2020 election

Alabama Democrats Face Saturday Deadline for new Bylaws and Party Elections

A painted donkey statue, one of many that decorated the streets of Philadelphia during the 2016 Democratic National Convention (Source: 7beachbum,flickr)

Saturday is deadline day for the Alabama Democratic Party.

The Democratic National Committee ordered the state party to adopt new bylaws and hold new leadership elections by August 17th after national leaders rejected proposed bylaws last month. The dispute stemmed from a complaint after party elections last year which revealed the state bylaws were not aligned with those at the national level. At issue is representation for minority groups beyond African-Americans. The national party wants Alabama Democrats to make provisions to include Latino, Asian-American and LGBTQ members, among others, in party leadership.

Many political observers say state Democrats will blow through the Saturday deadline. So then what?

“I feel like they will sanction and Alabama decertify the chair of the party, Nancy Worley, and Randy Kelley, who is the vice chair, as DNC members,” Jim Spearman says. He’s a former executive director of the Alabama Democratic Party and current member of the state executive committee.

Spearman says that doesn’t mean Alabama would lose representation at the national level. There are other members from Alabama on the DNC. But he says if the state party is sanctioned, it’s unknown what would come after that.

“This happened in Georgia year ago and they basically came in and they worked with them and worked with them and nothing ever happened,” Spearman says. “So they just wiped out the whole sitting committee of officers and started over. That’s one option.”

Spearman says the possibility of ordering new leadership elections does not mean a takeover. Rather the national party can “correct” the state party when it’s out of compliance. Democrats in Alabama have struggled statewide in recent elections. Spearman says the current party struggles hampers the ability of members to make progress on that front.

“This is a leadership fight, kind of sausage-making actually,” Spearman says. “You just don’t want to see it sometimes, but it happens.”

Spearman says this dispute could have wider implications if it drags on. The party is up against a deadline on delegate selection plans for next year’s party convention. “If we can’t have bylaws and plans to get on the ballot, there is good questions of whether we can have presidential candidates in the state,” Spearman says.

The DNC is expected to take up the bylaw issue at its summer meeting next week in San Francisco.