Reforming the Brooklyn Party
County Committee Reform
The Kings County Democratic County Committee (“KCDCC,” or “County Committee”) is the organizing body of Brooklyn’s Democratic Party. With approximately 5000 seats, this committee is meant to be representative of Brooklyn’s Democrats, with members from every neighborhood of the borough. It plays an important role in shaping Brooklyn’s political arena by nominating judges and candidates in special elections.
County Committee has failed to function as an engaging, deliberative, and representative body. Leadership of County Committee (“The Executive Committee”) has denied members substantial opportunities to debate or vote on Party business and to participate in functional standing committees, thus barring them from taking on a substantive role in the operation of their Party.
Currently, KCDCC does not comply with many of its own rules, especially those rules that would help the Committee function more transparently and inclusively. For example, the County website does not provide guidance on how to run for County Committee and the required standing committees have not been formed. The Executive Committee frequently changes the County Committee rules with no advance notice to members, making participation more difficult.
The Party should comply with its rules as adopted by the whole organizing body and filed with the State Board of Elections. The following platform lays out the ways in which New Kings Democrats (NKD) believes that KCDCC can adapt to function more democratically and accommodate Brooklyn Democrats’ interest in meaningful involvement.
For earlier versions of this platform see timeline. Adopted January 2020.
Table of Contents
A. Meeting procedures
- County Committee Meeting Announcements
- County Committee Meeting Operations
B. Engaged & Inclusive Membership
- Party Leadership
- Rules Amendments
- Eligibility for County Committee
- Gender Designated County Committee Seats
- Assembly District Committees (ADCs)
- Vacancy Nomination Process
- Standing Committees of the Executive Committee
- Financial Oversight
- Judicial Screening Committee
Quorum: Quorum is the number of individuals required to be present in person or by proxy in order for the County Committee to conduct business. Quorum cannot be so low that business can be conducted by a non-representative sample of County Committee. On the other hand, quorum cannot be so high as to make it impossible for any business to be conducted at all.
- The Party’s current quorum requirement, 450, appears to achieve a balance between representativeness and practicality. NKD remains open to an argument for amending the quorum requirement at a fixed percentage of certified membership, or the average attendance at the three prior County Committee meetings.
Proxies: While NKD believes that members should make their best effort to attend all meetings, we recognize issues including accessibility, work schedules, and family responsibilities sometimes require a member to miss a meeting. Members should retain their right to a vote, even if they cannot physically come to a meeting. County Committee proxy voting has been abused to concentrate hundreds of votes in the hands of the Chair of the Executive Committee, and in the district leaders. Often, the Chair holds more votes than the entire number of members attending a meeting in person. The proxy form mailed to each member with the meeting notice defaults to the Chair unless the member designates otherwise. This needs reform as it serves to give the Party’s Executive Committee Chair disproportionate control over Party business and other matters being voted on.
- Party rules should be revised to limit how many proxy votes each County Committee member can hold.
- Party leadership should notify members about any scheduled votes, prior to a meeting, with enough notice that proxy givers can provide voting instructions to their proxy holders.
- Party leadership should ensure all proxy holders are notified of how many proxies they have been designated at the outset of any County Committee meeting, and make known to the entire Committee how many votes will be ‘in person’ versus ‘by proxy’.
County Committee Meeting Announcements: KCDCC meetings are required to occur after notice to members by mail or telegram at least five days before the scheduled meeting date. A pre-distributed agenda is not required and little space exists for the KCDCC general membership to discuss the business of KCDCC.
- The Party should collect email and phone contact details for all County Committee members and reach out to members by these means. Members should be able to opt in to receive meeting details by mail, but the default communication method should be email.
- Party Rules should be amended to require Party leadership (1) notify all KCDCC General and Executive Committee members 30 days prior to a meeting taking place; (2) provide notice that includes meeting time, date, and location, as well as information on when and where the meeting agenda will be available, and (3) make the agenda for the meeting public by posting it on the KCDCC website, emailing it to membership, and making hard copies available to membership at least five days in advance of the meeting.
