« Evans exit official; the plan to replace him | Main | Shuffling the Q-C gambling scene »

May 03, 2006

On elected and appointed committeepeople...

"In the organization and proceedings of congressional committees composed of precinct committeemen or township committeemen or ward committeemen, or any combination thereof, each precinct committeeman shall have one vote for each ballot voted in his precinct by the primary electors of his party at the primary at which he was elected ...''
-- Article 7, Sec. 7-8, Paragraph (e) Illinois Election Code (emphasis added)

The paragraph above, particularly the word I boldfaced, is the basis for the assertion by Don Johnston and Mary Boland that only precinct committeepeople elected in the March 21 primary can vote when the Democrats' congressional committee decides who will replace Lane Evans as the party's nominee to Congress.

As is always the case with the law, an argument can be made that what it says isn't what it means, considering what it says -- or implies -- in some other section. Johnston, the district committeeman, and Boland, the committeewoman, are undeterred: The business of the nominating convention, now set for May 13, will be conducted by elected committeepeople only.

District-wide, only 396 of the 721 precincts elected a committeeperson March 21.

So, the cry goes, voters in the remaining 325 are being disenfranched. Well, yes, I guess.

Is it possible to "re-enfrancise" the voters in the 325 precincts? Well, the county chairmen can appoint committeepeople in vacant precincts.

Here's how that's worked it practice, in Rock Island County. Forty-one of the 120 precincts were vacant after the March 21 primary. No one ran. (The large number of vacant precincts is in and of itself a measure of the decline of the RICO "machine.")

Chairman John Gianulis, as he is entitled to do, appointed people to fill those 41 vacancies when the county committee re-organized after the primary. He also made no bones about the fact he was only going to appoint people who support the candidate he's backing for the nomination. I'd guess the same is true in most of the other counties in the 17th.

If I were one of the voters with an appointed committeeman pledged to vote as Gianulis wants, I'm not sure I'd feel particuarly "re-enfranchised." I'd be further doubtful, given that in 37 of the 41 cases, the appointee does not live in the precinct he now "represents." (Credit here to Johnston, who provided the numbers.)

There's nothing illegal, immoral or fattening about appointing non-residents to precinct posts. Perfect legal. But on the "enfranchising" issue, it's the county chairman, not the voters in the precincts, who's getting all the enfranchising.

Johnston said there may be some hooting and hollering on the elected vs. appointed issue when the nominating convention is called to order. There's still muttering about a lawsuit to challenge the Johnston/Boland reading of the statute.

In the meantime, six candidates -- each possessing a goodly number of strong points -- are scrambling somewhat bewildered through a sadly truncated process.

Fascinating stuff, kind of like watching ambulance crews busy at a car wreck.

Posted by jcb at May 3, 2006 11:26 PM


Oh, yes, quite fascinating! I have found nothing "enfranchising" about this process.

I just hope if I'm in a big car wreck, the lead EMT doesn't base triage decisions on whether the injured supports his/her candidate.

By the way, is it a coincidence that "fascinating" has the same root as "fascist"?

Posted by: Huck Finn at May 4, 2006 12:36 AM

(10 ILCS 5/7‑9) (from Ch. 46, par. 7‑9)

(i) Except as otherwise provided in this Act, whenever a vacancy exists in the office of precinct committeeman because no one was elected to that office or because the precinct committeeman ceases to reside in the precinct or for any other reason, the chairman of the county central committee of the appropriate political party may fill the vacancy in such office by appointment of a qualified resident of the county and the appointed precinct committeeman shall serve as though elected

Posted by: Anonymous at May 4, 2006 09:23 AM

The words "at the primary at which he was elected" refers to the year of the primary. In other words, 2006 not 2004.
As Anonymous at 9:23 AM points out, there is no difference between appointed and elected.

Posted by: Anon at May 4, 2006 09:49 AM

They better be letting the appointed precinct committmen vote but it doesn't sound like they will. Are they, Johnston and Mrs. Boland, opening themselves to a law suit? It will be a huge internal fight in the dem party and that's a shame. Shouldn't all precints have a voice?

Posted by: not having it at May 4, 2006 10:09 AM

"whenever a vacancy exists in the office of precinct committeeman because...the precinct committeeman ceases to reside in the precinct..."

Reading this, I'd say the 37 of 41 that don't live in the precincts their chosen to represent are not valid appointees.

