From Resister To Philadelphia Democratic Committee Person

Much has changed since Election Day 2016. Last year, 2017, was a time for organizing, forming committees and joining the Resistance. In that period of time I attended rallies sponsored by Tuesdays With Toomey and meetings of Indivisible: NW Philly and progressive Philadelphia Neighborhood Networks. Doing what I do best I wrote several articles listing various Resistance groups and resources, including: Philadelphia Resistance and Progressive Groups (1/30/17), Resources For The Resistance (3/02/17) and Resistance, Part III (12/28/17). The idea was to point people to tasks ranging from better voting machines to campaigning in the suburbs to turn the state blue.

Posting blog articles, attending meetings and frequently calling my elected officials was not enough. Listening to others, I finally decided to run for the lowest elected office, Committee Person in my neighborhood. One factor in my decision was the fact that too many people do not vote. Clinton lost the vote in my state by a very small margin. Research revealed the vote in Pennsylvania was 2,970,733 Trump/Pence and 2,926,441 Clinton/Kaine, a difference of only 44,292 votes. In Philadelphia alone 324,573 registered voters did not vote. Since I had never seen a Committee Person knock on my door in the few years I’ve lived in Philadelphia, I decided to run. Hundreds of others did the same thing, many for the first time, like myself.

What was I getting into? The Democratic Party, like the United States, is run by a small group of privileged men. Their object is to maintain power. A movement, however, has said the “trust me” argument no longer applies. We want our country back and we want our party back. These ideas are set to print in a book “Green Shoots of Democracy in the Philadelphia Democratic Party” by Karen Bojar. This book is a must read for new committee people.

In the process of running, I found a running mate, a neighbor on the next block, Lori Jardines. We knocked on every door in the division (aka precinct) and distributed a campaign letter either in person or via a mailing to every voter in apartment buildings. Our platform or mission is “to increase democratic participation, voter turnout and transparency in Philadelphia’s political process.”

To understand the workings of a political party you have to understand and know the rules. The bylaws of the Democratic Party of Philadelphia are not found on their website. Instead, they were posted by former Office of City Commissioner Stephanie Singer on one of her websites under the title of DEMOCRAT_CITY_COMMITTEE_BY-LAWS_REVISED_3-31-2014.pdf. Another copy of the most recent Philadelphia Democratic Party Bylaws is available from the Philadelphia County Board of Elections. The copy I received is two pages longer and includes a March 2014 cover letter signed by Party Chairman Bob Brady plus an additional County Board of Elections timestamp. According to Pennsylvania Election Code all party rules are not effective until a certified copy has been filed in the office of the county Board of Elections (see “Green Shoots of Democracy”, p. 199). Feel free to download the party rules. You will need them if you are a Committee Person.

It is one thing to know the rules but an entirely different matter as to how to become an effective Committee Person. Over the years various handbooks have been written. The Bucks County Democratic Committee published a handbook and resource guide in 2010. The most current version was recently obtained from the Pennsylvania Democratic Party. Download their Precinct Handbook 2017.2.0, here.

Many individuals ran for committee person to make our party more democratic, more transparent. We want to share information and not have each ward treated as an island. We must conduct our meetings openly under rules of parliamentary procedure, while filing campaign finance reports as required by law. Most of all, we must become engaged in grassroots voter registration with the intent of increasing voter participation. The movement continues.

Author: Michael Swayze

A retired county welfare agency administrator, who combines social work and computer skills to share information on community resources via the Internet since 1995. Active in voter engagement activities in Philadelphia, PA.

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