Member Statements on The Ruling of the Chair at the January 2024 General Body Meeting

Member statements on the ruling of the chair at the January 2024 General Body Meeting shall be posted here.

AGAINST by Vinay O.

Comrades, As per the chair’s ruling, the motion to endorse Initiative 83 has been unfairly and incorrectly characterized as an electoral endorsement, requiring a 66% majority vote. It should be correctly characterized as a general resolution, requiring a 50% majority vote.

In the name of fairness, we urge you to vote AGAINST sustaining the ruling of the chair, and to urge your comrades to do the same.

Why is this the fair and correct thing to do? The reasons are set out in our FAQ Document, and below:
First, in 2021, Initiative 82 was endorsed by the Metro DC DSA as a General Resolution, requiring 50%. Why should the Initiative 83 vote arbitrarily have a much higher requirement, and be characterized as an electoral resolution? From the 2021 Convention Bulletin:

Second, section 4 of the Metro DC DSA bylaws specifically only applies to candidates. There is nothing to suggest that it would apply to ballot initiatives. Between these two points, it is very clear that Initiative 83 should be voted on as a general resolution requiring a 50% majority, not as an electoral endorsement requiring a 66% majority. Therefore, please vote AGAINST sustaining the ruling of the chair.

AGAINST by Brian D.

While I agree that an endorsement of an initiative is weighty for our chapter, they bylaws do not mention ballot initiatives. It explicitly calls calls out candidate endorsements twice. I do hope the bylaws can be amended to clarify this issue. Until then we follow the bylaws as written.

IN FAVOR by Aparna R.

Hi everyone, I encourage you to vote IN FAVOR of the ruling of the chair. Regardless of your opinion on Initiative 83, I think it is important that we require every electoral endorsement to receive a ⅔ vote of the members to ensure chapter buy-in.

As the lead of the Initiative 82 campaign two years ago, I know firsthand that our ballot initiative campaigns require just as much investment as our candidate campaigns. Electoral endorsements from DSA are not just rubber stamps on issues we support, they are commitments of resources- of volunteer time and labor to do oppo research, put together communications, and to give up their weekends to canvass every Saturday and Sunday for months until the election. That kind of commitment requires broad enthusiasm from the chapter and requires members to be bought into the race. And as a side note, Initiative 82 was initially brought forth as a general resolution because it was brought as a priority of the labor working group, not explicitly as an electoral endorsement, but it still passed with unanimous consent, far surpassing the two-thirds threshold.

That time and labor is why we require ⅔ votes for major commitments for the organization, including electoral endorsements and priority campaigns. I am disappointed that rather than seeking broad chapter buy-in, the sponsor of this endorsement resolution is seeking to circumvent our democratic norms to try to make it easier to get the endorsement. If you support Initiative 83, you should support the ruling of the chair, and ensure that there is broad buy in and that an endorsement would actually mean something for the initiative.

In addition, the bylaws endow the Political Engagement Committee with the power to set requirements around endorsements and explicitly says that “an endorsement resolution will require a two-thirds vote in favor to pass.” The lessons learned from Initiative 82 and the level of work that went into that ballot initiative inform the PEC and the chair’s guidance around endorsement requirements for ballot initiatives moving forward.

There are parts of our endorsement process, like our candidate question and answer sessions, that are not codified in the bylaws but are part of the Political Engagement Committee’s recommendations for endorsements. The bylaws provide a bare minimum of what we are required to do with regards to endorsements – they don’t dictate all that we are able to or should do. I encourage you to vote YES on the vote to sustain the chair’s ruling to ensure that our endorsements continue to have broad buy-in from our membership.

IN FAVOR by Emily N.

I am writing this statement in support of sustaining the ruling of the chair regarding our chapter’s vote to endorse the Initiative 83 campaign. This ruling required that the campaign must meet the same 2/3 majority threshold of all chapter endorsements.

Our chapter endorsements hold significant weight, as they signify our dedication of time and effort to ensure the success of the campaign. We don’t just express agreement; we invest hours of our chapter’s resources and labor to support and win the campaign. Whether it is for a candidate or an initiative, any electoral campaign seeking our endorsement must receive overwhelming support from the chapter. This demonstrates not only our enthusiasm for the cause but, more importantly, our commitment to actively participate in door-knocking, distributing literature, and fighting to secure a victory.

