|Rep. John Bartlett (D- Indianapolis)|
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.