Monday, March 9, 2009

The Difference Between a Cactus and a Caucus

(ha! ha! funny, it is a joke people!)

Caucus Update (see my previous post-rant on this topic here): At last Monday’s Democratic Committee meeting there was a discussion about the timing of the caucus and its impact on absent college student voters if held in June. Proponents of a September date spoke of the merits of a shorter campaign season. Some members felt the earlier June date was better for an incumbent because elected officials would know whether or not they were nominated and could plan accordingly. Additionally, this earlier timing would allow elected officials to focus on the busy budget time in the fall. I still believe, in the name of little “d” democracy, the caucus should be held in September.

There was a debate about the ramifications of positioning the caucus before or after independent line petitions are due in mid-August. One question that came up: can someone sign an independent petition and vote at the caucus? The group was not clear on the answer. We should have an answer to that by the next meeting. (Or if you think you know, please comment below!) Either way, if election law allows it, the committee proposed they write the caucus rules to clearly state that someone can not participate in the caucus if they already signed an independent petition. Procedures for monitoring this were discussed.

Two scenarios emerged:
1. If the caucus is in June, before the petitions are due, people could caucus and then later sign a petition. So if there is a June caucus, in late August all petitions could be checked against the caucus vote. This would allow the committee to knock an opponent off the ballot, that is, invalidate them for breaking the rules.
2. If the caucus is in September, the list of petitioners can be referenced at the caucus so the committee can check people at the door.

This is some hardball stuff that citizens seeking the Democratic nomination and/or and independent line need to know about! BTW - Apparently numerous candidates have already submitted letters of interest to the committee, but this information is not shared with the full committee until the candidate search committee has reviewed all applications. It is unclear as to when this will occur.

If you are wondering about whether or not you can vote in the Democratic caucus: Unless you were registered Democrat before last November’s election or you are new to the community and intend on registering as a Democrat at least thirty days before the caucus, you are out of luck.

The committee decided that they will vote on a caucus date as soon as the political calendar is released in April. Last year's political calendar came out on April 11th. The only scheduled committee meeting in April is on Thursday the 9th. However, my guess is they may schedule another meeting in April if the calendar does not come out by the 9th, otherwise, we will not know the caucus date until May 4th (which just happens to be my birthday.)



Martin McPhillips said...

The town government is very much like a cell without a nucleus. I think that's implicit to its nature, and the political culture grown up around it reflects that vaguely uncentered sort of character.

Most of the political talent available in New Paltz is on the village board. Jean Gallucci, to take the least political and least controversial member of the village team, has a precise mind and can make a decisive point in few words. She or one or two other of her village board colleagues could make a huge difference on the town board. But the key for the town board, assuming that Democrats recognize that things have to change, is for the party caucus to nominate a strong new candidate for the supervisor job.

Also, the other two incumbent board members should be replaced as well. The goal should be to get as much leadership and clarity into all three seats as possible. Leadership meaning the ability to stay out in front of process, not drawing everything back into its corridors where the public can't follow.

Steve Greenfield said...

I see the strategy (preserve loyalty, protect the slate), but I don't see useful tactics.

Election law is clear about eligibility for signing independent nominating petitions:

§ 6-138. Independent nominations; rules.

1. Independent nominations for public office shall be made by a petition containing the signatures of registered voters of the political unit for which a nomination is made who are registered to vote. The name of a person signing such a petition for an election for which voters are required to be registered shall not be counted if the name of a person who has signed such a petition appears upon another valid and effective petition designating or nominating the same or a different person for the same office.

You'll note it doesn't include "...or voted in a primary or caucus," and the idea that you could get the BOE to disqualify someone on an independent nominating petition because they've PREVIOUSLY signed in for a caucus is ludicrous. You'd have to create some internal punishment, because the BOE has no grounds to disqualify a petition signature. There has to be something in the law for that.

But even if there were some way to pull it off, it still wouldn't be a useful tactic for achieving the desired objectives, so intellectual energies should be directed towards something useful.

It only takes 230 signatures to get on the ballot for town office. Even if they can bar people from signing independent nominating petitions if they want to vote in the caucus (which remains to be seen*), it has no effect on whether or not a disappointed candidate can get on the ballot after the caucus.

First of all, the town has a few thousand Republicans, and it would take less than a day to get them to sign a petition if they knew it was being carried to defeat the nominated Democrats. Second of all, there are more thousands of Democrats and non-enrolled people here who will not attend the Democratic caucus, because hardly anyone does, and all of those will be eligible to sign no matter what restrictions the Democrats want to design. With only 230 signatures needed, anyone can make the ballot just by walking around for a single weekend.

Trust me on all of this. I have made ballots here, I have gotten others on ballots here, and it's really easy. All you need is feet, a pen, and 23 sheets of paper. Let them fuss and fume all they want about rules, but the fact is, a June primary leaves the door wide open to a challenge. They simply cannot finesse or bully their way out of it.