In the case of a District-wide campaign like Initiative 83, it will require extensive coordination within the chapter and mobilization of volunteers across all 8 wards. Such an undertaking demands a significant amount of time and energy from our chapter, and therefore should be subject to the same endorsement thresholds. If a campaign fails to reach the 2/3 majority within our chapter, it raises questions about their ability to undertake the extensive organizing effort required.

I urge you to prioritize the democracy of our chapter and vote in favor of upholding the ruling of the chair. This will ensure that our endorsements continue to represent the level of energy and commitment necessary to make all of our supported campaigns successful.

IN FAVOR by Tim S.

I’m writing in support of sustaining the ruling of the chair, i.e. maintaining the requirement that the chapter endorsement of the campaign to pass Initiative 83 receive at least a ⅔ majority of the vote to be adopted.

The proposers of this motion are well within their rights to bring it, but their argument – which rests on interpreting procedural quirk in our endorsement of I82 as precedent, and on an extremely narrow reading of our bylaws, divorced from the political context of what the I82 campaign actually was – is deeply misguided on both political and procedural grounds. The language in our bylaws is unclear and should be cleaned up to avoid ambiguity in the future, but the chair’s ruling was correct in the context of the effort required to make a ballot initiative endorsement meaningful and of the goal of producing broad buy-in for electoral endorsements in general. The proposers correctly note that I82 was passed as a general resolution at 2021 convention, and that it thus did not require a ⅔ majority, and that we ought to apply the same standard here. This account omits essential procedural and political context. The I82 endorsement came as a general resolution because it was intended as a campaign for the Labor Working Group, with token support from the Electoral Working Group, rather than as a full-blown, in house electoral campaign. No one brought a procedural objection, which would have been in order and correct, because everyone was on board with chapter support for the initiative, and the body was eager to create time to debate more controversial issues, such as our views on electoral accountability around Palestine solidarity, since 2021 convention occurred near the height of the Jamaal Bowman controversy. The I82 endorsement thus passed by unanimous consent, clearly consistent with the spirit of the ⅔ majority language in our bylaws, if not truly consistent with the letter.

Apart from this procedural context, it’s worth noting that there’s no reason to interpret the general body failing to bring an objection at local convention in 2021 as a constraint on the chair’s right to interpret the bylaws in 2024, especially since neither the chair nor any other members of the steering committee were in leadership in 2021. Had the body voted on some kind of affirmation of that process, or if the chair or last steering committee had interpreted the bylaws in the way this motion proposes, there might be a case for a precedent, but what actually happened was a one off quirk of convention, from before the chapter had a real sense of what a ballot initiative endorsement looks like.

I also don’t find the logic behind the proposers’ close reading of our bylaws compelling. In context, Section 4 of our bylaws is clearly referring to all electoral endorsements when it says “an endorsement resolution will require a two-thirds vote in favor to pass”, despite the reference to candidates in the previous paragraph. The political logic here strikes me as straightforward, even if, as I concede above, the language should be made unambiguous: it doesn’t make a ton of sense to me that we’d require a ⅔ majority for one type of significant electoral commitment but not another.

In a broader, more political, sense, I don’t think I really understand why the proposers want to ensure a simple majority threshold for I83’s endorsement. I get that this makes it easier to pass, but it also significantly increases the likelihood that we endorse this initiative on a technicality, rather than on the strength of the chapter’s support for it on its own merits. I don’t think this is a good way to mobilize people, especially canvassers who knocked thousands of doors last cycle for candidates with deep and broad support. I was excited to show up for Gabe and Max, whose records and communities I knew much less well than I know DC, because the chapter unambiguously supported them: if I83 wins endorsement by a small margin with a simple majority, it’s going to be much harder to make this case.

I encourage everyone, including people excited to support I83, to vote to sustain the ruling of the chair, to ensure that if the endorsement passes, it does so with the mandate that has accompanied our successful electoral efforts in the past.

IN FAVOR by Nicole Z.

I support the ruling of the chair to treat the resolution in support of i83 the same as other electoral endorsements and require a ⅔ affirmative vote for an endorsement. I plan to vote to against overruling the chair and urge other chapter members to do so.

