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'Hot mess' brewing at Kitsap County caucus
'Hot mess' brewing at Kitsap County caucus
by Andrew Miller - Special to the SGN

On April 28, 2007, the State Democratic Central Committee approved a Delegate selection plan for Affirmative Action, which was later adopted by the DNC rules and Bylaws Committee on June 30th, 2007. As with most Affirmative Action plans, the intentions are to include more individuals that are historically underrepresented by virtue of race/ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, or disability. For those of you who did not attend a caucus, or who did and forgot, your vote was cast on a sign-in sheet where you provided information about yourself, including you candidate preference choice. How many noticed the LGBT check box? Seriously, how many? At my caucus I know I did, and I checked it off proudly. There were also other boxes available to check, including ethnicity, and a place to include age and other related information. While this was completely voluntary, the information would help track and ensure that these historically underrepresented people would be included in the delegation to the National Convention in the summer, so it would really represent America. We are not trying to fulfill quotas. In fact Rule 6.A. of the code prohibits it, but we are trying to make every effort to see if in fact we are trying to include underrepresented individuals. However, we have, as Christian Siriano of famed Project Runway would say, a "hot mess" brewing in Kitsap County.

Kitsap Democrats substituted a different sign-in form instead of using the one supplied by the state party so as to eliminate the option of folks self-identifying ethnicity, LGBT and/or disability on an optional basis. They made a unilateral change without the consent of the state, which they are within their right. In the rules and by laws, that is not actually a requirement that participants be provided the opportunity to declare status. Basically they "win" when it comes to down to black and white (no pun intended) rules, but this shouldn't be a question of rules. It should be a question on integrity and proper democratic intentions.

Although the cut and dry rules may have not been broken, there are many clauses and phrases in the code that are. As part of Rule 7, "every effort will be made to clued senior citizens, youth, and diversity of cultural, religious, and social backgrounds in the delegation." To not include ways to track underrepresented individuals is to not put in every effort. It may be a seemingly small part of that effort, but to not include it is not "every effort." In addition, this sign-in sheet is a form of recruitment. We want to get more people involved in making a change, especially in specific cause or caucus, which might include an ethnic or GLBT caucus group. We also use this information to find these individuals that are interested in running to be a delegate and give them the necessary tools and training. It can be difficult to run out and proud about whom you are, but it can be a tool used in your favor if trained well. We want to be present to help those individuals break down any barriers that prevent them from running as a delegate. In Rule 5.C. and Reg. 4.7, "Washington State has developed outreach programs. Such programs include recruitment, education and training, in order to achieve full participation by such party groups and diversity in the delegate selection process at all levels of party affairs." How can we train and recruit effectively if we do not have a way to track or contact the individuals who may need it most? Basically we want to include, rather than exclude. The sign-in sheet is one way we can know and work on effective inclusion.

What the Kitsap County Democratic Leadership did purely unacceptable. No excuse could justify the actions. They could argue down to basic rules. They could argue that ultimately we don't need to track or use an Affirmative Action because we Democrats are "color blind." Now, while this a well intentioned idea and concept, it is antediluvian. (And yes, please do look that word up if you need to.) Why should we blind our eyes from people's differences? Instead, we need to be "color conscious," and lift up people's identities. The Affirmative Action plan, if implemented, will do this and create a Democratic delegation that reflects America in Washington State.

Andrew Miller is the Vice President of Communications for the Washington State Stonewall Democrats

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