Empower neighborhood-level political party members and ensure a democratic decision-making process in the political parties
In the absence of a political party constitution that guarantees each elected neighborhood committee person a voice in decision-making, political parties have often become mere vehicles for County Chairpersons to raise funds and influence the election and appointment of government officials. In the process, local political parties fail to reflect and serve the neighborhoods that they represent. By enhancing the rights of committee persons, local political party constitutions and bylaws facilitate community leadership and ensure democratic decision-making in our political parties.
Use these materials to advance this solution in your city:
Key Components of the Model Party Constitution:
- Provides committee persons the right to select and vote on candidates who receive party endorsement.
- Provides committee persons the right to develop and adopt a party platform.
- Provides committee persons the right to the political party’s budget
MUNICIPAL/COUNTY POLITICAL PARTY CONSTITUTION WITH REPRESENTATIVE RIGHTS FOR COMMITTEE PERSONS
Whereas, the committee persons of the (Democratic or Republican) Party of the (name of municipality or county) are elected to represent the party membership of their election districts in affairs of the party; and
Whereas, the principle of representative democracy serves to enhance party membership growth and participation by insuring a fair connection between party members [and party leaders] and major party decisions;
It shall be the principle of the (name of municipality or county) (Democratic or Republican) Party that the election of party leaders and the decisions on major party matters shall be by vote of the committee members elected or, in the case of vacancies, appointed to represent their respective election districts.
Voting Decisions of matters specified in Articles two and three of this Constitution shall be by secret ballot for both county and municipal parties and for county parties by use of a voting machine(s) of the kind provided for Primary and general elections. All such voting shall occur at meetings properly noticed by written communication to all committee members sent by the deadlines prescribed by state statute or party by-laws as appropriate, and shall be reserved exclusively to duly elected and appointed committee members present at said meetings.
Article Two: Election of Officers:
The Chair and Vice-Chair of the Party shall be elected pursuant to Article One by the vote of the party committee members at the reorganization meeting of the Party at the time and in accordance with the notice procedures and other stipulations of Title 19 of the New Jersey Statutes. Just as in presidential elections where the President and Vice-President run together and people cast one vote for the ticket, Chair and Vice-Chair candidates will run together and party committee members shall cast one vote. These elections shall take place, for Municipal parties, on the first Monday following the Primary election at which party committee members are elected and for County parties, on the first Tuesday after the Primary election at which party committee members are elected.
Article Three: Endorsement of Party
Endorsement of candidates for the Primary election shall be by voting as prescribed in Article One. Endorsement shall be open to all registered Party members who submit to the Secretary of the Party their resumes and reasonable administrative fees by the deadline prescribed in the by-laws of the Party. All committee members shall be provided with copies of qualified candidates’ resumes prior to the committee meeting at which consideration and voting upon candidates for endorsement shall be held. Candidates for endorsement shall be given a reasonable amount of time to present themselves and their position at a meeting of the party committee and committee members shall be given a reasonable amount of time to question candidates for party endorsement at said meeting. The above time frames, the percentage of Committee members’ votes required for endorsement and any other related procedural matter shall be specified in the Party by-laws. The county party is required to give the county party line for all municipal elected offices subject to primaries to the choice of the municipal party, as long as that choice is made in accordance with the municipal party constitution and by- laws.
Article Four: Party Platform
The Chair of the Party shall appoint three or more committee members to be members of a Platform Committee and shall designate the Chair of the Committee. The Platform Committee shall hold one or more duly noticed platform hearings, open to all Party members of the (municipality or county) in accordance with procedures set forth in the Party by-laws. A draft Party Platform shall be provided to all elected and appointed party committee members at least 30 days in advance of a meeting of the party committee members called for the endorsement of Party candidates. The Party Platform shall be adopted at the meeting called for endorsement of Party candidates by and pursuant to rules for amendment of the draft Party Platform set forth in the Party by-laws.
Article Five: Party Budget
The Chair or his/her designee shall prepare a draft budget for Party Fundraising and expenditures. Said budget shall set forth the ranges of amounts to be allocated to party building and for the election of individual party endorsed candidates. The budget must be made available to any party committee member who requests a copy.
Article 6: Amendments
Any proposed amendments to the Constitution will require a 60% vote of the party committee members through voting procedures spelled out in the by-laws.
