Dear Mr. Chairman:
Welcome back! I read that Marion County Republican Chair Tom John said we had taken you "out of the political graveyard." Talk about putting a stick in the hornets' nest! I think TJ will realize how fitting his zombie metaphor is once your pit bull political sense starts haunting him.
But enough about the Republican Party. With Mr. "Can't Find Seventy Million in Cuts" leading their way, the R's will be in your rearview mirror soon enough. I wanted to talk about the OTHER elephant in the room: a completely broken slating process.
Mr. Chairman, people HATE the slating process. Except for the people who benefit FROM the slating process. As you know, whether a person benefits generally hinges on his/her ability to induce you to engage in unfair electioneering and "vote packing" plans that would make FDR blush.
But don't take this as a condemnation of slating. I love it in principle. We have precinct committee people whose jobs are to canvass neighborhoods, find unregistered voters, get them registered, distribute literature door-to-door for the party and its candidates, and make sure people actually vote. This is a LOT of work, for which precinct committee people are paid in three ways: (1) gratitude in the form of pitch-in dinners; and (2) the right to pick his or her own vice committeeperson; and (3) the right to cast a "slating" vote for which candidates the party will endorse.
No disrespect intended to the baked beans and the authority to pick a "number 2" a la Dr. Evil, but the slating vote is THE meaningful thing we give our precinct laborers. But the way we handle slating conventions dilutes their votes to travesty levels. Mr. Chairman, it need not be so.
For the uninitiated, here's how it works. Marion County is divided into 590 precincts. In theory, each precinct would have a Democrat (and a Republican counterpart) who has been elected in a primary by the self-identifying Democrats (or Republicans) in that precinct. Under Indiana Democratic Party rules (written principally by yours truly, LaPorte attorney Shaw Friedman, and former Chairman Robin Winston), an elected precinct person selects his or her vice committeeperson.
For countywide offices, all 590 of these precinct committeepersons and vice committeepersons decide who the party "slates" (a/k/a "endorses"). If the office at issue were a state representative or city-council slot, only the precinct committee and vice committee people who reside within the district boundaries for those offices vote.
But, Mr. Chairman, you know we don't have 590 elected precinct committeepersons, and that's where the problem starts. You have the authority to fill vacancies, but you don't have to pick someone from within the precinct with the vacancy. In fact, you don't even have to pick someone in the same township!
Respectfully, it seems that you and your predecessors work hardest at filling precinct vacancies right before a slating convention. In fact, state party rules let you appoint up to 30 days before a slating convention, and candidates cajole you into appointing their friends from Center, Washington, Wayne, or Pike Townships to fill vacancies in Perry, Franklin, or Lawrence.
I know this happens because I was appointed before the last slating convention. I live in Center Township, and I was put in....well, I don't even remember where I was put because I NEVER worked in that precinct. My recruitment went something like this:
Candidate's envoy: "Hey, do you like (insert name here)?"
Candidate envoy: "Want to be a precinct committeeperson?"
Me: "Sure. What do I have to do?"
Candidate envoy: "Vote for (insert name here) at slating."
Next thing I know, I'm a committee person.
You see my point, Mr. Chairman? We hold as a central tenet of our party's philosophy the preservation of everyone's right to vote, and yet, we endorse a process that dilutes the votes of precinct committee people who actually WORK for the party. Why would we do that, except for our own self-aggrandizement?
We bash people who "run against the slate," but this is what happens when there is no faith in how slating is conducted. Why WOULDN'T I run against what is essentially a corrupted process?
Some people will never like slating, but I believe most people truly committed to the party would back the results if it were truly fair.
I have some thoughts on how we get there, and I look forward to sharing them with you soon.
Friday, August 8, 2008
An Open Letter to Marion County Democratic Party Chair Ed Treacy: "Let's Make Slating Defensible" (Part I)
Dear Mr. Chairman: