MI Solidarity State Central Committee Platform 2021

Rules are the foundation of trust. Trust is the root of solidarity. Solidarity is the source of victory. 

Purpose
The purpose of the Michigan Democratic Party is to elect Democratic majorities at every level of Michigan Government. The purpose of the MI Solidarity platform is to empower the members of the Michigan Democratic Party to govern their Party fairly, inclusively, transparently, and democratically.

Members’ Bill of Rights
All members of the Michigan Democratic Party shall have:

1. The right to an ample voting period.

What Happens Now?

Today, elections are held in person and rushed. Members who can’t attend in person can’t vote.

 

Proposed Rules Change

Voting in every election shall be open for not less than 72 consecutive hours.

2. The right to elect their representatives.

What Happens Now?

Today, representatives frequently accumulate “proxy votes” from delegates who are absent from a meeting or election. By that process, representatives cast multiple votes across many districts which they do not represent.  

 

Proposed Rules Change

Each Party unit shall be represented exclusively by those elected by the unit for that purpose. Each local club, county or congressional district Party, caucuses, state conventions, and the Party as a whole are generically called “units” of the Party.

3. The right to be members until they resign.

What Happens Now?

Today, free members must renew every year. If they forget, they lose their voting rights for a month. Paying members are allowed to buy two-year memberships, so their voting rights are only at risk half as often. Wealth should not increase, nor poverty decrease, access to the vote. Voting rights should never be at risk in a democracy. 

 

Proposed Rules Change

Membership in the Michigan Democratic Party shall not expire. Only those who resign in writing, are verified no longer eligible, or pass away shall be removed from Party rolls.

4. The right to timely notice of meetings and elections.

What Happens Now?

Today, units often hold events with little notice and provide insufficient information. Sometimes, they withhold vital election information, such as when they gerrymander with secret maps.

 

Proposed Rules Change

The date, time, and place of any membership meeting shall be announced and publicized along with a tentative agenda not less than 30 days in advance of the meeting. The date, time, and place of any election shall be announced and publicized at least 45 days in advance, along with all criteria for candidacy, including maps of any geographic distributions, and a clear explanation of each election process, including the specific step-by-step procedures that will be used in the election.

5. The right to vote, to vote remotely, and by secret ballot.

Right to Vote

What Happens Now?

Today, members are often denied the right to vote for 30 days at a time. In a democracy, the right to vote should never be denied.

 

Proposed Rules Change

No member of the Michigan Democratic Party shall be denied the right to vote on State Party business before the membership for any reason. No member of a unit of the Michigan Democratic Party shall be denied the right to vote on business before their unit. No member of any committee in the Party shall be denied the right to vote on business before their committee.

 

Remote Voting

What Happens Now?

Today, members of the Michigan Democratic Party have better access to their Party during a global pandemic than under normal circumstances. Members should always have easy access to participating and voting in their Party. 

 

Proposed Rules Change

Members and representatives may vote remotely, by electronic means or physical mail, on any issue and in any election.

 

Secret Ballots

What Happens Now?

Today, the Michigan Democratic Party forbids secret ballots for members and representatives. As a result, everyone knows who and what everyone else voted for. This allows some caucuses to use a method of voter intimidation called “the unit rule.” The Chair of the Party Appeals Committee is on record explaining that he knows that some caucuses “frequently” use the unit rule, but refusing to do anything about it. The unit rule has been banned at all levels of the Democratic Party since the 1968 Convention in Chicago because it was significantly responsible for that debacle. Secret ballots for members help prevent voter intimidation. Public ballots for representatives help ensure they remain accountable to the members.

 

Proposed Rules Change

Members shall cast secret ballots. Members who are also representatives, voting in their capacity as members, shall cast secret ballots. Representatives voting in their official capacity as representatives shall cast public ballots. A representative is any person elected or appointed to make decisions on behalf of others. All public ballots shall be accessible to the public through an archive maintained on the Michigan Democratic Party website.

6. The right to step-by-step procedures for all Party processes.

What Happens Now?

Today, there is only one step-by-step procedure documented in Party rules. There are no procedures for forming a caucus or writing an appeal or resolution, holding a meeting, or many other common Party processes. In principle, these processes are open to all members. In practice, few people ever use them because the rules are outdated and difficult to understand.

 

Proposed Rules Change

Members shall have easy online access to detailed, step-by-step procedures for each Party process. Party processes include, among many others, forming a caucus, writing a resolution or appeal, or proposing a rules change. There shall be a formal process for members to request step-by-step procedures for any process in any unit. Such requests shall be filled promptly.

7. The right to access complete recordings of all meetings online.

What Happens Now?