- All votes and all candidates running for officer positions should be announced prior to the meeting so members can make an informed decision.
- Any announcement of votes on rules amendments or resolutions should include the full text of the rule amendment or resolution.
- Meeting locations should be accessible by public transportation.
- Meeting locations should be ADA-compliant and efforts should be made to ensure members of different languages and/or abilities can participate in meetings.
County Committee Meeting Operations: KCDCC meetings operate under Robert’s Rules of Order, but meetings typically proceed ad hoc, with little ability for members to be heard, make motions, or ensure the voting process is efficient and correct. Rules changes introduced in 2021 further limit the ability of members to bring resolutions before the KCDCC. NKD believes several changes are needed to have transparent, well-ordered, and functional meetings.
- The Chair of the County Committee should be certified in Parliamentary Procedures, and if not, the Party should hire a neutral Parliamentarian to advise the chair during County Committee meetings.
- The Chairperson should ensure all members can be heard during the meeting, when speaking within the rules of order.
- The Chairperson should ensure integrity in the voting process, including ensuring that all proxy votes are appropriately applied.
- The Chairperson should ensure that all resolutions properly submitted are brought to a vote, and Party rules should allow any member to bring a resolution before the County Committee.
- The Chairperson may also delegate the responsibilities outlined in the above bullet points to an Executive Director, if the Party employs one, but the Chairperson should hold ultimate responsibility.
- KCDCC meetings should include opportunities for ADCs and Standing Committees to report back to the rest of KCDCC.
- Party rules should be amended to require New Business be heard first, prior to any public policy discussion, at all KCDCC meetings except the Organizational Meeting.
- The Party should archive and make available minutes as well as audio and video recording of all general membership meetings. Minutes should be distributed to all members by email.
Engaged & Inclusive Membership
Party Leadership: The Party's Executive Committee is currently composed of District Leaders and the officers of the KCDCC. The officers are elected by the KCDCC general membership. Because these officer positions have typically only been filled by District Leaders, rank and file KCDCC members have had no representation in Party Leadership. Additionally, KCDCC leadership has not mitigated conflicts of interest of its District Leaders.
- Elected officers of KCDCC should be filled at least in part by KCDCC members who are not District Leaders.
- KCDCC members running for one of the officer positions should be required to make their credentials known to the entire KCDCC prior to a vote taking place. This change should occur after the proxy reforms mentioned above are implemented, so that the Chair of the Executive Committee is not able to hand-pick party officers.
- The Party rules should be amended to bar District Leaders and state committee-level members from simultaneously holding another elected office.
- The Party rules should be amended such that, if a vacancy occurs in a District Leader position, the Executive Committee cannot appoint a District Leader’s family member to fill that vacancy.
Rules Amendments: Currently, the Party’s rules allow for the Party’s Executive Committee (i.e. the District Leaders) to adopt changes to the Party’s rules without input from the larger KCDCC membership. This gives them undue control over the general membership.
- The Party rules should be amended to require that any proposed changes to the KCDCC rules can only be adopted by a vote of the full KCDCC membership.
- Any rules change proposal referred to the Rules Committee must be put to the general membership for a vote, after the Rules Committee has issued its report on the proposals. This change should occur after the proxy reforms mentioned above are implemented.
Eligibility for County Committee: NKD has encountered many incidents of candidates “running” or being appointed to KCDCC without their knowledge—making it unlikely that they would ever engage as representatives of their community within the County Committee.
- Every candidate for County Committee, who either appears on a petition or appointment list for a KCDCC seat should know and consent to running or being appointed and should be aware of the responsibilities of the position.
- The Party should maintain a clear and accessible list of filled seats and vacancies on its website.
Gender Designated County Committee Seats: Previously, County Committee seats in each Election District were divided equally between “male” and “female”. This precluded Democrats who do not identify as either male or female from running for a seat and put unnecessary restrictions on how many people of one gender can run in the same election district.