BY-LAWS OF THE COUNTY AND MUNICIPAL COMMITTEES
ARTICLE I: MEMBERSHIP
Section 1. Elected Membership:
The (County/Municipal) Committee shall be composed of one male and one female member elected per district in each ward of the (Municipality/County) at the annual Primary Election by the (Democratic/Republican) voters of each election district of the county and municipality. Each member must be a duly registered (Political Party) who resides in that election district of (Municipality) pursuant to the qualifications for voting and holding a Partisan Party Committee seat under the laws of the State of New Jersey
Section 2. Terms of Office:
Pursuant to statute, the members of the Municipal and County Committees shall take office for a one-year term, commencing on the first Saturday following their election, on which day the terms of all committee theretofore elected shall terminate.
Section 3. Filling of Vacancies:
A vacancy in the office of a member of the County/Municipal Committee shall be filled by the Municipal Committee of the municipality wherein the vacancy occurs in accordance with applicable New Jersey State Statutes and these by-laws. The vote on the vacancy shall be by secret ballot and shall occur at the next succeeding Municipal Committee meeting occurring 10 days after the vacancy. Written notice of the vacancy shall be provided to all Municipal Committee members within three days of its vacancy.
Section 4. Honorary Members:
The following elected or appointed (Democratic/Republican) residents of (Municipality) shall be honorary members of the municipal committee, with all the rights and privileges of membership, excepting the right to vote and unless otherwise provided for in these Bylaws:
a. The (Democratic/Republican) Committee National, State and County Committeemen and Committeewomen;
b. The Chairpersons of all standing committees as defined in Article VIII, Section I of these By-laws;
c. All (Democratic/Republican) elected officials within the Municipality/County Nothing therein, however shall be interpreted to deny the right to vote to such elected or appointed official, who also is a duly elected member of the Municipal Committee.
ARTICLE II: OFFICERS
Section 1. Qualification of Officers:
Any (Democratic/Republican), male or female, shall be eligible to hold any office, whether or not he or she is a member of this (Municipal/County) Committee, however, the Chair and the First Vice-Chair shall be individuals of the opposite sex, and all officers are eligible to serve so long as they are registered (Democrat/Republican) who are age 18 or older and legal residents of the (Municipality/County) for the duration of the term in office.
Section 2. Election of the Chair, Vice-Chairs, Recording Secretary, Corresponding Secretary, Sergeant-at-Arms, and Treasurer:
The Chair and the Vice Chair shall be elected at the organization meeting of the Municipal Committee at the beginning of each term, as provided by State law. Individually these persons are officers of the (Municipality) (Democratic/Republican) Party. The Chair can if he/she so decides appoint other officers including, a Recording Secretary and/or Corresponding Secretary, Sergeant-at-Arms, and Treasurer. Collectively they shall be known as the Executive Committee.
Section 3. Term of Office:
The Chair and Vice-Chair shall hold office for the full term or until their successors is duly elected by the committee body. If at any time the Chair is no longer a bona fide resident of the (Municipality/County) he or she will automatically forfeit the office and the entire committee as a whole of the municipal committee will be convened for the purposes of voting to fill the vacancy. If the Vice-Chair is no longer a bona fide resident of the Municipality/County the Chair will either appoint a replacement or the office can stay vacant until the next Chair election.
Section 4. Nomination for Officers:
Candidates for Chair shall be nominated by any elected member of the (Democratic/Republican) Municipal Committee.
Section 5. Method of Election:
a. If there is no contest for Chair, election shall be held by voice vote;
b. If there is a contest for any office, election for that office shall be by secret ballot of the whole Municipal Committee in accordance with Article One of this (Municipal/County) Committee Constitution.
c. The candidate receiving a simple majority of the vote of those members of the Committee present and voting shall be the holder of the particular office. In the event that no candidate achieves a simple majority of the vote, there will be a subsequent vote between the top two vote getters to settle the vote, but in any case, there shall be an opportunity for election speeches by the top two candidates before the vote.
