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  • The Precinct Committeeman's Veil of Anonymity

    Don’t know who your precinct committeeman (PC) is?  Don’t worry neither does the state or your local government.  Yet, these PC’s and Vice Committeemen (VC) are elected by the people (though to a political office and not a government office) in primaries or appointed by the County Chairman. Appointment happens more often than you’d think.

    PC’s, however, hold quite a bit of power especially if a seat on any government level, is vacated for some reason. With this power, they vote for County Chairman in addition to replacing elected officials should a seat be vacated. After Congressman Souder stepped down earlier this year, this set off a chain of caucuses in northeast Indiana bringing about new leadership in many different seats on all levels of government. Yet your average voter didn’t even have a say in who became their next candidate or elected official. And the County Chairman doesn’t have to inform any government agency of who those PC’s and VC’s are who voted in that election.

    State Senator Jim Banks wants to bring transparency to this.

    (Read more after the leap)

    In the year of the caucuses for northeast Indiana, a major weakness in the system was exposed: No government agency holds the official record of exactly who votes in the caucuses, meaning the information is not a public record. A newly elected state senator – who also serves as a party chairman – rightly wants to change that.

    Precinct committeemen voting in a caucus chose Marlin Stutzman as the Republican congressional candidate. Another GOP caucus later selected not just the candidate but the officeholder – Sue Glick – who will serve the remaining two years of Stutzman’s state Senate term. Other caucuses chose two officeholders to fill the remainder of terms for resigning state representatives as well as the candidates to replace them on the ballot for 2011.

    Ideally, Republicans and Democrats elect their precinct committeemen to four-year terms, with Republicans voting in the presidential election year, and Democrats voting in the even-numbered year between presidential elections. But the reality is that many of the ballot positions are vacant in the primaries, so county party chairs appoint many of the precinct committeemen. In Whitley County, for example, 16 of the 34 precinct committeemen are appointed.

    While election officials have records of who won the posts in primaries, there is no systematic way to update the public on who is appointed to the positions.

    Newly elected State Sen. Jim Banks, who is also the Whitley County Republican chairman, said some voters who aligned themselves with the tea party were frustrated in seeking the names of the precinct committeemen who would make decisions usually made by primary and general election voters. Even candidates can have trouble getting the names, he said.

    “If you’re a candidate who has the favor of the party chairman, it’s not hard to get the list,” Banks said. But if not, the chairman “doesn’t have to give you the list.”

    *snip*

    (Banks) has filed a bill calling for county party chairs to file an updated list of precinct committeemen annually with the county election board, as well as requiring updated changes. It specifically requires that the information be open to the public.

    Not all county chairmen behave in such a manner. In fact, 9 out of 10 County Chairmen who handle this correctly, including my own. I know as their have been more than our fair share of caucuses for various reasons in my home county. But there are a few who don’t and spoil it for the whole system.

    As the old line goes, “With great power comes great responsibility”. PC’s can have great power and it has been shown this past year. When it comes to elections, even on the PC level, transparency is part of that responsibility.

    This post was tagged under: General Assembly, Jim Banks, Legislation, Local Elections, Local Politics, Transparency

    10 responses to “The Precinct Committeeman's Veil of Anonymity”

    1. Kim Krull says:

      The state party secretary holds the official list of all appointed and elected PCs. Any Republican can request a list from her (Barb Mc Clellan) if they cannot get from their county Chairman/woman.

    2. Kim Krull says:

      mike, it is the county chairman/chairwoman's duty and obligation to keep the list updated at the state party because it doesn't matter who you have on your county list if you have a caucus. the only list that counts is the one the state has. if you have people voting in a caucus as a PC that is not recognized by the state party (at least 30 days prior to the caucus) then that person is not eligible to vote in that caucus and the results could be challenged. Kim Krull, LC GOP Chairwoman

      • Mike says:

        I think comparing the list on file with the State to the list maintained locally in Marion County would yield some interesting results. Does local caucuses for positions such as County Chair or local office (City-County Council) fall under the requirement to use the list supplied to the state? The last "State" caucus we had in Marion County was for Senate District 30 (Scott Schneider defeated the "establishment" favored Ryan Vaughn) and that was back in 2009 and before that the caucus to select a candidate for the Special Election to replace Julia Carson in Congress in 2008. With the new leadership in Marion County maybe a reminder of this requirement should go to the new Chairman

        • Kim Krull says:

          yes. the state has the official list. In my case, when John Curley died suddenly and we had to hold a caucus in which I was elected, we found that many people who thought they were PCs actually were not as the paperwork had never been submitted by the previous administration prior to the reorganization caucus in March of 2009. Those people were not allowed to vote. There were many unhappy people but in the end we got it all straightened out and now we keep on top of it. It is very important. We have had several caucuses since I have been chair the past year.

    3. @IndyStudent says:

      I have no doubt in my mind that both parties are up to shenanigans during primaries and slatings with PC lists. Bil Browning talks about it a bit during his experience in voting in a Dem caucus to fill Julia Carson's term after her death while in office here <a href="http://(http://www.bilerico.com/2008/01/a_good_conspiracy_theory.php)” target=”_blank”>(http://www.bilerico.com/2008/01/a_good_conspiracy_theory.php). Browning, an appointed PC at the time, wasn't able to vote in the caucus, and claims that PC lists distirbuted to candidates other than Andre Carson were faulty.

    4. Craig Dunn says:

      I have no problems with greater transparency. Our list of PC and VPCs is filed with the State GOP every time that we add someone. We have 70 precincts and the last primary only had 23 people file for election as a PC. Our goal in Howard County is for 80% elected PCs next time around. It will be difficult.

      The potential for a caucus should be a motivation for people to become more involved in the party. Many don't financially support the party nor attend events and then get up in arms when a caucus rolls around and they must watch a small group of people elect a replacement. That's life in politics.

      • Kim Krull says:

        70! ha ha ha ha ha!!!! I have 361 to fill! and that doesn't include VPCs! Actually that number will be changing somewhat as we were able to get some precincts combined that had 200 or less registered voters and some split that had over 1200 registered voters.

    5. Tim Cole says:

      I have been a PC for a number of years. I take the position seriously and often introduce myself to new people in my precinct. I participate in all relevant caucuses and work as a Clerk in my election poll when I'm not on the ballot. I try to attend party meetings and participate when I can.
      The frustrations develop from the cavalier attitude some local party officials have toward their PC base, especially when meetings are called without general invitations to all PCs and their Vices — we don't always know what's going on. I was chagrined to know that my north county chair didn't know my name or who I was at a recent caucus (the rumor is that meeting dates are posted on the bulletin board at his church). Another frustration is the inability to find the name of the Democratic PC in my precinct when the elections roll around.
      It's not a tough job, but it carries some responsibility and committment — why more don't seek this position is a mystery to me.

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