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Island in His Own Party

March 1, 2021 was a great day for California Democrats but a bad day for Rusty Hicks, the Chair of the California Democratic Party (CDP). As I described in Why Aren’t California Dems Counting Every Vote?, CDP Executive Board Members from across the state called for a Special Meeting to overturn Hicks’ refusal to count delegate election ballots that were arriving late because of Party and USPS delays.

Sidelining ballots is anathema for a Party committed to the principle of #CountEveryVote. Thankfully, on March 1, the CDP Compliance Review Commission met virtually and arrived at a speedy, unanimous and uncontroversial decision to count every vote that was postmarked by the deadline date, even if it was delayed in arriving at the CDP offices.

How is the Chair of the Democratic Party the only leader still on record saying he does not want to count these votes?

Which raises the uncomfortable question: how is the Chair of the Democratic Party the only leader still on record saying he does not want to count these votes? To say this is out of touch is a woeful and gross understatement of the situation. Across the country, Democrats fought long and hard this past election to protect the right to vote and then to ensure the ballots were counted fairly once they were cast. Yet, here in California, our Party leader refused to use his executive power to count ballots that were in his possession but arrived ‘late.’ 

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I write ‘late’ in quotations above because, for many voters, it was simply impossible for the ballots to have been returned on time. The CDP sent out thousands of ballots late, moved the deadline several times to accommodate the delays but, even then, ballots continued to arrive with just days remaining to Hicks’ final deadline. In short, there were a number of management failures that led to ‘late’ ballots but none of these issues can be ascribed to the voters in any way.

Despite the obstacles that were repeatedly brought to Hicks’ attention, he refused to count the votes, and has not even taken the time to explain or justify his decision not to do so. He has gone silent on a fundamental issue of Party governance. As of the writing of this Op Ed, he remains in obstinate disagreement with the vast majority of Democrats that believe these votes should be counted.

At the very least, some words of empathy are due to the candidates who are being forced to accept their third set of ‘final’ election results. Excruciatingly, some may be losing a seat they believed to have been decided twice already. It should be noted that many candidates support counting the additional votes even knowing that it may cause them to lose their seats. That is the kind of commitment to democracy we need more of in the Party. These candidates deserve an apology from their Party Chair, not his purposeful silence.

An out of touch Party leader is not a new story, but it is still a disheartening one. It is clear that Chair Hicks has lost touch with grassroots Democrats and that he is letting his unwillingness to admit a mistake stand in the way of what is best for the Party. At a time when California Democrats are working hard to recover from Trump era disasters (including the COVID pandemic) and respond vigorously to the Governor Newsom recall, we need a Chair that is focused on the tasks at hand, not one that is busy dodging personal accountability.


Do better, Chair Hicks. We cannot afford behavior like this from the person responsible for leading Democrats in California.

Amar Shergill