To: Mass Dems Platform Committee
From: Jesse Gordon,
(617) 320-6989 jesse@CambridgeDems.org
Re: 40-DAY RULE
I’m testifying today in support of returning the rule for party registration for the caucuses to the rule that was in force in 2002. The rule that year was that voters must be registered as Democrats one day prior to the caucuses. That has since been changed to requiring that people register as Democrats 40 days prior to the caucuses. This year, that meant independent voters who would consider attending the convention in May, had to decide to change their registration before Xmas.
In this year’s caucuses, most wards and towns had trouble filling all the delegate seats. We should use caucuses in off-years as a recruiting tool to bring in independent voters. We can best do that if they can attend the caucuses and be likely to win a seat at the convention by attending. We can best encourage them to attend by allowing a change in registration as close to the caucuses as possible.
A rule requiring one day prior registration is a reasonable compromise. I would prefer a zero-day registration rule – allow independent to register as Democrats on the spot, at the caucus – but one day prior allows for easier record-keeping and I accept that compromise.
The one-day version of this rule was recommended by the Dukakis-McGovern Commission to replace the 40-day rule. The Democratic State Committee voted it down while refusing to hear input from me, the author of the rule, and declining to consider several compromises offered by DSC members. I consider those actions by the DSC to be counter-productive to the goal of getting new independent voters involved with the Democratic Party.
The controversy about this rule centers on gubernatorial years. I served in 2002 as the Technology Director for the Reich for Governor campaign. We relied heavily on the one-day registration rule to allow numerous independent voters to change their registration and attend the caucuses. We succeeded in bringing hundreds of independent voters permanently into the party as a result. That was our purpose, and should be the purpose of all Democratic Party members.
Several people have suggested an additional compromise. Some people are concerned that Republicans will “take over” our caucuses by registering as Democrats one day prior. To avoid that, I would suggest that people who are “unenrolled” be allowed to register one day prior, while people registered as Republicans (or any other party) be required to change their registration 40 days prior. This would accomplish the purpose of allowing independents to join the Democratic Party and avoid the “takeover” issue.
I’d like to comment on the
“take over” issue from the perspective of the Reich campaign. We indeed did try
to take over the caucuses. We advertised as heavily as possible, spread the
word by every means possible, and recruited actively and publicly to bring
independents to the 2002 caucuses. We still barely managed to garner 15% at the
nominating convention. It is simply not possible for Republicans to stage a
‘take over” of the Democratic caucuses by stealth or behind the scenes.
Nevertheless, I understand that some people would be bothered by the
possibility, so I accept disallowing Republicans. We should, however, do
everything possible to recruit independents, since they constitute 51% of the