A Warning Against the Dangers of a Demographics Driven Democracy

Our nation was founded upon the principle of self-government through free and fair elections. Though we didn’t have it all figured out at the start, we’ve certainly made some significant improvements. We now directly elect our U.S. Senators thanks to the Seventeenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Admittedly we still have some work to do since the Electoral College prevents us from directly electing the President of the United States. The general trend of history has nevertheless been towards greater inclusion of voters from various backgrounds in the electoral process. Today citizens of all genders, religions, income levels, ethnicities, and backgrounds can vote for whichever candidate best represents them.

The Maryland Democratic Party has unfortunately implemented rules that are contrary to our foundational ideals and represent a regression to a less inclusive time in our democracy. Taken to its logical conclusion, the Maryland Democratic Party’s new gender balance rules would impose additional restrictions on voters, further limiting their choice. One might ask, if it is important to require voters to elect one woman and one man to the local Democratic Party since women are underrepresented, why not also require voters to elect one African-American, Asian, Muslim, Jewish, Atheist, Catholic, or low income individual since all of those demographic profiles have historically also been underrepresented in elected offices? Where can one reasonably be expected to draw the line at infringing upon the will of the voters?

The intent of the Maryland Democratic Party, presumably to involve more individuals in our democracy from historically disengaged and disenfranchised populations, is laudable even if their efforts with regards to the gender balance rule are misguided. The Maryland Democratic Party should be and is reaching out to all kinds of communities across Maryland. Knocking on doors, making phone calls, appearing at events, and offering training to individuals seeking to get involved in electoral politics is wonderful. Getting more individuals of all backgrounds involved in politics is a good thing.

If the goal is to get more women elected into public office then there are organizations such as EMILY’s List, the National Organization for Women, the League of Women Voters, and the Women’s Democratic Club that can help women along that path (and I have been active for years with the LWV and WDC to achieve precisely this). But denying voters the opportunity to select who they wish to represent them is not only undemocratic but is offensive. According to a new rule implemented by the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee (MCDCC), voters must either select one woman and one man to represent them in the local Democratic Party. In 2014 voters from District 16 elected two women (Wendy Cohen and Loretta Jean Garcia) to represent them on the MCDCC. This year voters were denied the same opportunity. This achieves precisely the opposite effect of the new gender balance rules. For the next four years District 16 will be represented by one fewer woman on the MCDCC than they have been for the previous four years regardless of the desires of the electorate.

In an ideal world voters would select individuals to represent them in elected office based upon merit. In reality voters can cast their ballot based upon whatever criteria they wish and if voters wish to vote for someone because that person happens to have two X chromosomes then that is their privilege. As much as having a diversity of philosophies and demographics in our elected bodies is desirable we should not elevate an ideological desire for diversity above the most basic tenet of our democracy: that the electorate should select their elected representatives.

The Maryland Democratic Party should embrace the root of its name, abolish its gender balance rules, and respect the will of the voters and the integrity of our democracy.