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Sanders Delegates Recount Struggles With Democratic Party In Maine

Editor’s Note

Shadowproof is publishing accounts from citizens about their struggles to force change at state Democratic Party conventions, participate in caucuses, or cast their ballots during primary elections. If you are willing to share your experiences with us, please contact editor@shadowproof.com.

At the state Democratic Party convention in Maine, numerous supporters of Bernie Sanders voted on a resolution to make the superdelegates represent the popular vote in future state primary contests. It passed and was applauded by Sanders.

Laurie Dobson, a candidate for state representative in Maine and a delegate for Sanders from York County, spoke at the convention in support of the resolution, “This whole system has done a great disservice to our Democratic Party and has done so for years,” and, “I will not bow down to any ideas that take people’s votes away or disenfranchise them.”

In an effort to collect testimonies or firsthand accounts from individuals who have voted or actively participated in the primary process, Shadowproof spoke to Laurie Dobson, as well as another delegate named Delina Malo-Juvera, about what unfolded in Maine.

The caucuses on March 6 were overwhelmingly won by Sanders, who received 64 percent of the vote. Nonetheless, only one superdelegate, Troy Jackson, came out in support of Bernie. Representative Chellie Pingree, Democratic National Committee member Maggie Allen, and state Democratic Party chairwoman Peggy Schaffer each maintained support for Hillary Clinton in spite of the results at the caucuses. (One superdelegate, Maine Democratic Party chairman Phil Bartlett, did not openly commit to either candidate.)

According to Dobson, who wanted a much stronger resolution, the state Democratic Party was worried if they were forced to represent the popular vote at the Democratic National Convention in July then fifty percent of their votes would be denied. It is believed Sanders votes at the convention would be lost. These are the rules of the DNC and so supporters developed a resolution with this reality looming over their heads.

Some members of the state Democratic Party leadership supported the resolution to “placate people and tamp down the fire and make it manageable,” Dobson said.

As Dobson described, delegates at the convention had to fight hard to bring resolutions to the floor for a vote. There was a point in the convention when former Congressman and fervent Clinton supporter Barney Frank, who has never been elected by any citizens from Maine, spoke to the convention hall for 45 minutes. It seemed like an effort to stretch out the proceedings and avoid contentious discussions about democracy.

“I had people come and start talking nicely and then get really angry,” Dobson shared. “One woman tried to stand right in front of me, like so far up in front of me, that I couldn’t turn one way or another. She just backed into me and stood here, and that was her way of being unhappy with me because I was rooting for the Bernie side.” She said suggested their were multiple instances of misbehaving by Clinton supporters.

Dobson also served as a caucus chair for Sanders and helped the campaign by starting an office in York. She says the efforts to supply literature and canvass helped transform southern Maine into a stronghold for Sanders.

In Kennebunkport, Dobson recalled how several pages listing registered voters were lost. People at the Maine caucus informed her of this development. Her opponent in her race for state representative, Diane Denk, confronted her and claimed she could not talk to people at the caucus. She attempted to shoo people away, although she was a caucus captain whose job it was to monitor proceedings. The people who were not listed were ultimately sent to an absentee ballot line.

There was a very long line at this caucus location. Dobson estimated a wait time of four and half hours for people who wanted to vote. Too few ballots were printed. There was not enough parking, even though the party could easily have known turnout would be high because of interest in the Sanders campaign and the surge in voter registration.

Dobson believes what happened was a result of a commitment to establishment politics. The party “didn’t want to change their policies to accommodate an upstart that was doing better than he should have.”

Dobson said, “I’m finding the party is not receptive to newcomers.” In fact, the state Democratic Party would like to stop holding candidate forums where citizens interact with people who will represent them.

“The party is vested in keeping its power base. They want to have the people they can control in positions of power,” which is why the state party favors her opponent, Diane Denk, and not Dobson, a Sanders supporter.

Another Sanders supporter, Delina Malo-Juvera, spoke at the convention in support of the superdelegates resolution. She contended superdelegates exist “to override the will of the people” and that is not correct. “They should vote according to the will of the state.”

“I felt that the leaders were clearly trying to steer us in the direction of Hillary, even though we were the majority,” Malo-Juvera said, referring to the state party convention. “I felt like a child, like I was just being spanked and being told to be a good girl and just obey.”

Malo-Juvera has phone banked and planned ways to support Sanders, and that is how she became involved in the primary process.

She shared, “I was in favor of [President Barack] Obama,” and, “Honestly, all the things Bernie is offering to do are the things I thought Obama was going to do and didn’t. So here we are again, trying again.”

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."