On September 24, 2020, leadership of the Brooklyn Democratic Party issued a proposal to the Party’s District Leaders that would both delay the County Committee’s biannual organizational meeting and make it more difficult for County Committee members to cast their votes at future meetings. New Kings Democrats urges all District Leaders to vote down this proposal at the September 29 Executive Committee meeting.
Under State Election Law, every County political party must convene every two years between September 17 and October 6. But rather than holding a virtual meeting, as allowed by Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order, the Party’s proposal would delay the 2020 meeting until gatherings of 500 people or more are permitted in New York State and seat the new County Committee without the required meeting.
This proposal is in violation of New York State Election Law, which states that “until such organization meeting, the existing county committee shall exercise all legal authority.” The “organization meeting” is not a mere formality; it is where newly elected County Committee Members vote on both Party rules and leadership.
Most critically, and problematically, the proposal transfers County Committee members’ voting rights to District Leaders by default. Currently, a County Committee member can attend a meeting in person and cast their own vote or sign over (“proxy”) their vote to another County Committee member of their choice. The person holding the member’s proxy then votes on the member’s behalf. This new proposal from Party leadership would automatically, and without members’ affirmative consent, proxy all County Committee members’ votes to their District Leaders. This provision will apply at future meetings while the pandemic is still ongoing, even after the cap on meetings of 500 or more people is lifted.
It is a bedrock democratic principle that no one’s vote can be taken without their consent, but that is exactly what the Party is doing. The proposal implies that a County Committee member, whose vote has been taken away, could then attempt to take it back in one of three ways:
- Attend the Organizational Meeting in person themselves;
- Draft, sign, and submit their own proxy card signing their proxy over to a County Committee member of their choosing; or
- Draft, sign and submit a letter stating that they do not want their District Leader to vote on their behalf.
None of these options are realistic — the first would not be possible for the full committee as it would be in violation of the law limiting in-person gatherings. The second two would be difficult given the tight timeline to submit either the proxy card or letter, and would likely require that a County Committee member travels in person to Party headquarters to file their alternative proxy or revocation letter in order to meet the deadline. These options are simply to give cover to what the Party’s proposal is really doing — enabling the Executive Committee to effectively transfer the County Committee members’ voting rights to themselves.
The bottom line is that the Party’s proposal amounts to vote stealing. It is a gross power grab on the part of the Brooklyn Democratic Party’s Executive Committee at a moment when Democrats should be fighting the dissolution of democratic institutions. Further, delaying the meeting is not a necessary measure in the face of crisis: a virtual organizational meeting is possible (as demonstrated by the Queens Democratic Party). In early September, three NKD members who are on County Committee proposed a plan for a safe and inclusive virtual meeting, which several District Leaders have signed on to — but the Party did not respond.
In April 2020, our Party Leader, Chair Rodneyse Bichotte, penned an Op-Ed entitled “Democracy doesn’t stop for the coronavirus” that concluded: “We will come out the other side of this pandemic, relying on each other to uphold that which makes us Americans and New Yorkers. That includes elections and democracy.” We urge all District Leaders to stand by that statement and vote down this proposal and we call on all County Committee members to contact their District Leader* to make the same demand.
*In contacting your District Leader, please be respectful of Yom Kippur, which begins at sunset the evening of September 27 and ends at nightfall on September 28.