Posted by: Huck Finn at May 4, 2006 10:49 AM

I don't understand the difficulty.

1. To be elected, you must be a resident of your precint.
2. The reason elected is important is that only they get to vote for the county chairman.
3. One of the big privileges of being a county chairman is to fill vacancies.
4. If you are an elected precint committeeman and move out of your precint, then you are no longer a precint committeeman for that precint unless the county chairman appoints you to that precint.

Seems pretty simple to me.

Posted by: Anon at May 4, 2006 11:49 AM

Huck Finn

When an elected Precinct Committeeman moves from the precinct an opening is created. When filling an open precinct the person only has to be qualified to serve anywhere in the county. If the person is qualified to serve in their own precinct, they may take an appointment anywhere in the county. The Precinct Committeeman that "moved" could be reappointed back to their original precinct if they were still in the county and otherwise qualified. This is a long standing practice and interpretation. I've had paperwork from the Democratic Party regarding this from years past.

Posted by: Anonymous at May 4, 2006 12:02 PM

Those trying to use the argument that residents who don't currently have an elected committeeman are "disenfranchised" are all wet. As jcb clearly laid out, if the unelected, selected committeemen are allowed a vote, it won't make a darn bit of difference who these residents who some commenters falsely proclaim to have such deep concern about may want to choose, the choice is already fixed, by John G.

Hey, if you want to defend that practice, fine, but at least call a spade a spade. If you want to defend handing John G. the decision on which candidate will replace Evans, then fine, just don't try to hide behind this "disenfranchised" baloney to do so.

That arguement simply doesn't hold water.

Posted by: TID at May 4, 2006 12:11 PM

Gianulis was elected to lead the party. He is doing just that. He is doing it his way, George Bush was elected to lead and he is doing it his way.
Unless the law is changed you have to accept their decisions. They are the "deciders."But that doesn't stop us from griping about their style and decisions.

Posted by: Tacky at May 4, 2006 03:29 PM

I agree that the "enfranchising" argument is a little weak at this particular time and situation, but still valid outside of this rare event. The bottom line is that appointed Precinct Committeemen have full authority under the law and always have. It's never been argued otherwise before.

Posted by: Anonymous at May 5, 2006 08:40 AM

The point is that it's the law that establishes who gets to vote, not Don Johnston and Mary Boland. The law says that precinct committeeman vote. The law says that county chairman can appoint precinct committeeman to serve as though they are elected. What is stupid about this whole thing is that if the boundaries of the 17th District were drawn "coterminous" with the county lines, then the 23 county chairmen would meet and cast the full weighted vote of their county no matter how many precinct committeemen were elected or appointed.

How come just because Denny Hastert drew the boundaries to protect himself, LaHood and Weller that all of a sudden each county should lose their representation? Fulton County only elected 1/3 of their committeeman and will lose over 4000 votes if their appointed committeemen are illegally excluded from the process. Fulton County alone will appoint enough committeemen to offset those appointed in Rock Island County.

Allowing all precinct committeemen to participate is not just what the law requires; it ensures that each counties voters are fully represented.

By the way, the county chairman of each county was elected by a weighted vote of each county's committeemen who were also elected. Only the county chairman can appoint committeeman to fill precincts where no one stepped up to represent their area. Being a precinct committeeman, if done right is a big, thankless job, but essential to the success of our party. These decisions should be made by elected committeemen, but that includes the elected county chairman exercising his rights within the law. John G. advised every county chairman to fill his vacancies to make sure their county's full weighted vote would get to participate in this process.

This is Democracy working at its best and if anyone doesn't like the process, then they can run for committeeman and elect a new county chairman in two years. All you need is 10 signatures on a petition. If it had been up to a vote of only the County Chairman, then Rock Island would have cast their 30% of the weighted votes for John G's candidate and we would have a winner and go home. Instead we have an opportunity for candidates and constituents to contact committeemen and make their voices heard, a much better scenario than giving ALL of the votes to the county chairman.

