Wednesday, February 11, 2015

House Elections Committee To Vote on Bill to Reign in Power of County Chairmen to Rig Vacancy Caucuses

Rep. John Bartlett (D- Indianapolis)
Kudos to Rep. John Bartlett (D-Indianapolis) for offering a meaningful, albeit simple bill to reduce the power of county chairmen to rig vacancy caucuses.

In Indiana, when an elected officeholder leaves before the end of his or her term, the vacancy is filled by a caucus of the precinct committeemen (PCs) of the incumbent's party whose precincts in the incumbent's district.  So if Cherish Pryor, my state representative, were to leave before the end of her term, all the Democratic PCs in Pryor's district, House District 94, would meet and vote on her replacement.

The idea is that PCs, elected by their neighbors at a primary, would represent the wishes of the party which won the election.  The problem, as demonstrated on these pages, is that 80% or more of the PCs are not elected but rather appointed by the county chairman. While elected PCs have to live in their precinct, appointed PCs, by party rule, can come from anywhere in the county.   If a county chairman knows a vacancy is coming up, he or she can fill vacancies with "mummy dummies" who will vote for the candidate of the chairman's choice.

Bartlett's bill, House Bill 1149, makes stacking the deck a bit harder.   An appointed PC who isn't eligible to vote for the candidate because he or she does not live in the candidate's district, would not be eligible to participate in a caucus.

This bill takes on even more significance in Marion County which is only one of two counties which employ "slating," a process by which, supposedly, the county party organization workers endorse candidates.  However, many of the PCs appointed from those slating battles are simply plugged in to vote at slating by the chairman with little regard to where the PC actually lives.  Should Bartlett's bill pass, many of those "mummy dummy" PCs would find themselves ineligible to vote in the vacancy caucus.  The bill would push county chairmen to actually appoint a PC who is from the area the person is supposed to represent.

While it is a small step, it's certainly a  step in the right direction.


Anonymous said...

This Republican commenter shouts ABSOLUTELY "Kudos to Rep. John Bartlett (D-Indianapolis)"! I agree that this is a very small step but at least it is a step.

Is it not sad that in America- and especially in our Marion County "Demlican and Repulicrat" parties- we need a bill like this to restore just a bit of the power to the people?

The political process long ago was hijacked by power and money driven people best described as psychopaths. I know because I served under some of them.

Balzac's original quote, "The secret of great fortunes without apparent cause is a crime forgotten, for it was properly done", describes our Democrat and Republican political hatchet men and women and the politicians they serve including those who have the cunning to manipulate the system to get their mates elected to the US Congress.

Anonymous said...

Paul, thanks for providing a definition of slating, a term I've never heard until moving to Central Indiana after living and working in three different states across the US.

All this verbiage and complexity that exists in Marion County is mind boggling; the strange jargon of wards, committeemen, and slates sounds like a leftover from an out-dated attempt at making a primitive society into something that still basically is primitive. Little wonder that everyone I meet as a local co-worker seems intent on placing every thought, idea, or person into one of two tidy little packages, either Democrat or Republican.

Please know, I'm not blaming you for this condition, but rather, I'm providing an observation from an out-of-state born and educated professional now employed in Central Indiana.

LamLawIndy said...

It's a good bill, but I don't see how it would affect a slating convention. Slating is inherently an internal party affair, whereas a caucus is actually for filling a vacancy in an elected office.

Paul K. Ogden said...


It has a spillover effect on slating because the county chairman is going to be less inclined to appoint someone from anywhere in the county as PC when there could later be a vacancy pop up which the out-of-district appointed PC would be ineligible to participate in. Plugging appointed PCs in and out is not an automatic thing and with vacancies there is a requirement that the PCs be in place 30 days to be eligible to vote.

Admittedly it's only a minor, indirect affect on slating.

While slating is an internal party matter, the selection of PCs are not. However, many of those statutes regarding PCs have been repealed and are dealt with by party rules. That's part of the problem. We don't even know the names of the elected PCs who have resigned because the law doesn't require that they be reported.