Thurston County Dems an elitist organization.

Our good friend Emmett O'Connell was working the issue of Thurston County and district Democratic party bylaws which afford no standing for anyone not elected as a PCO. Emmett had taken it upon himself to research the bylaws of Democratic County and district Org's across the state and found much evidence of more open districts.

I don't know if officers made any effort to contact these districts in order to learn how allowing paid members to participate to the extent allowed by statute benefited the grass roots. But I do know that if they had done this research they would have learned that opening the party to declared democrats who pay their dues is a great way to build a larger team and thus to turn out more democratic votes.

It would be laughable if not more sad than funny that this closed system actually leads to PCO races where opponents spend money to campaign against each other. At the annual meeting, the county chair, a decent devoted and hard working democrat called each PCO forward for a parchment certificate of election and applause. This was a nice touch but in a room filled almost exclusively with PCO's, this only served to accentuate the class distinction between elected PCO's and everyone else.

So what message does this send? In my brief time down here, I have encountered several life long active democrats who had the same reaction I did. If your precinct has a PCO then the party has no place for you.
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Here in Whitman, we're redoing bylaws. Last time I saw an officel copy of the "current" was in the 80's. Quoting the membership clause:
Section 1. Membership. Membership shall consist of Democratic Precinct Committee
Officers, both elected and appointed representing precincts in Whitman County; elected
Democratic officials representing the residents of Whitman County; and any person
declaring their status as a Democrat residing in Whitman County.

  We don't have the luxury of being an exclusive club over here to the east!

Dave Gibney Pullman

by gibney on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 11:06:57 PM PST

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The open membership idea didn't get voted down yet, just tabled fairly quickly. We're going to bring it back. There was some inconsistency in the language that we're going to clean up and bring back to the central committee. There seems to be some misunderstanding within our ranks about what this would really do. It wouldn't actually put paid members shoulder to shoulder with PCOs, there are so many safeguards in state law and the state Democratic bylaws that prevent that. For example, the state party bylaws point out that only PCOs may alter county bylaws.

Most of the PCOs that I talked to that were against the change were against it because they feared a take over of less agreeable folks. A few years ago a Democrat in name only tried to flood the party with new PCOs, which didn't work out.

What I'm interested in hearing is any "take over" story from any LDs or county with more liberal membership. The 35th LD had a very interesting primary last year and the less popular Dem to the LD organizaton did not try to flood his way to an endorsement, despite open membership there. 

I blog here.

by emmettoconnell on Thu Mar 01, 2007 at 06:21:41 AM PST

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I do not like your idea much. It's just more elitism. I have been a board member and officer in a number of membership organizations both political and advocacy based. What I have found is that the benifits from boosting membership vastly outweigh the concerns of being overrun. At this time in our nation people are inclined to come together for fellowship amoung like minded democrats so long as the newcommers are made to feel welcome and not somehow less than worthy. It is the party who must engage the new members and build a team spirit. In the end, Emmett you will be amaised at how many active democrats you will bring into the fold just by opening the door and making them feel welcome.

As for the hostile take over concern, this is rational to talk about but the fact is it has just never happened. At the peak of the LaRouche thing they could never generate more than a handfull of noise makers and this is a small price to pay for doubling your membership base over time. Even concerns about strong factions seizing controle are without real basis. The simple fact is that a membership that is twice as large is twice as hard to overthrow.

And, about timing, the time to make these changes is prior to the caucuses in the upcomming presidential cycle in order that you can capture as many new active democrats as possible. Allowing for open membership without the insult of probation and having a welcomming statement from the county or district chair read at the caucuses would have a positive effect on the vitality of the orginazation.

by Particle Man on Thu Mar 01, 2007 at 09:37:55 AM PST

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In the 34th District (West Seattle, White Center, Burien, Vashon) any Democrat who pays dues to the organization can participate and vote.

District and county reorganizations are restricted by state law to PCOs. Other than that, I don't see what the problem is in Thurston County.

Is Thurston County really saying that only PCOs can vote, say, on endorsements, resolutions, certain appropriations, and housekeeping measures within the organization?

If that is indeed the case, that's seriously wrong, and it needs to change. What then is the incentive for someone who wants to participate, but whose precinct already has a PCO?

If perception is reality, then the world must be flat and the sun must revolve around it.

by ivan on Thu Mar 01, 2007 at 09:57:24 AM PST

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   Is a Republican trait. It's also quite possible that such restrictions violate State and/or National bylaws.

Dave Gibney Pullman

by gibney on Thu Mar 01, 2007 at 01:11:39 PM PST

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I lived in two districts where paid members could vote on all things the charter provides for. So in the room were PCO's, paid non pco members, and general visiters. We had a sign up sheet for pco's and one for members. PCO's got yellow 3x5 cards and paid members got red 3x5 cards. A sargent of arms signed people in and kept track of who came and went so when a vote to endorse was comming we could announce how many yes votes it would take but if for instance a bylaw vote came up, only the yellow cards would be raised and counted. This was only needed at 3 to 4 of the munthly meetings each year.

by Particle Man on Tue Mar 06, 2007 at 09:45:49 AM PST

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As a member of the Thurston County Democratic Executive Committee, I have to say that the last thing we are is elitist.  Emmett OConnell is also a member of our executive committee, and he has been exploring ways to open up our membership on the executive committee's behalf.  We are trying to open up membership across the board.  Emmett is a Young Democrat, so is one of our LD-22 State Committee Women.  We are actively trying to find ways to allowing more involvememt with our community and growing our membership.  Yes, there are a few people who are against this for multiple reasons, and we are taking their concerns into consideration in the bylaw changes that would open up our membership.

Please don't jump to conclusions about an organization before going to the sources and finding out the facts.  Emmett has done a wonderful job of researching what is done in other areas of the state, and I am certain that we will come to an agreement that will make everybody happy.

You can herd cats, you just need the right enticements.

by Playsinthemud on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 04:16:53 PM PST

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In the 26th LD our Bylaws require that only elected PCOs can vote in the reorganization meeting which is held to elect the groups leadership in our first meeting after the bi-annual congressional election. Only after this vote is taken may applicants be considered for appointment to vacant PCO positons. Additionally, the 26th LD is open to any person who lives in the district joining the organization. The membership is effectively disbanded every two years prior to the re-organization meeting.

By law and by our bylaws there are certain kinds of votes in which only elected PCOs may participate, particularly the selection of candidates to fill an elected position vacated by the death or resignation of the duly elected who have not completed their term of office.

We have 39 PCOs in a LD with 68 precincts, however we had over 190 members at the time of the 2006 election last Novemeber. We are a active LD and transformed our representative in Olympia from a swing district to solid blue by dint of concerted grassroots organizing and inclusive and welcoming leadership.

Going into the 2008 campaign we are prepared to contribute to the Democratic efforts because we are the vehicle for our citizens to take back their government.

Thurston County has historically turned out many more Democrat voters than we muster in the 26th. I doubt that this bastion of forward thinking activists are attempting to keep motivated Democrats from participating in the party organization. I find it more likely that conciencious leaders are trying to clean up vague bylaws.

So often newcomers misunderstand application of bylaws as somehow used to exclude when consistent use of bylaws ensure a level playing-field for all. These same people would truely be stymied if leadership withheld the bylaws and cited changes in the bylaws which were never documented or published.

by Latch on Tue Mar 20, 2007 at 11:14:27 PM PST

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