Posted by: let em all vote at May 5, 2006 10:47 AM

What we have is a hand-full of father-knows-best politicians trying to make decisions for everyone!! There is nothing Democratic about it!! If anything it smells more like the former USSR Politburo. We offer up a candidate, it doesn't really matter whether or not you want to vote for him. At least in the USSR they had the useless option of voting yes or no, before the chosen Comrade was installed. Yes-Yes-Yes, we no longer have to think, the party will do that for us. Yes-Yes-Yes, all we have to do is sweat and toil, the party will make all decisions affecting our lives. Thank you, Comrade Gianulis and the Comrade Gianulis Politburo, for reminding us that under your preferred Communistic Strategy: "That all animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others" and that "Napoleon is always right!"(quotes courtesy of George Orwell and his book "Animal Farm")

Posted by: NoMorePinocchios at May 5, 2006 03:48 PM

NoMorePinocchios at May 5, 2006 03:48 PM

That's just silly. The decision will be made by those of us who actually participated in our Democracy. We ran, we were elected, and we organized the Central Committee according to law. That is Democracy. If you don't like it, talk with your State Representatives and State Senators. We could, if the state chose, hold Special Primaries and Special Elections for every opening. It would just cost millions of dollars a year and we would have elections all the time. The Party Slates openings by the thousands throughout the state at all levels of government every election. It's just that not many Congressional races come open. Also, appointed Precinct Committeemen do vote to slate County Board Members, County Offices, City races, Township Offices, etc. all the time.

Posted by: Anonymous at May 5, 2006 08:39 PM

You have to wonder what is happening when all the public is getting just bits and pieces on Evans’ condition. We have heard that he has not been able to vote or work his Washington post for the last three months. We have heard that he is unable to run for office again. We have heard that his brothers are taking over his personal business. The Comrade Gianulis Politburo is trying to ram a candidate down our throats, without a campaign and without the possibility of voters choosing. The Evans camp is slow in getting his announcement of stepping away from the campaign this fall creating a situation where a replacement can only be appointed. What else are they dragging their feet on and trying to put over on the voters. Is Evans’ condition so bad that he will not be able to finish out his term? If so, is the Gianulis Politburo playing some unscrupulous games so they can unilaterally place Hare in to finish the term? Evans and the Gianulis Politburo continue to keep the voters in the dark. You have to wonder what shadowy subterfuge the Politburo are up to! We have now gone ¼ of this year without a representative in Washington. We deserve answers, choices and elected representation!

Posted by: NoMorePinocchios at May 6, 2006 11:02 AM

NoMorePinocchios, your rambling absurdities are almost "Zingaest". I am not from RI nor am I supporting John G's candidate. The law still applies regardless of which candidate we support. This is a rather involved process but we are working it out. Numerous candidates are waging a serious campaign. Sometimes it is not "nice" and things get hotly debated. The turmoil that is perceived as a problem by some is in essence the Democratic process playing out. What exactly is being hidden? Everything is playing out in the papers and on the Blogs.

What is it that you thing you need to know about Congressman Evan's health? You need to check his pulse? He is sick. His health took a dramatic downturn and he made the decision to withdraw from the race. At the current time, one more vote against everything the Republicans do to screw up the country will not make any difference. Show a little compassion.

Posted by: Anonymous at May 7, 2006 09:59 AM

The committeemen need to ask themselves, and to ask on behalf of the voters of the 17th this question: What are we looking for in a Representative? Someone like Lane Evans who will go along with the party line and do some good constituent service? Or a tough legislator who will come up with policy ideas and be able to shepherd such ideas through a closely divided Congress? Do they, and we, want a bench warmer, or an activist?

We'll know on the 13th.

Posted by: paladin at May 7, 2006 03:50 PM

Interesting post, Paladin. For me the question is what type of district Democrats think the 17th is. I think that Sullivan would be a much better candidate in a really conservative district, that Dems have fooled themselves into thinking that the 17th is more conservative than it is, and that we lose a progressive seat if we don't run someone more in line with Lane's politics. Sullivan shouldn't have to relocate where he lives. He can stay in his house and run in LaHood's district when LaHood becomes a federal judge or runs for the Senate or whatever.

Posted by: RFK fan at May 9, 2006 10:08 AM

Sorry RFK fan, but "progressives" (I assume you mean liberals) are a minority in this country. The majority are centrists and conservatives. To elect another "Lane Evans" is to doom this area to legislative backwater.

In over 20 years in Congress, I don't think Lane Evans introduced one piece of legislation to benefit his district. Evans did well in constitutent services and veterans affairs, but he essentially told the rest of the district to piss off. Is that really what you want? Is this what the 17th wants---another inconsequential Congressman? I guess Hare is your man then since I'm sure he'll be as effective as Evans.

