Professional Registered Parliamentarian
"… proxy voting is incompatible with the essential characteristics of a deliberative assembly…" RONR (12th ed.), 45:70.
As the April convention of the California Republican Party (CRP) convention approaches, a heated debate has emerged as to the use of proxies. In the context of the CRP, this allows a single delegate to hold multiple votes, thereby allowing candidates or measures to reach a majority even if the actual, in person majority is clearly at odds with the proposal. Some claim that proxies constitute a manipulation of democracy, others that proxy vote harvesting is a legitimate tactic of democracy. On the national stage, proxy voting has been used by Democrat lawmakers, who constitute 72% of the total proxy votes, to participate in Black Lives Matter protests, campaign, and effectively, ignore important Congressional debates. Not only does this decay the already abysmal trust in Congress, but it reinforces a polarized view of politics, one in which votes are decided before debates and debate is simply a pretext for the next election cycle.
Opponents of proxies further point out localized abuse in California. As many delegates have noticed, CRP elections and disputes are often handled by a truly “secret majority,” which unlike a silent majority is not only absent from debate, but the actual meeting. High stakes proxy farming conducted by highly paid consultants thus come to domineer over the regular membership.
Proxies, however, are not only an incidental evil. As I will argue, the use of proxies are intrinsically disordered. Proxies, while technically legal under the CRP Bylaws, are at odds with the general parliamentary law. Proxies are at odds with nature. And thus, proxies are at odds with our inalienable rights offered by nature’s creator, God. As a result it quickly becomes obvious that proxy voting is intrinsically disordered in a democracy.(1)
For this reason, I urge all CRP delegates to vote in favor of Bylaw proposal #3 or #7, whichever comes first, which will in effect eliminate proxies.
First, from an academic lens, proxies are mutually exclusive with a proper, functional deliberative assembly. To understand functionality, we must first review the actual rights of membership. In terms of the convention, CRP Bylaws, §1.02 define membership as composed of delegates.(2) RONR (12th ed.), 1:4, likewise, defines the rights of members:
To interpret these rights there are effectively two realms of procedural authority. As I have written in the National Parliamentarian:(3)
For our purposes here I will also differentiate two requirements to parliamentary law: the rules of something and the nature (customs) of something. The rules are the explicitly enumerated text; that is, an assembly’s bylaws, standing rules, special rules, parliamentary hand manual, etc.(4) In contrast, the nature of something is its custom, and the custom of something is a function of the objectives of that thing and the uncoded means of that thing.(5) As such, in order to accomplish an end, good customs of that thing are needed to ‘fill in the blanks’ where the rules do not fit. Under this definition, a subtype of custom is discretion by an officer to the enforceability of rules; that is, to maintain rules that protect rights and avoid those that are only technical in character.(6)
Thus, to properly understand how proxies interfere with a deliberative assembly, we must understand both written rules and effects of those rules.
Returning to the CRP, we can now see how proxy voting is at odds with the actual text and intended effect of the text. Proxy voting is simply “a power of attorney given by one person to another to vote in his stead.” RONR (12th ed.), 45:70. Thus, a proxy transfers all rights of membership to another person. However, “ordinarily [proxy voting] should neither be allowed nor required, because proxy voting is incompatible with the essential characteristics of a deliberative assembly in which membership is individual, personal, and nontransferable.” RONR (12th ed.), 45:70. Thus, proxies violate the basic, textual principle that membership is individual.
Second, because textualism is often unconvincing on its own, one should also note why proxies are philosophically at odds with member rights. To name a few:
It is a fundamental principle of parliamentary law that each person who is a member of a deliberative assembly is entitled to one—and only one—vote on a question… For example, in a convention, a person selected as a delegate by more than one constituent body may cast only one vote. An individual member’s right to vote may not be transferred to another person (for example, by use of proxies).
If members are not equal, then the entire philosophical precepts behind voting falls apart.
For these reasons, proxies violate both the explicit text of the law and intended ends of the law. They are thus not only bad in practice, but intrinsically disordered. In an organization that truly represents the people, it cannot be allowed to continue.