Today, the technology required to record all of our meetings exists and is inexpensive. Refusing to provide this service is acting to make participation in the Michigan Democratic Party more time consuming and difficult than it needs to be. Why would any Democrat do that? Without easy access recordings, the only way to stay informed is to attend every meeting. Most people, especially low-income and working people – disproportionately minorities – can’t attend nearly that often. Recently, the establishment tried to disenfranchise working people by banning recording of any Party meeting. Members who want to know what their party is doing must be able to find out quickly and easily.

 

Proposed Rules Change

Every meeting of any unit or committee of the Michigan Democratic Party shall be audio-visually recorded. Each recording shall have a copy of the agenda and meeting minutes appended electronically. The recordings, agendas, and minutes shall be archived in a searchable database accessible through the Michigan Democratic Party website. All meetings shall be easily accessible to any member through the internet. All public meetings shall be easily accessible to the public through the internet.

8. The right to form coalitions; and of coalitions to proportional representation.

What Happens Now?

Today, the Party establishment packs the State Central Committee with around 80 to 100 votes they could not win in free and fair democratic elections. They just give themselves extra votes, by altering the proportions established by the election of SCC delegates.

 

Proposed Rules Change

The proportions established by a proportional voting election, being the best measure of the will of the members, shall not be altered.

State Central Committee Reform
The State Central Committee (SCC) is, on paper, the governing body of the Michigan Democratic Party (MDP). The only higher authority is a convened State Convention, which lasts for at most a few hours each year. The Chair of the Party is not the leader. The Chair and the other officers of the MDP exist to facilitate discussion and debate and to execute the decisions of the State Central Committee. The Chair and the other officers work for the SCC, not the other way around.

“The Democratic State Central Committee shall have general responsibility for the affairs of the MDP between State Conventions” (rule 6.0.1).
“The Chairperson shall carry out the programs and policies of the State Conventions and the State Central Committee” (rule 7.3.1).

1. Committee Elections

What Happens Now?

Committees of the SCC are appointed by the Chair and approved by a simple majority vote of the State Central Committee – the establishment has, so far, always held the majority. Little care is taken to ensure the proportionality established by the membership at the SCC elections is carried through into the committees. This discriminates against every coalition in the minority.

 

Proposed Rules Changes

Committees of the State Central Committee shall be elected by the SCC using proportional voting.

2. Oversight Committee

What Happens Now?

Today, the State Central Committee is given no detailed information about the operation of the Party beyond what is available publicly. In particular, no information about where the money is coming from, and little about how it’s being spent. On paper, the State Central Committee is the governing body of the Michigan Democratic Party. On paper, the Party literally isn’t allowed to open a bank account without SCC permission (rule 7.3.5). In practice, the SCC is a rubber stamp for the establishment with no ability to conduct oversight of the Chair, the Executive Committee, or anything else.

 

Proposed Rules Changes

The State Central Committee is entitled to access all Party records, no exceptions. The State Central Committee (SCC) shall elect an Oversight Committee to perform oversight of sensitive materials, without their full disclosure to the entire body. The Oversight Committee shall have access to all Party materials of any kind and shall have reasonable access to staff time and other resources to assist with their oversight duties. The Oversight Committee shall make quarterly reports to the full SCC. The Oversight Committee shall have final authority to determine what Party information to keep private and what to share with the full SCC. The full SCC shall have final authority to determine what to keep private and what to share publicly. The members of the Oversight Committee shall be State Central Committee members elected by their Congressional Districts using proportional voting. The Oversight Committee shall have a number of members not less than 10% the number of delegates to the State Central Committee; the number to be determined by majority vote of the SCC. The Oversight Committee shall be elected by the State Central Committee using proportional voting. The Oversight Committee shall have the authority to seek out independent experts in the performance of their duties, and provide them any information necessary for the application of their expertise to Committee business, under appropriate non-disclosure agreements. If 20% or more of the Committee question the independence, integrity, or expertise of a majority-selected expert, that minority may, by a majority vote among them, authorize another expert to access the information and report their finding to the Oversight Committee. The minority shall have the right to present one or more minority reports to the full SCC. The Oversight Committee shall have the power to elect from among themselves their officers; to petition the SCC for replacement of members absent from 3 or more consecutive meetings; to establish as many sub-committees as they deem necessary, and grant them any powers available to the Committee as a whole, except the authority to disclose sensitive materials. The Oversight Committee shall be elected at the first meeting of the new State Central Committee following the day of their election. Members of the Oversight Committee shall serve for two years, or until the election of their successors.

3. Multiple-Position Offices

What Happens Now?