My reasoning is that our chapter’s past electoral ballot campaigns have resulted in significant investments of resources – both in terms of money and volunteer time. The resources dedicated to ballot measures has been similar to the resources invested in electoral campaigns, so I see no reason to treat them differently in terms of the level of buy required to authorize the use of chapter resources. Furthermore, our priority campaign process requires a ⅔ affirmative vote to show that the campaigns have wide buy-in from the chapter, even if there are only five priority campaign applications applying for five slots – this seems like a relevant parallel.

I was the chair of the MoCo branch’s Budget and Tax Equity Working Group, which led our chapter’s successful campaign to defeat a pro-austerity ballot question (question B) during the 2020 general election. During the early stages of this campaign, we submitted a resolution to the chapter general body, authorizing us to use our MD PAC for expenditures related to the campaign. The OpaVote for this resolution passed almost unanimously. Beyond using the PAC, this level of buy-in was useful, allowing us to recruit volunteers from across the chapter, send stand-alone emails to the chapter and solicit donations from the full chapter mailing list and allowing us to apply for a DSA national endorsement, which we received. As someone who has helped lead candidate electoral campaigns and ballot measure campaigns, the amount of effort for both was pretty similar.

In 2022, our MoCo electoral working group met weekly and planned canvasses on both Saturdays and Sundays, fundraisers and more. In 2020, the Budget and Tax Equity Group met weekly, held two phonebanks a week (during pre-vaccine covid), fundraised for the $ needed for phonebanking software and coordinated with the larger coalition opposing the ballot measure. During the course of the question B campaign, our coalition partners sometimes would ask us to recruit volunteers or contribute money towards some of the other ballot question campaigns – there were four total contested measures on the ballot that year and many others in our coalition had taken a stance on all four. But, we turned them down because the chapter had only authorized us to campaign against ballot question B.

Similarly, during the early stages of the i82 campaign and the 2022 electoral cycle, we were asked to put off holding independent canvasses for our 2022 MoCo candidates to allow the chapter to focus on collecting signatures to get i82. Our candidate and ballot measure electoral work works in tandem and it is inconsistent to treat them differently and require different levels of buy-in.

IN FAVOR by Michael M.

I’m writing in favor of sustaining the ruling of the Chair to require a two thirds majority vote for Initiative 83 to be endorsed by the chapter. I think endorsements of ballot initiatives should meet the same standards we require for candidate endorsements because receiving overwhelming chapter buy-in is vital to the success of any campaign we attach our name to.

DSA’s endorsement means something much deeper than that of any other organization: we don’t do paper endorsements — we mobilize volunteers to expend hours of their time every single weekend for multiple months to ensure the campaign wins and that we can resoundingly claim that win. Endorsements of candidates and ballot initiatives operate the same way because they require countless hours of canvassing, cutting turf, creating social media campaigns, mobilizing volunteers, etc.; therefore, they should require the same threshold of support from the general body.

I understand the argument folks are making that Initiative 82 was considered a General Resolution and therefore, did not require a two thirds majority like the Chair is ruling for I83 — however, our chapter’s electoral endorsement process was still very new at the time and I82 was considered a resolution because we had never previously done a chapter-wide endorsement of a ballot initiative via the process laid out by the PEC. It was also assumed at the time that I82 would be a Labor Working Group project rather than an electoral endorsement. We learned afterwards that that’s not the case because it operates exactly the same as an electoral resolution. Point being, our processes and structures are constantly evolving based on lessons learned from previous organizing experiences. This is a sign of chapter maturation, and overturning the ruling of the Chair — which would require only a simple majority rather than a two thirds majority — would be taking us backwards. Also, I82 won with a two thirds majority anyways, so it clearly had chapter buy-in regardless of the required threshold at the time and I believe all electoral endorsements should meet the same standard.

Furthermore, Section 4 of our bylaws states in paragraph 4 that “An endorsement resolution will require a two-thirds vote in favor to pass.” This can reasonably be interpreted as the necessary threshold for all electoral endorsements — not just candidates.

I urge you to vote IN FAVOR of sustaining the ruling of the Chair.

IN FAVOR by Bakari W.

I urge you to vote yes to sustain the ruling of the chair. When the endorsement of Ballot Initiative 82 (I82) was brought as a general resolution in the 2021 convention, it was intended to be a chapter-wide sign-on statement of support, with that support being coordinated mainly by the labor working group.