ARTICLE III: DUTIES OF OFFICERS
Section 1. Chair:
The Chair Shall:
a. Preside at all meetings of the (Municipal/County) Committee and of the Executive Committee;
b. Appoint the chair of all standing committees and be responsible to the (Municipal/County) Committee for the faithful performance of their duties;
c. Serve as a member ex officio of all standing committees;
d. Faithfully execute the decisions of the Municipal/County Committee;
e. Shall authorize all expenditures prior to payment by the Treasure of the Disbursements of the (Municipal/County) Committee;
f. Prepare an annual draft budget for each fiscal year (July 1 to June 30) by May 15, before the Primary election. The draft budget shall be sent to all (Municipal/County) Committee members together with and at the same time as the vote of the (Municipal/County) Committee. 6
Section 2. Vice Chair;
The Vice-Chair shall:
a. Assist the Chair and the performance of the Chair’s duties;
b. In the absence of the Chair, preside at meetings of the Municipal Committee or of the Executive Committee;
c. Perform such other duties as requested by the Chair
d. In the event of a vacancy in the office of the Chair, the First vice Chair shall assume said office until such time as the (Municipal/County) Committee is called to a meeting to seat a new chair no later than thirty (30) days of such vacancy.
Section 3. Recording Secretary (Optional):
The Recording Secretary shall:
a. Keep full and correct minutes of the proceedings of the (Municipal/County) Committee and of the Executive Committee;
b. Keep a complete roster of all members of the (Municipal/County) Committee and of all (Municipal/County) Standing Committee Chairs
c. In the absence of the Chair, Vice-Chairs, and the Treasurer, preside at meetings of the Municipal Committee or of the Executive Committee.
d. Perform such other duties as requested by the Chair.
Section 4. Corresponding Secretary (Optional):
The Corresponding Secretary shall:
a. Attend to all matters of correspondence as may be directed by the Chair, the Executive Committee or the (Municipal/County) Committee;
b. Prepare and mail notices of all meetings of the (Municipal/County) Committee and of the Executive Committee;
c. Perform such other duties as requested by the Chair
Section 5. The Treasurer (Optional):
The Treasurer shall:
a. Deposit all funds received (from his or her custody) and in such ban as the Chair may designate
b. Keep full and complete account of all monies received and disbursed by him or her;
c. Prepare and file such financial statements and reports as may be required of and by the (Municipal/County) Committee by law, including but not limited to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission reports, and that these reports shall be made available for inspection.
d. Act ex officio as a member of the Finance Committee.
e. In the absence of the Chair and the Vice-Chairs, preside at a meeting of the Municipal Committee or the Executive Committee
f. Perform such other duties as requested by the Chair
g. The Treasurer shall be charged with the responsibility of preparing and making available to any elected Committee member who so desires a copy of the Treasurer’s last report to the Executive Committee
Section 6. Sergeant-at-Arms (Optional):
The Sergeant-at-Arms shall:
- Assist the Chair in maintaining order at all meetings.
Section 7. Additional Duties:
In addition to the above-enumerated duties, each officer shall perform such other function as may be required of him or her by:
a. These By-Laws;
b. The Statutes and regulations of the State of New Jersey
c. The (Municipal/County) Committee;
ARTICLE IV: COMMITTEES
Section 1. Standing committees:
In addition to the Platform Committee which is required by the Constitution, there may be the following standing committees of the (Democratic/Republican) Municipal Committee, which will be established as needed and at the discretion of the Chair:
a. Rules, Resolutions and By-Laws
b. Finance Section
2. Removal from Committee: OR
A Vacancy in the chair or membership of any of the above Standing Committees may be declared by a simple majority of those present at a special meeting of the (Democratic/Republican) Municipal Committee for the following reasons:
a. That member’s moving out of the municipality; or
b. That member’s non-performance of his duties on the committee or resignation;
failing to attend three (3) consecutive meetings of the committee, without good cause or valid prior notification and excuse shall constitute a failure to meet the minimum level of attendance and shall constitute automatic resignation from the committee;
Section 3. Duties of the Committees: Required Committees:
a. Platform Committee, which shall prepare the (Municipal/County) (Democratic/Republican) Platform for all Municipal, County, and State Legislative election campaigns for presentation and recommendation to the Chair and Municipal/County Committee, to hold hearings thereon annually and to solicit the view of all candidates, elected officials and others within the (Democratic/Republican) party Optional Committees
b. Rules, Regulation and By-Laws Committee, which shall consider and report to the Chair and (Municipal/County) Committee on all questions of law, procedure, resolution or proposed amendments to these By-Laws
c. Finance Committee, which shall arrange and conduct all fundraising events and functions, turning such funds over to the Treasurer who shall deposit said funds into the committee’s official bank account in accordance with these by-laws.