- This goal was achieved in 2021, when the gender designation of County Committee seats was eliminated, opening all seats to people of all genders.
Assembly District Committees (ADCs): KCDCC’s capacity to function as a grassroots organization is limited because ADCs have not been established in most Assembly Districts. These Committees perform important functions such as filling vacancies in special elections and can provide members an opportunity to organize for the Party within their district.
- As required by the rules, District Leaders should convene ADC’s in every Assembly District and meet regularly.
- If District Leaders are unwilling or unable to organize an ADC in their district, the Executive Committee Chairperson must convene an ADC in that district and should strive to include all KCDCC members in that district who wish to participate.
- ADCs should be convened through either of the two means outlined above within 60 days of the primary at which the County Committee members are elected.
Vacancy Nomination Process: Representative democracy is a fundamental component of the American system of government. Undermining voters’ opportunity to choose their representatives distances voters from the policymakers who can shape daily life. When Democratic Party leaders unilaterally anoint candidates without the participation of voters, the whole system of lawmaking suffers. As such, New Kings Democrats support a reform of the Party’s system of filling vacancies to the greatest extent permitted by law.
- In the event a primary election is unfeasible, the nomination of the Democratic candidate for all vacant public offices in all political subdivisions that include any part of Kings County should require a vote of the County Committee.
- Notices for any special meeting of the County Committee to nominate a Democratic candidate for public office should be simple and must include names of all potential nominees.
- The County Committee’s vote for the Democratic nominee should bind the Chairperson of the County Committee to support the County Committee’s selected nominee.
- If the public office is County-wide, the Party’s nominee should be chosen through a majority vote of the County Committee in whole, rather than the Executive Committee.
For an outline detailing how the County Committee rules should change to accommodate a more democratic vacancy nomination process, please see our page here.
Standing Committees of the Executive Committee: These committees are advisory and consider issues such as upcoming elections, fundraising, and legislation. KCDCC’s capacity to function as an effective, responsive political party is hampered by the fact that most of its 15 standing committees have not been convened in some time, despite the KCDCC rules mandating their existence. The Rules Committee, which has most often been convened, is not open to general membership. Under current rules, leaders of standing committees are selected by the Chair of the Executive Committee.
- A County Committee member should be able to initiate the establishment of a Standing Committee at any KCDCC meeting (not just at the organizational meeting), as long as some number of County Committee members have expressed interest. This change requires the rules to be amended so general membership elects the chairs of the standing committees, instead of chairs being appointed by the Chair of the Executive Committee.
Financial Oversight: The Party’s Treasurer is required to post quarterly financial statements on the KCDCC website - this requirement has not always been met. The level of detail in financial statements should sufficiently make clear the nature of the Party’s expenditures. In particular, there is a sizable “housekeeping” account that does not classify expenditures by type.
- The Party’s financial statements should contain a meaningful level of detail so that Party donors, KCDCC members, and Brooklyn Democrats as a whole can form a clear view of Party finances.
- The Finance Committee should be convened and its purview should be expanded to oversight over KCDCC expenditures, in addition to KCDCC fundraising.
Judicial Screening Committee: The Party convenes a judicial screening panel each election cycle to assess the qualifications of judicial candidates. The Party’s Executive Committee may only endorse candidates that are deemed qualified by the screening panel.
- The rules of the Judicial Screening Committee should be integrated into the KCDCC rules (they currently exist in a separate document).
- The Party rules should be amended so meetings where the Executive Committee discusses the endorsement of judicial candidates are mandated to be public, with notice given to all members of the KCDCC.
Reforming Election Processes
NKD supports government that is accountable, representative, and responsive. The educational materials and platforms we have developed around election law in New York are aimed at having government agencies and processes be more open to those who have been historically underrepresented and disenfranchised.
Our platforms and educational resources are focused on the ways The Brooklyn Democratic Party has historically been a powerful force in election processes and the close connections between the agencies carrying out election law. We work to illuminate these processes, so they will be more responsive to voters across the borough.