Letter To Central Committee On Proposed By-Laws Conflicts With State Law

365px-democratslogoEmailed 8/19 to St. Louis Democratic City Central Committee, copied to Missouri Democratic Party Chair Steve Webber, Democratic National Committeewoman Megan Green, 8th Ward Alderwoman Annie Rice

Information on 8/21 Central Committee Meeting where vote will take place on Proposed By-Laws Draft #6.

Central Committee Colleagues: I’ve done a quick review of the proposed By-Laws with regard to State Law, which enables political parties to organize and participate in elections, and am passing along what I have found so far.
1) State Law Supersedes Political Party By Laws: By-Laws May Not Conflict With State Law. It’s important to note that Central Committee, and State Party Chair, if he approves Central Committee’s By-Laws, are subject to litigation for any provisions in the By-Laws that are in conflict with State or Federal law.

Section 115.627 RSMo“…Such constitution or bylaws may have any provisions not in conflict with the laws of this state.”

2) State Law Supersedes Political Party By-Laws: Central Committee May Not Overturn An Election. State law prescribes the election of political party committees and appointment to fill vacancies caused by death, resignation, or lack of residency. State law recognizes no other cause of vacancy for political party committeepeople, including a county committee overturning the election of a committeeperson, and provides no mechanism to fill any such vacancy.

115.617 RSMoVacancy, how filled. — Whenever a member of any county or city committee dies, resigns, or ceases to be a registered voter of or a resident of the county or a city not within a county or the committee district from which he is elected, a vacancy shall exist on the committee.”

There is, perhaps, some confusion in this matter (certainly was in 2009) because State law allows State Committee to remove State Committee members. In doing so, however, the State Committee members who are committeepersons retain their status as committeepersons. State Committee is not empowered to undo the election of a county political party committeeperson.

115.624 RSMoState party committees may remove members, when. — The members of the state committee of a party may remove a member of such committee upon a two-thirds majority vote of all state committee members voting thereon.  Upon certification to the secretary of state by the state committee that a two-thirds majority of its members have elected to remove a member, such member shall forfeit his or her office and a vacancy shall exist on said state committee.”

Proposed By-Laws Article X (c) to remove committeepeople who run as Independent candidates would violate State law. Central Committee, and State Party Chair, if he approves Central Committee’s By-Laws, would be subject to litigation in this matter.

Proposed By-Laws, Article X (c): “Upon a two-thirds majority vote of all Members present and voting (within a quorum setting), the Members may remove a Member of The Committee at any time during his/her four-year term of office for running for office in any capacity other than as a Democratic candidate; again, this obviously does not include offices such as City School Board or Junior College District Board etc. Upon certification to the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners by The Committee’s Executive Board that a two-thirds majority of its Members have decided to remove a Member, such Member shall forfeit his/her office immediately, and a vacancy on The Committee shall be deemed to exist from that point in time. The vacancy shall then be filled per Article IV ByLaws.”

3) Junior College was replaced with Community College by statute in 2008. Junior College is now considered a pejorative for Community College. There is a reference to Junior College in Proposed Article IX and Article X (c) and should be amended to Community College. 

4) State Law Supersedes Political Party By-Laws: Central Committee May Not Restrict Committee Voting Rights of Committeepeople. State law prescribes the right of political party committees to nominate in the case of death or withdrawal of candidacy and special elections. It is the right of every committeeperson to cast a vote in such matters.

See 115.617 RSMo above; 115.363 RSMo Party Nominating Committee To Select Candidate, When; 115.365 RSMo Nominating Committee Designated As To Certain Offices.

Proposed By-Laws Article X (a) and Article X (b) would violate State law by prohibiting censured committeepeople from voting on nominations. Central Committee, and State Party Chair, if he approves Central Committee’s By-Laws, would be subject to litigation in this matter.

Proposed By-Laws Article X (a) Censure and Removal: A Member of The Committee who has publicly endorsed or supported a candidate (on any ballot in Missouri) who is not the official Democratic candidate shall be subject to an Administrative Hearing. The Officers of The Committee shall hold an administrative hearing to determine the validity of any such complaint. The Member shall be allowed the opportunity to speak on his/her own behalf at this hearing. If the majority (at least three) of the Officers determine that the complaint is grounded, the Officers shall present their findings and recommendations at the next (regular or special) Committee meeting. The Members may censure the relevant Member (strictly based on the findings and recommendations of the Executive Board) with a two-thirds majority vote of all Members present and voting in a quorum setting. Such a censure may include but is not limited to such measures as the relevant Member not being recognized to address The Committee, forfeiting his/her right to vote on matters before The Committee and/or ineligibility for financial assistance from The Committee. The recommendations of the Officers as presented will determine the severity and duration of the censure, but in no case shall it exceed six (6) months.”

Proposed By-Laws Article X (b): A Member may also be subject to censure for conduct unbecoming of a Member of The Committee. This includes but is not limited to bullying, personal attacks and/or physical intimidation of another member. The process for censure will be the same as in paragraph (a).”

5) Effective Date of New By Laws. The effective date of St. Louis City Democratic Central Committee new By-Laws is not the date of passage. The effective date is when the State Chair approves the By-Laws or 60 days after the State Chair has received the By-Laws but failed to take any action, which ever comes first.

Missouri Democratic Party By-Laws, Section 7.12 Rules of Order: “… The State Committee is authorized to examine all Democratic county rules and all amendments thereto and no such rules or amendments shall be effective until approved by the state chair; provided, however, that if the Chair fails to take action approving or disapproving the proposed rules or amendments within sixty (60) days after the date on which they are received for consideration, the rules or amendments shall automatically become effective.”

The proposed punitive action for nonattendance, censure, removal, new powers of Executive Board, etc. are not activated by Central Committee vote alone on August 21st. 
If State Chair does not acknowledge receipt by the 60 day window, the effective date for the proposed By-Laws Article X (d) on required attendance moves to the next meeting after October 20th meeting.

Proposed By-Laws, Article X (d): “We the Members of The Committee hereby acknowledge that physical attendance at meetings is extremely important. A Member must have physically (i.e. in person) attended at least two out of the four preceding meetings (which includes the relevant/instant meeting) to be eligible to vote on matters before the Central Committee at a meeting. In fulfilling this attendance requirement, submission of a proxy for any of the preceding meetings does not equate to ‘physical presence’ and, thus, does not count. Record keeping related to this paragraph (d) shall begin with the first meeting following passage of these bylaws. Therefore, no voting eligibility restrictions will take effect until that future meeting which takes place four (regular or special) meetings after the passage of these ByLaws. It is also hereby acknowledged – while not forgetting that the Membership feels physical attendance is very important – that such a rule requiring presence at only two (instead of three) out of four previous meetings is not only generally reasonable but also lenient enough to take into consideration the overwhelming vast majority of each Member’s potential for emergencies and other exigencies.”

6) The right to vote is enshrined in Article VIII, Section 2, Missouri Constitution. The right to vote also means the right to have that vote counted and the most votes, or majority of votes as set by law, prevails as winner of an election. While there are provisions in State law for the removal of elected officials for violating laws and in doing so overturning voters choice, no such provision exists for undoing the election of a political party committeeperson, let alone having that election overturned by vote of a county political party. Disenfranchising voters is not and should not be a Democratic Party value.

Marie Ceselski
7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman
7th Ward Independent Democrats



One thought on “Letter To Central Committee On Proposed By-Laws Conflicts With State Law

  1. Pingback: Committeewoman’s Blog: Letter To Central Committee On Proposed By-Laws Conflicts With State Law | 7TH WARD ST LOUIS - HOME OF THE LIBERALS

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