Wednesday, August 01, 2018

The Libertarian Party's "Constitutional Crisis": A Way Forward

Over at Independent Political Report, Caryn Ann Harlos describes a "parliamentary Gordian Knot" emerging from the Libertarian Party's 2018 national convention. Short version:

The convention adjourned after a first round of balloting to elect the party's new Judicial Committee. The election was held by a form of modified approval voting: Vote for as many of the candidates as you like (there were a bunch, including me), the top seven are elected so long as they receive votes from a majority of delegates.

None of the top seven vote recipients got such a majority, but no further balloting could be done, as the convention had adjourned by the time the first-round ballots were counted. And since the former Judicial Committee was dissolved as of the convention's adjournment, there is now no "appeals court" for actions of the Libertarian National Committee.

As Caryn Ann points out, the LNC has no authority, nor should it have any authority, regarding the composition of the body which judges its actions on appeal. She has suggested a mail ballot of the delegates as a way past this situation. I don't oppose that, but this is my proposal:

The top seven vote recipients should constitute themselves organizationally -- that is, elect a chair and establish their Rules of Appellate Procedure -- and simply begin functioning as the Judicial Committee.

No, they shouldn't ask the LNC for permission, nor should they take cognizance of any attempts by the LNC to dictate their composition, etc. The only authority the LNC has with regard to the Judicial Committee is to deny any proposed changes to those aforementioned Rules of Appellate Procedure after their publication.

Yes, what I am proposing is in violation of the bylaws. But the bylaws have already been violated ("The Judicial Committee shall be composed of seven Party members elected at each Regular
Convention" -- that election was interrupted and not completed), so the question is not "how do we avoid violating the bylaws?" but rather "how do we proceed with minimal further violation of the bylaws?"

Leaving any decisions on this in the hands of the LNC would clearly take the whole matter entirely outside the scope of the bylaws.

Continuing the election by means of mail ballot would be acceptable (contra the claims of some, there is bylaws language recognizing a continuing role/power on the part of delegates after adjournment), but I'm not sure it would be practical, as we could go several more rounds and might not even be done by the next convention, and there's not an established procedure or rule in place to do it.

At the moment, the top seven vote-getters possess the closest thing to a delegate mandate that exists vis a vis the composition of the Judicial Committee. They should act per that semi-mandate because it's better than no mandate at all, which is what the LNC has.

If there are no appeals to the Judicial Committee between now and the next election (and the LP once went for 30 years without any such appeals), the whole matter stands more or less moot.

If there are appeals to the Judicial Committee between now and the next election, there needs to be a committee to hear those appeals ... and the longer the top seven vote-getters wait to announce themselves as that committee, the more time the LNC has to ponder meddling in the matter, making any "constitutional crisis" problems worse than they have to be.

Cut that Gordian Knot, Top Seven.

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