the flyer, the Democratic Party doesn’t take money from certain big corporations and is requesting a mere $5 to help w its grass roots program. Andrea, I hope that answers it for you. I dint [sic] make the rules, but essentially there is overhead. I’m contributing $200 out of my pocket to assist us all have an enjoyable event, for food, coffee etc.
While the language in the by-laws and procedures about the $5 fee is ambiguous, other ADs presented the fee as voluntary. However, Mr. Duquette made it seem mandatory and told voters that they needed to prove economic hardship in order to have the fee request waived and be able to vote (you can see the video of this here). This is what caused the outrage about the fee.
The area of most concern, however, is what happened at the very end of the meeting, when it came to counting and tallying the votes. By several estimations, there were over 300 ballots cast and there were only three people counting the votes: a witness, the convener’s wife, and volunteer Ruben Major. The proper processes do not seem to have been followed for counting the ballots.
According to the Procedures, the results of the election should be announced before the meeting is adjourned. Furthermore, “Immediately following the adjournment of the ADEM, the
Convener shall provide to the California Democratic Party – Sacramento office:” the Affidavit of Voting Results; the actual ballots, provisional ballots, and affidavits; and copies of the sign-in sheets.
Instead, Mr. Duquette abruptly declared at 8:30 P.M. that the results would not be announced until Monday. At this point, the ballots had already been counted and all that remained to be done was to total the tallies and announce the results. Instead, Mr. Duquette took the boxes with the ballots and left with them, escorted by the policemen that he called (you can see the video here).
Before leaving with the ballots, Mr. Duquette asked his wife and Mr. Major to sign off on the vote tallies. When Mr. Major refused, Mr. Duquette had Region 18 Director Phil Hannemann sign instead. Mr. Major explained in a statement:
I questioned why we couldn’t finish count the votes right there and then. I was interrupted and repeatedly told to just sign a document containing the just the tallies — (in other words, sticks (||||)) for the candidates which someone could easily modify later; I was asked to verify a document with NO NUMERICAL TOTALS!
Totaling the tallies would have been simple, many of those present say, and would have given everyone the “unofficial” results. This was what was done in many other ADs throughout CA over the weekend and pictures were shown to Mr. Duquette that showed the other AD results. However, he did not budge and he told those protesting his actions that they were authorized via phone call.
Before we packed up at 9 pm on Saturday night, with CA DEM supervisor Emma Harpers [sic] Approval, The ballot tally sheets were initialed by 3-4 observer/counters, dated and digitally photographed.
This insured [sic] the integrity of the results by preserving a record of the initial tally which corresponds to the final count.(No votes could be or were added.)
Ms. Emma Harper, my supervisor, from the Democratic Party was very complementary [sic] as to how the election was handled by our team.
On Monday, January 9, at 12:00 P.M. PST, the results of the AD76 ADEM election were released:
According to this list of CA Progressive Democrats in AD76, the results are nearly a clean sweep for Progressive Democrats, with 14/15 elected.
Mr. Duquette was the one to announce the results and, as you can probably guess, he faced many questions from the delegates and others present (you can see the video of the results announcement here).
During the questioning, he claimed that photos were taken of the tally during the public counting on Saturday night. This claim has been verified by Delegate Christopher Barroso, who confirmed that only Mr. Duquette took the photographs, which were not released to anyone, and no one else was allowed to take any pictures.
Mr. Duquette also stated that he will be signing the affidavit and sending it to the CA Democratic Party and that anyone interested can ask the Party to see the affidavit. He would not, however, say who witnessed the final counting and tallying on Sunday. Nor would he address any questions about Mr. Major’s role in the initial count.
Mr. Duquette’s Run for North Area Vice-Chair
Richard Duquette is also running for North Area Vice-Chair of the San Diego County Democratic Party. That election will take place on Tuesday, January 10, and those who witnessed the events of AD76 and were unpleased will be letting their displeasure show. They plan to show up to the event at 5:30 P.M. and talk, demonstrate and hold signs. The only people allowed to vote are caucus members and the demonstrators are hoping to sway caucus members’ votes. Sources tell us that Phil Hannemann withdrew his endorsement of Mr. Duquette on Monday.
Tuesday night, the election for Vice-Chair of the San Diego County Democratic Party Central Committee’s North Area Caucus was held. Mr. Duquette, upon his arrival, was greeted with vocal dissenters, who also held signs up during the meeting. Melissa Vasquez ultimately defeated Richard Duquette (40 to 6). Marggie Castellano was at the caucus and covered it while it was happening.
For readers who are interested, we have compiled statements from various individuals who were at the AD76 meeting on Saturday. You can find these statements below.
Richard Duquette did not respond to requests for comment.
The public statement from Delegate Chris Barroso was posted on his facebook page.
The public statement from Ruben Major was posted to his website.
Delegate Cori Schumacher posted a public statement on Facebook.
Delegate Kyle Thayer sent the following to Emma Harper:
Delegate Linda Hendrickson Breen gave the following response when asked for a comment:
Here is the link to her public Facebook statement.
Delegate Terra Lawson-Remer issued the following comment:
Delegate Marggie Castellano forwarded Progressive Army an email she sent to Emma Harper: