Chaos in St. Charles County

Yesterday, in Missouri, the citizens of St. Charles County held their countywide Republican caucus.  Typically, caucuses are rather straightforward affairs where the participants vote for their choice for candidate with a minimum of fuss.  However, the meeting of the St. Charles County Republican County quickly devolved into complete chaos.

It is difficult to gather a completely accurate scenario of the events that unfolded given that the chairman called for a ban of all recording devices.  However, given assorted bits and pieces found scattered about youtube, it becomes apparent that the temporary chairman of the gathering did not properly conduct the meeting in accordance with Robert’s Rules of Order and may not have even been a legitimate authority figure during the proceedings.  Whether or not his decree to ban video from the event was valid or not, disallowing the media does make one wonder if the results reported from the caucus would have actually mirrored the actual votes taken.

However, I encourage you to watch and listen to the following videos that are available and reach your own conclusions.

This first video includes the announcement of the ban of recording devices.

The following audio recording captures the event collapse into chaos as the chairman refuses to recognize members of the audience requesting a point of order.

As mentioned in the beginning, one issue, in accordance to Robert’s Rules of Order, is that the first order of business in a mass meeting is nomination and election of a temporary chair of this meeting followed by the nomination and election of a temporary secretary.  Were these protocols followed before the pledge of allegiance, which is typically done prior to conducting official business?

Furthermore, according to Robert’s Rules of Order, “It is the duty of the chairman to enforce the rules and preserve order, and when any member notices a breach of order he can call for the enforcement of the rules.  In such cases, when he rises he usually says: ‘Mr. Chairman, I rise to a point of order.’ The chairman then directs the speaker to take his seat, and, having heard the point of order, decides the question and permits the first speaker to resume his speech…”  Furthermore, “while on all questions of order, and of interpretation of the rules, and of priority of business, it is the duty of the chairman to first decide the question, it is the privilege of any member to ‘appeal from the decision.’  If the appeal is seconded, the chairman states his decision, and that it has been appealed from, and then states the question thus: ‘Shall the decision of the chair stand as the judgment of the assembly [or society, convention, etc.]?’” When the first member calls for a “point of order” followed by a chorus of others, according to the rules, the chairman ought to have stopped the proceedings and recognized this motion instead of simply dismissing it.

Was the election of a chairman rigged?  Yes, one can clearly hear a multitude of calls to nominate Brent Stafford.  Given the noise, it is difficult to determine if Mr. Stafford was nominated properly in accordance with the rules, but it is certain that the chairman ought to have done several things.  1. Ask for a proper nomination for Brent Stafford if it was not already done.  2. Ask for nay votes for the first candidate.  3. Given the considerable opposition, the chairman should have called for division to make certain that the first candidate actually had a majority of support.   However, the chairman failed to do all of these important tasks.

In addition, toward the end of the recording, it is difficult to determine how many caucus-goers voted to adjourn as compared to how many wished to continue.  Was the meeting adjournment justifiable?

In the last recording, given that many people in the audience felt that the caucus was adjourned improperly, Brent Stafford and others attempted to continue the proceedings outside the building.  However, he could not do so as the police arrested him for trespassing.

So what the heck happened in St. Charles County?  As one caucus-goer suggested in the last video, did the straw poll taken at the door set the whole trouble in motion, as the party in power didn’t like the probable outcome?  Were the attendees unreasonable and too far out of control to conduct business?  Or was it simply the case of a chairman, defiant of protocol, assuming too much authority?  Regardless of the answer to any of these questions, the greatest concern of this whole matter ought to be that the citizens of St. Charles County may have been disenfranchised through this highly questionable process and thus might not be able to voice their opinion concerning the Republican nomination for president.

To learn more, you can read the thoughts of Brent Stafford, the man arrested in the last video, here.

Thanks to Jeremy for bringing this matter to my attention.

4 Replies to “Chaos in St. Charles County”

  1. It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that a) more Republican units and state parties need to start hiring professional parliamentarians, not just appointing some random “respected” lawyer that nobody knows if they really have any true experience with parliamentary law (which, by the way, is not the same thing as legal experience), and b) that anyone is who serious about political involvement should read Robert’s page to page (something that I, by the way, am only a bit of the way into, something I consider my not-so-secret shame).

    A lack of knowledge and respect for parliamentary procedure, along with the perceived necessity of a few to use force to get their way, makes me think that even though conventions may generally produce more conservative nominees, that we may as well start aiming for primaries. We can get conservative nominees that way if we work hard (Democrat tinkering aside) and don’t have to worry about “go along to get along” types steamrolling the process.

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