Today, the rules specify offices-at-large must be “elected” (rule 7.1.1). Officers-at-large are clearly the same position held at the same time by multiple people – a multiple-position office. The rules specify that multiple-position offices must be elected by proportional voting (rule 2.16). Therefore, under the rules, officers-at-large must be elected by proportional voting. In practice, they are never elected by proportional voting. The Party routinely packs the State Central Committee by appointing, rather than electing, around 80 to 100 officers-at-large, with full voting rights, to the SCC.

 

Proposed Rules Changes

A multiple-position office is defined to be any collection of elected or appointed positions where more than one person has obligations, responsibilities, and qualifications for office indistinguishable from each other. Examples include, but are not limited to, multiple vice-chairs, board members, committee members, State Central Committee delegates, alternates, and officers-at-large. Multiple-position offices shall be elected using proportional voting.

Party Organization
In Michigan, Democrats carried the top of the ticket. In 2018, Governor Whitmer won election with 53.3% of the vote against Bill Schuette. Senator Stabenow won reelection with 52.3%. In 2020, President-elect Biden carried the state with 50.6%. Senator Peters won reelection with 49.9% of the vote. However, in down-ballot races all across the state, we lost badly. Even with two open congressional seats, we did not come within five points of flipping either one. With redistricting and midterms creeping ever closer, the Michigan Democratic Party needs to reorganize to remain competitive. The party needs to invest more  strategically in its core communities. The MDP needs to recruit candidates more aggressively and provide better support for first-time candidates. And finally, the party–with the threat of absolute failure–needs to overhaul and modernize its outreach systems to reach growing Democratic communities.

1. SMARTER INVESTMENTS

Expand the Scope of the One-Campaign
In 2018 and 2020, the One-Campaign was an important piece of ensuring top of the ballot success. They knocked doors, rang phones, and contacted countless voters. Thanks partially to this program, Michigan took back the White House, flipped the Governorship, Attorney General, and retained Senators Stabenow and Peters. 

However, in 2018, Democrats had the opportunity to take back the State Senate. We failed. And in 2020, there was a concentrated effort to flip the State House. Despite massive fundraising, door-knocking, phone-banking, we still failed. 

To finally win elections that matter, we need to expand the scope of the One Campaign. Instead of just field organizers, the One Campaign needs to include Fundraisers, Communications, and other key campaign staff.

To fully succeed, One Campaign should be more than just outreach. It needs to be expanded to include full-on campaign assistance for Democratic candidates down-ballot. This should include addressing the hurdles that first-time candidates so often struggle with: not just raising money, but legal compliance, creating literature, and finding union shops to mail it to voters. One Campaign should be a resource candidates can count on during close races.

Expand Candidate Identification and Recruitment
The party needs to aid and assist Democrats of all stripes and colors. In rural areas and places with a weaker party presence, we need to expand aggressively. We need to recruit and train members of the community to take on Republican legislators, county commissioners, and ensure we are preparing for the future. There are areas in Michigan we will not flip overnight, but by creating party-policies that foster talent and build community connections we can change the political landscape. A generation ago, Oakland County becoming a Blue stronghold was unthinkable, but it’s now a reality.


Expanded Party Involvement and Training
There need to be more extensive internships and training opportunities for local units, precinct delegates, and Democratic Volunteers. Precinct Delegates are organizers from a community, they work on behalf of The Party and communicate the platform to their neighbors, families, and friends. County Units are where many people first become involved with The Party. However, they can have vastly different resources. Some are wealthy, while others are still struggling to grow. The MDP needs to include more extensive training and resources to assist with these programs. Likewise, the Party Internships need to offer more expansive tracks. The House Democrats offer paid internships in legislative affairs, fundraising, and organizing. The MDP needs to be inspired by these offerings and raise the bar further.

 

Diverse Communities
The backbone of the Democratic party are so often those who are not represented at the highest levels of government. While the party has made strides, there is still room to grow. The goal of the party should be to elevate marginalized voices. We need to increase the number of People of Color and members of the LGBT communities who are organizing as well as running for offices.

2. MODERNIZED OUTREACH

Expanded Digital Presence
There is a time and place for mailers, phone-banking, and television ads. However, the past election cycles have shown that targeted digital media can be the most effective and the most affordable form of voter outreach. But, that is not enough. Both Michigan’s House Democrats and Senate Democrats have clearly-articulated, consistent social media pages. The Party should take inspiration and capitalize off of their models.

 

Coordinated Literature
A win is a win, but these races are too important to be this close. We need coordinated literature from top of the ticket to down ballot races. From President to Drain Commissioners. Literature that is paid, distributed, and handled by The Party needs to include all candidates on the ballot.

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