This was not how it functioned in practice. In practice, the chapter’s involvement with I82 functioned identically to an electoral endorsement. I82 was listed alongside endorsed candidates in our 2022 electoral volunteer sign-up form, which we used to direct chapter members to signature collections and canvasses. [Picture of I82 on election form included] I co-led the field organizing for I82 for the general election, planning and launching canvasses every weekend like we did for Zachary Parker. Our chapter’s canvassing effort knocked 18,000 doors district-wide for I82. It was wonderful! But it functioned as an electoral endorsement in every sense! So it was, in my opinion, a mistake for it to have been brought as a general resolution instead of an electoral endorsement resolution. This mistake was caused by a lack of precedent after the bylaws were rewritten and the endorsement process was overhauled, and an inability to predict how the resolution would end up functioning. We were able to unite behind I82 so strongly because it had so much chapter buy-in: it passed by unanimous consent. It’s important that all of our electoral endorsements have that buy-in, even ballot initiatives, because not having a candidate doesn’t change the amount of work we put into a ballot initiative endorsement.

For these reasons, it was very reasonably ruled by the chair that Initiative 83 would be introduced as an endorsement resolution, and need to be approved by a 2/3rds majority just like all electoral endorsement resolutions, as stated in the bylaws. The I83 campaign is requesting a similar amount of chapter effort as we mustered for I82 and our other electoral endorsements, so it is a valid and sensical interpretation of the bylaws to do this. I acknowledge the confusion that the bylaws mention of candidates causes here, and will be bringing an amendment this year to clarify the definition of an endorsement resolution and the endorsement process for ballot initiatives. Please vote yes to sustain the ruling of the chair.

IN FAVOR by Stu K.

I’m voting YES to sustain the ruling of the chair about ballot initiatives needing a two-thirds majority of approval from chapter members to receive an endorsement.

As background, we’re voting on this due to chapter members invoking their right under Robert’s Rules of Order to “appeal the ruling of the chair.” Initially, our chapter was supposed to vote on endorsement of the ranked-choice voting ballot initiative in DC, otherwise known as Initiative 83. The current Metro DC chapter chair ruled that we should require ballot initiative campaigns to reach the same two-thirds approval threshold as outlined in our chapter bylaws for electoral endorsements. However, the sponsors of the Initiative 83 endorsement resolution disagreed and appealed the ruling of the chair. Their argument is that, since the Metro DC DSA bylaws only refer to candidates–rather than candidates and ballot questions—in the bylaws section on endorsements, then ballot initiatives only need a simple majority vote from chapter members for endorsement, rather than a two-thirds majority.

Even though this seems like a fairly complex Robert’s Rules ball of yarn to untangle, the question at hand is quite straightforward. In short, as chapter members, we’re now deciding whether a chapter endorsement of a ballot question should receive either a two-thirds majority vote from chapter members (the same that’s always been required of candidates in our bylaws) or a simple majority vote (the standard threshold for deciding things in Robert’s Rules, absent any special rules like our bylaws).

I’m siding with the Metro DC DSA chair and voting YES, which would require that ballot initiative endorsements reach the same two-thirds chapterwide approval threshold as candidate endorsements. Although the wording about endorsements in our bylaws may be a bit unclear, what’s not unclear to me is that electoral campaigns—whether in support of candidates or ballot initiatives—require substantial volunteer time, effort, and resources to be successful. Metro DC DSA members contacted nearly 40,000 voters, raised many thousands of dollars, and hosted several events that led to the victories of the Initiative 82 campaign in DC in 2022 and the No On Question B campaign in Montgomery County, Maryland in 2020. Due to occurring right after and right before new bylaws took effect, neither of these campaigns were required to receive a two-third chapter vote for endorsement, but both campaigns still achieved broad buy-in from all members. To ensure that we’re able to repeat these ballot initiative victories as a chapter—rather than endorsing ballot initiatives with a lower threshold than candidate endorsements—we should codify that same high level of buy-in for future endorsements of ballot initiative campaigns.

Again, I urge members of Metro DC DSA to vote YES on sustaining the ruling of the chair and YES on requiring a two-third approval threshold for endorsing ballot initiatives.