But I have a question for you RFK fan. What, or who, is a progressive?

Posted by: paladin at May 9, 2006 07:33 PM

Hi Paladin, can I jump in for a moment?

A progressive believes we all sink or swim together -- that we're all in it together. That making sure Americans have adequate health care, adequate education, a clean environment, a balanced budget, protection from violence, etc. -- that if we all work together on those common goals we all move forward together. That, as opposed to the special interests and the family values hypocrites that now run the Republican Party, quickly defines progressives.

Posted by: political wind at May 9, 2006 10:24 PM

Your posts are intelligent, but I have to disagree with this. You make some fair comments about Evans' career, but if the country is so conservative, why did Evans get re-elected so often? I don't argue--or have to argue--that progressives are a majority in the US, or even in the 17th. That's not the point. It's whether a progressive can win an election there, the possibility of which has been demonstrated repeatedly. After all, though they outnumber progressives, conservatives aren't the majority, either. What they have done is learn how to best rile up their base to maximum power, while appealing on social issues enough to get a chunk of folk to vote against their economic self-interest.

Posted by: RFK fan at May 10, 2006 12:31 PM

Everyone believes in health care, clean environment, better education, etc. but the way you frame it, it's like saying conservatives/Republicans are against motherhood and apple pie!

My question then is HOW progressives intend to achieve the above? Conservatives have been pretty clear about how they want to achieve the above goals.

Your mention of Republican special interests is hilarious though. At least the Republicans have an overall vision. The Democrats are a party of special interests that are often at war with each other. Examples:

1. Gays want the right to marry, but blacks, which make up a major portion of Democrat voters are against gay marriage.

2. School vouchers benefit blacks the most, but the NEA and other teacher unions are against them.

3. Many Democrats (not to mention people of all political stripes) want to stop our dependence on foreign oil. But the Sierra Club and other extreme environmental advocacy groups are against drilling in Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico, wind power (if it is in a liberal area like Nantucket), nuclear power, coal, whatever.

So don't give me the bit about Republicans being in the thrall of their special interest groups----both parties do this to the detriment of the population at large----which is why Republicans and Democrats are both in the tank in public opinion polls.

But do tell, how do progressives intend to solve all the problems before us?

Posted by: paladin at May 10, 2006 02:11 PM

RFK fan, no matter what you believe, this area isn't "progressive" or "liberal". Most, if not all, of the Democrats in this area are blue collar, which means that they are MORE culturally conservative (NOT conservative) than the coastal Democrats. By which I mean our local Dems are more pro-gun, pro-abortion with restrictions, anti-racial quotas, anti-gay marriage, etc.

I think how the Dem "election" plays out as to who will be the successor to Evans will tell us more than why Lane was elected for +20 years (hint, he had no opposition on the Dem side---until now).

Posted by: paladin at May 10, 2006 03:36 PM

You say conservatives have been pretty specific about how they would achieve those goals. Which goals? Fiscal responsibility. The all Republican House, Senate and White House have delivered us the largest deficits and debt in U.S. history. Jobs & economic growth. The Bush-Cheney record doesn't come close to the 22 million new jobs created under Clinton-Gore.
National security. I doubt many Americans say they feel safer now than they did 6 years ago.

So I'm not sure which of the conservative goals have been met with what specific strategies. Please clarify.

As for progressives like me, I support Democrats like Bill Clinton who stood for fiscal responsiblity, job growth, investments in education and environmental protections, balancing the budget, 100,000 cops on the street to reduce crime, etc.

We agree on area Democrats. I think they're less "liberal" than some folks posting here realize. I'd call them moderately progressive, like myself.

Posted by: political wind at May 10, 2006 04:35 PM

Evans originally won his seat when the Republicans chopped off their own foot by setting up Tom Railsback for a fall pushing a personal scandal embarrassment in order to defeat him in the primary. The ploy backfired as Evans and the Democrat party took power in the district and have been in office since. A published study done sometime ago shows that once an elected official manages to get voted in that person is usually secure in that position until he chooses to retire or gets forced out by scandal. The study showed that one reason reprobates such as Jessie Helms and Ted Kennedy can continue to get elected is the voter's apathetic preference just to select a familiar face.

Posted by: NoMorePinocchios at May 11, 2006 03:40 AM