By: Christopher Shepard
The Alabama Democratic Party has featured much dissension in the past year. Results of an election in August 2018 (in which Nancy Worley and Randy Kelley retained their seats as chair and vice chair, respectively) were challenged for failure of the party to comply with orders from the Democratic National Committee. Eventual bylaws were passed and rejected by the DNC. As a result, the DNC took credentials from Worley and Kelley and began withholding payments to the Alabama Democratic Party, marking the first time the DNC has withheld payments from a state party.
In September of 2019, a subcommittee of the DNC approved new bylaws for Alabama and ordered new elections to prevent risking state representation at the next Democratic National Convention. These bylaws were aimed at improving representation for minority groups besides African Americans. Worley responded by opposing the bylaws and stating that this was an effort to take the authority of black members of the State Democratic Executive Committee (SDEC) to elect committee members. She later wrote, “I don’t think Alabama Democrats want the DNC setting policies and procedures for Alabama to live by.”
The previous bylaws allowed Joe Reed, the vice-chair of minority affairs of the Alabama Democratic Party, the ability to choose, without any oversight, members for the SDEC to reflect the presence of African Americans in the Alabama electorate. This allowed him to hold off an effort to replace Worley in 2018. The new bylaws would create caucuses for Hispanics, Asian-Americans, Native Americans, the youth, LGBTQ individuals and those with disabilities. Each new caucus would nominate members to the SDEC, with a nominee being able to be rejected only by a two-thirds vote of the full SDEC. These policy changes are a part of the broader “Fix the Party” campaign by United States Senator Doug Jones.
Worley has publicly called these bylaws and the proceedings which led to them being passed illegitimate. Her grounds were that since the meeting was not called by her, it had no authority to conduct business. She scheduled a meeting for October 12. The current bylaws, however, state that a majority of its members can call a meeting. Worley also stated that there was no ten day notice, which is required for the SDEC’s organizational meeting that happens after each gubernatorial primary. Reed also urged members to not attend the meeting, saying it was a “fake” meeting.
The inability of the Alabama Democratic Party to hash out its issues will have large consequences for Alabama voters. Without participation in the National Convention or adequate funding for statewide elections, many Alabama voters will be hampered in their ability to participate in primary voting. This is of heightened importance considering the upcoming presidential election and high number of candidates running this cycle. The party’s failure to approve new bylaws would jeopardize the ability of the party to approve its delegate selection plan by the November 8 deadline. Without an immediate resolution, Alabama voters will have no recourse to have a new election or effectively participate in presidential primary voting.