Rethinking DFL gender balance policy

Gender is not the only demographic that should be included.


At the April 16 caucuses, Democratic-Farmer-Labor activists selected delegates to attend the ward and city conventions to make endorsements for City Council and mayoral races. The ward conventions have seen surprising results, disfavoring incumbents this year: Already two incumbents have failed to secure the endorsement at their ward’s conventions, and in Ward 6, incumbent Robert Lilligren withdrew from seeking the endorsement prior to the convention over concerns of irregularities with the delegate selection process

DFL rules require that delegations be gender balanced to achieve equity between women and men. In many precincts, this means that nearly every woman who attends can become a delegate. When there are more men than spots available, chaos ensues. In order to ensure that delegations proportionally represent the views of the precinct, a sub-caucusing process occurs, from which the delegation selected from each sub-caucus must be gender balanced. However, this discrepancy leads to problems. Volunteers often seek to make the process as quick as possible, and some women leave after being selected originally before the necessity of a sub-caucus is determined. In turn, the official rules are often tossed by the wayside.

Because of these irregularities in situations like Ward 6’s delegate selection process, where allegations of intimidation and unfair delegate selection practices have surfaced, it is difficult to resolve legitimate challenges which makes it difficult for the very people the DFL seeks to include — underrepresented groups — to fairly participate in the process.

It also raises the question as to why other groups do not share equity balancing requirements: Why are delegations not also required to balance race, age, sexual orientation or disabilities?

Such a process would be unimaginably difficult — especially when gender balancing already proves too complicated to apply consistently. While mandating equity among groups is noble, a more fair, simple and consistently applied process would better serve underrepresented groups trying to achieve their political goals.