Thursday, July 8, 2010

By the Book: Results of the NorCo Dem Party Do-Over

They are now being followed

Posted by: Noel Jones

Recently, several new committee precinct captains were elected to Easton's Democratic Committee and they have been shaking things up a bit--which is a good thing. For years the Democratic Committee has suffered from lethargy, with many of its precinct captain seats vacant. The EDC is the committee that is supposed to go door to door in each precinct to learn the concerns of its voting Democratic residents, strategize as to where to find good candidates in the community to run for office, and put on fundraisers to raise campaign money for Democratic candidates. A few weeks ago, Northampton County's Democratic Committee held their reorganizational meeting to vote for the new chair and vice chair of the committee. At the county committee meeting, all committee members from cities within the county are allowed to vote.  But unfortunately, things over the years had become so lax that bylaws were not being followed during the voting process, and the new blood on the committee protested the following:

1. That these elections cannot, by state law, be conducted by secret ballot--all members must sign in to vote
2. That no one was asking for identification from proxies that were sent to vote in the place of committee members who couldn't make it
3. That some people were allowed to hand in proxy votes on paper for people who couldn't make it--not allowed--a proxy is a proxy--they must be there in person--you can't mail in a proxy
4. That the "tellers," or vote-counters, were all supporting one candidate--no checks and balances on the count
5. That the number of votes did not match the number of people who had signed in

The vote was Michael Laws 40, Walt Garvin 42, so the concerns were heightened by the possibility that following the bylaws could possibly affect the outcome of the election. But the new members were very clear about expressing that they were not so much concerned with the result, as with everyone's ability to have faith in the integrity of the process.

So the new members voiced concern to the longstanding members and to the state, and a new election was ordered. Both sides agreed to

invite Rep. Bob Freeman to be the Parliamentarian and Judge of Elections for the evening, an invitation he graciously accepted.

Last night a new vote was held, and I have to say it was fun and gratifying to see things done as they should be. Hands were raised, points of order were called here and there, people got up on the podium and expressed their positions, there was often discussion and murmuring from the crowd--public discussion in the democratic process--my favorite!

In the end, Walt Garvin won 46 to 41 this time. And now everyone can go home satisfied that the bylaws were followed, and that Mr. Garvin was duly elected. Michael Laws threw his support to Garvin, and Garvin, realizing the it had twice been a very close race, appealed for a unified effort to win elections in November. One thing is for certain--the new members on the committee have made it known--they are passionate about the bylaws. One new member,  Matt Munsey, who I think I may start calling Rain Man, seems to have them completely memorized. I was tempted to drop a box of toothpicks next to him.

Today's Express Times article by Sarah Cassi outlines last night's events in more detail, but I'm telling you, you had to be there!

If anyone knows whether the Republican Committee has had their reorganizational meeting yet, please post here--I would love to hear whether they've also had an uptick in precinct captains elected this year, and how they are doing as a party in general. I love seeing people getting engaged in their local political process, no matter what side they're on. It's a great sign of good things to come for Easton when apathy and cynicism begin to give way to determined optimism and engagement.


Cathy Stoops said...

Bravo! And thank you everybody for spending your time this way on behalf of us all.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing this you are indeed just as beautiful on the inside as you are on the outside and a pleasure to be around.

Nikkita said...

It was definitely fun to be there last night. Everytime they called out a vote, Carinne and I looked at each other and gasped! it took a lot longer to get everything accomplished but at least now I can feel confident that things will be done in order...or at least others will know that if things aren't done in order, they will be called on it :)

Anonymous said...

I appreciate all of you who participated in this process and want to keep it open and honest. Keep up the good work.

noel jones said...

For a more colorful version of the drama in this courtroom election, check Bernie O'Hare's blog:

Bernie O'Hare said...

Noel, I'm sorry I missed you last night, but you're lucky you steered clear. They nearly beheaded me.

Nice post. I'll link to it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post, Noel. Note that the process took much longer than neccessary because Joe Long (clearly very concerned that one vote could cost Walt the election)attempted to remove Bernie as a commiteeperson.

noel jones said...

Bernie--thanks for posting/linking!

Anon 7:33--yes--true--but I didn't really mind because I was having so much fun watching things run properly and witnessing points of order and civil debate/discussion instead of an uninspired, lock-step voting process.

Had the vote been as close as the first time, Bernie's vote could very well have been the deciding vote, and that would have been really interesting, since the vote was sequestered and it was clear that future Dem committee meetings would be debating whether or not he can be on the committee if he supports some Republicans and publicly criticizes some Democrats. For those who weren't there, state bylaws say that a person cannot be a committee member in such a case, but county bylaws are silent on the issue, and this was a county election. I forget the gentleman's name who suggested sequestering the vote, but I believe he was the same person that suggested that only the election itself could be conducted, that no other business was on the agenda (like the business of trying to kick someone off the committee) and should be handled at a future meeting. A great point, but then, the question on everyone's mind was--what if Bernie's vote turned out to be the determining vote? If Joe Long succeeded in getting him kicked off the committee, would the vote still count because he was a duly elected committee member at the time, or would being kicked-off nullify his vote retroactively?

This illustrates the importance of bylaws. Ideally they should be written to cover all possible circumstances--and there's a rich debate to be had there. I hope that the county committee will take this as an opportunity to begin the discussion to amend the bylaws. I was surprised that the state and county bylaws were so different--I had assumed they must follow some sort of general template, but apparently not.

I must say too, that it was great to watch Bob Freeman in action--his experience was so evident and his manner was thoughtful, responsive and gracious. I really enjoyed the whole evening and learned a lot, so I didn't mind that it went overtime.

Besides, compared to the last several EASD meetings, it let out hours early!

Sandra said...

As a member of the Democratic Committee thank you for all of the work you put into this.Dare I to believe the Democratic Party may indeed now be run by folks who care.Nikitta and Noel this would not have happened for not all the work and pressure you have put on the right folks.
After working the polls and seeing the low turnout of voters,I really didn't think much would changed.
I was almost ashamed to be a Democrat when I saw people pulled from Allentown,Safe Harbor and the streets,going door to door for a candidate for Judge and after a full days work being paid by an Easton City Council person by the headlights of a van in a location in the West Ward.
So hopefully those things will change with some new leadership.
I am sorry to say although some folks will be thrilled I no longer am a Neighbor.But it has been a pleasure getting to know all of you and I am sure when you least expert it,I will pop up.I am like the bad penny you can't get rid of and it always keeps showing up in your pocket! Peace to all

Dennis R. Lieb said...


Good luck with your new endeavors. I am sorry to hear about the episode of street people and/or other uncommitted individuals being used (and possibly paid) to promote a local candidate in our neighborhood. When I ran my meager campaign for city council, there wasn't a single person on the streets or at the polls supporting me that hadn't personally decided their involvement beforehand.

I have never witnessed any of this paying for support myself, but you are at least the third or fourth person since the election who has mentioned to me of being witness to it.

At the very least it violates the spirit of what our election process is supposed to be about. That would be the polite true feelings are that it is a dispicable, pessimistic and jaded and attempt at governing.

I'd quit before I stooped that low.