Section 4. Special Committees:
The Chair from time to time may appoint such Special Committees, for specific purposes and for such terms, as he/she may deem advisable.
Section 5. Reports of Committees:
All committees shall report at such times as requested to do so by the Chair.
ARTICLE V: MEETINGS
Section 1. Organization Meetings: The Annual organization meeting of the County Committee shall be held every year on the (for Municipal Committees) first Monday after the Primary Election, or (for County Committees) the first Tuesday after every Primary Election at ____ of said day, in a place to be designated by the Chair in the call for the meeting.
Section 2. Special Meetings: Special meetings may be held at any time upon the call of the Chair, or upon the written request of thirty (30) percent of the members of the Committee addressed to the Chair in the call for the meeting. All special meeting notices must be made to all Committee members with at least fourteen (14) days written notice [and a subsequent seven (7) day reminder.] The Chair shall determine those instances in which a telephonic meeting of the Executive Committee may be held in lieu of a meeting in person, provided, however, that upon application of two-thirds (2/3) or more members of the Executive Committee, an in-person meeting shall be held instead. The Recording Secretary will maintain minutes of all Executive Committee meetings.
Section 3. Quorum: Fifty (50) percent of the elected and sitting members of the Committee plus (1), which excludes vacancies, shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business of the Committee.
Section 4. Notice of Meetings: Written notices of meetings setting forth the place, date, hour and agenda of meetings shall be mailed and emailed by the Recording or Corresponding Secretary to all members as follows:
10 a. Organization Meetings: As soon as practicable after the Primary Election, but in any case, not later than two days after the Primary Election
b. Other Meetings of the Committee (not including special meetings which shall be noticed in accordance with section 2 of Art. V 10 days in advance of the meeting
c. Subcommittee Meetings: All subcommittee members must be given at least fourteen (14) days prior notice of a meeting by official U.S. mail and by email or by facsimile.
ARTICLE VI: ORDER OF BUSINESS
Section 1. Call to Order: At the hour set in the call for the meeting, if a quorum is present, the Chair shall call the meeting of the Committee to order.
Section 2 Organization Meeting: At the organization meeting of the Committee, called as provided by statutes, the order of business shall be as follows:
a. Salute to the flag
b. Adoption of Constitutions and By-Laws unless previously adopted
c. Nomination of Chairs from the floor
d. Election of Chairs
e. Other Business
Section 3. Other Business: At all other meetings of the Committee, the order of business shall be as follows:
a. Salute to the flag
b. Consideration of minutes of previous meeting
c. Reports of officers
d. Reports of Standing Committees
e. Reports of Special Committees
f. Action on any motions agendized for a vote
g. Unfinished business, if any
h. New business, if any
Section 4. Rules of Order: Unless otherwise provided for in these By-laws or by statute, all business shall be governed by Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised
ARTICLE VII: AMENDMENTS TO BY-LAWS
Section 1. Effective Dates: Unless otherwise provided for in these By-laws or by statute, all business shall be governed by Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised
Section 2. Submission of Amendments: Any proposed amendment to these By-laws must be submitted by a member of the (Municipal/County) Committee in writing to the (Municipal/County) Chair at least forty-five (45) days prior to the date of the meeting at which said amendment is to be considered. The Chair shall provide written notice and a copy of the proposed amendments by U.S. mail and email to the entire (Municipal/County) Committee membership. Constitutional amendments cannot be considered during the candidate endorsement process whether that is for a regularly scheduled primary, to fill a vacancy, or to make recommendations on filling vacancies.
Section 2a. Referral to Committee: The Chair, upon receipt of such proposed amendment, shall immediately submit it to the Committee on Rules, Resolution and By-Laws for study and recommendation, if the county or municipal party has such a committee. The recommendations, if any, of said committee shall be made in writing to the (Municipal/County) Chair within fifteen (15) days of the Chair’s receipt of the submission referred to in section 2, Art. VII.
Section 3. Notices: The proposed amendment shall be considered by the elected (Municipal/County) Committee members only after the complete text of the proposed amendment, the Committee on Rules Resolution and By-laws recommendation, and the affected existing By-law section are included 12 in a meeting notice provided at least 10 days prior to the meeting at which the by-law amendments are agendized for discussion and a vote and only after the proposed amendment is read aloud and distributed in writing at a previous committee meeting.
