I’m writing in opposition to Bylaw Amendment 2022-05-BA01: Expand the Political Engagement Committee. I urge chapter members to vote against this resolution.
Although I agree that the chapter’s Political Engagement Committee (PEC) could benefit from reforms, I don’t believe that the changes proposed in Resolution 2022-05-BA01 represent the right approach. I helped establish the PEC in 2020, was the first PEC chair in 2021, and I’ve held a leadership role in nearly every electoral cycle our chapter has endorsed in. Through these experiences, I’ve noticed that it’s important to consider three primary components during any attempt at reforming our chapter’s electoral program. These components are: (1) broad buy-in from across the chapter; (2) recognition of resource limitations in supporting endorsed candidates; and (3) clear structures of accountability and transparency in electoral activities.
I’m opposing Bylaw Amendment 2022-05-BA01 because the amendment as proposed fails to incorporate any of these three components for electoral reforms to be successful. My specific reasoning is below:
- Lack of thorough feedback processes risks low buy-in levels. This resolution will affect every member of the chapter because it amends the chapter bylaws. However, to my knowledge, there was no effort by the sponsors of this resolution to gather feedback from the full chapter before officially submitting the amendment last month, and there has been no feedback effort since then.
For a sense of precedent, there were several rounds of open feedback sessions for both the establishment of the PEC in 2020 and the development of the PEC’s first work plan (updating the chapter’s endorsement process, questionnaire, and endorsement criteria) in 2021. Considering the current ongoing external campaigns and internal programs in our chapter, the lead-up to our chapter’s local convention at the end of this year may be a better time to gather feedback on reforms to the PEC.
Branch-based appointments risk ignoring electoral resource tradeoffs. When chapter members drafted and voted on the creation of the PEC, we approved using state-level jurisdiction rather than branch-based affiliation as one of the PEC appointment requirements. Our rationale for doing so was because our intent was to treat the PEC as a political, chapter-wide advisory body, rather than a shadow Steering Committee with members representing different constituencies (e.g., branches, working groups, sections, etc). Requiring representation for each branch in our chapter—a geographic subdivision that can be as small as a few blocks in a neighborhood—and not state-level jurisdictions may lead to PEC members advocating for the priorities of a limited constituency (i.e., endorsing a candidate favored by a branch), rather than weighing the very real chapter-wide capacity tradeoffs that come with endorsing electoral candidates.
Adding more unelected members to the PEC risks re-creating informal, unaccountable, and undemocratic electoral structures. One of the reasons why our chapter established the PEC was to address a lack of accountability and transparency in terms of chapter endorsements. These issues stemmed in part from the fact that, in addition to there previously being no standard process for endorsements, there were also too many people playing a small role—but not enough people accountable—for how and when our chapter endorsed candidates. Because no one person was responsible for facilitating our endorsement process, the old system resulted in endorsement structures that were opaque and inaccessible to all but the most plugged-in chapter members. If there are more unelected members of the PEC than elected members—as this resolution proposes—I’m fearful that we’ll backslide into the same undemocratic conditions that led to the creation of the PEC in the first place.
Bylaw Amendment 2022-05-BA01 carries several risks that would likely result in the failure of the amendment’s proposed goals for the PEC. Specifically, the lack of good-faith feedback opportunities, switching to branch-based appointments, and adding additional members to the PEC would risk low levels of buy-in, ignoring chapter-wide capacity trade offs, and re-creating undemocratic structures in our electoral activities. For these reasons, I urge chapter members to vote ‘no’ on Bylaw Amendment 2022-05-BA01.