Section 4. Adoption: A by-laws amendment shall be adopted by a 51% vote of the elected members of the (Municipal/County) Committee present and voting at the meeting for which a vote is agendized. A constitutional amendment shall be adopted by a 60% vote which cannot be held during the candidate endorsement process as specifically spelled out in Section 2.
ARTICLE VIII: COMMITTEE VOTING ON CANDIDATE ENDORSEMENTS
Section 1. Purpose and Objectives- Empowerment of Committee Members: The Purpose of these by-laws is to establish and maintain fundamental participatory democracy as the foundation for a strong (Municipal/County) (Democratic/Republican) Organization and, specifically, to empower the duly elected committee members by endowing each with an equal vote in selecting candidates for endorsement for elective office.
Section 2. Procedure
1. At least one hundred-twenty (120) days prior to the Primary Election for the General Election in each year an office specified above shall be up for election, the Secretary of the Organization shall place a notice or press release in a newspaper of general circulation in the (Municipality/County) which shall solicit for consideration any person wishing to seek the endorsement by the (Municipal/County) (Democratic/Republican) Party for election to office
2. Any person wishing to place his/her name before the organization for consideration for said office shall, at least ninety (90) days prior to the Primary Election
i. Submit sufficient copies of his/her resume so that each party committee member can be sent one setting forth the person’s qualifications for elective office in general and for the office specifically desired. (The resume shall include the prospective candidate’s name, home address, home phone number, occupation, business address and business phone number and shall not exceed two pages-front and back on each).
ii. A non-refundable application fee to cover to the organization’s expenses in mailing copies of the resumes to each Committee Member, Municipal 13 Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson. The amount of the fee shall be established each year and set forth in the notice or press release prescribed in Section 3 (A) (1) above. In no event may the fee exceed mailing costs.
iii. A petition signed by 200 registered (Democrats /Republicans) who are residents of the County or for a municipal office 50 registered (Democrats/Republicans) who are residents of the Municipality in support of said person running for the office with a Legislative or Congressional district partially within the (Municipality/County) , the number of signatures shall be reduced by the percentage of registered (Democrats/Republicans) within the district who are not residents of the (Municipality/County)
3. After receipt of the requisite resumes, certified checks, and petitions and least eighty (80) days before the Primary Election, the Party’s Secretary shall mail a copy of each qualifying prospective candidate’s resume to every (Municipal/ County) Committee member, Chair, and Vice-Chair. Each such prospective candidate, upon fulfilling the obligations, may appear at (Municipal/County) committee meetings, held for the purpose of candidate review, in an effort to promote his/her candidacy.
b. Convention- Selection and Endorsement of Candidates
1. At least sixty (60) days before the Primary Election, which date is not later than six days prior to the date established by law for the filing of petitions with the County Clerk for a person seeking elective office, the Party shall hold a Convention.
i. Ten (10) days prior to the Convention, a written notice shall be mailed to each (Municipal/County) Committee Member, (Municipal/County) Chair, Vice-Chair and to each prospective candidate qualifying for consideration by the organization. The notice shall specify the date, time and place of the Convention as well as the candidates and offices under consideration.
ii. The Convention shall be open to all registered (Democrats/Republicans) of the (Municipality/County) who wish to participate in the convention, with seating reserved for (Municipal/County) Committee members, (Municipal/County) Chairs, Vice-Chairs, and the (Municipal/County) Executive Committee.
iii. At the Convention, the Organization shall select the candidate(s) to be endorsed by the Party in the Primary Election. iv. Prior to the selection itself, each prospective candidate for endorsement by the Party shall be permitted five (5) minutes to speak before those assembled at the Convention. No nominating or seconding speeches shall be permitted. After all the qualified candidates for each elective office have spoken, the Party shall conduct a question and answer period at which time only Committee members shall be permitted to ask questions of and receive responses from the qualified candidates. It shall be in the discretion of the Chair of the (Municipal/County) Party to determine the length of time for question and answer periods.
iv. Following the speeches and question and answer periods, the selection shall be held by secret ballot using voting machines. Only Committee members who were elected or who were appointed by ______ and who display valid identification shall be permitted to vote. In the event of a selection of candidates for endorsement for the office of U.S. Representative, State Senator, and/or Assembly Representatives, only those Committee members living in the respective legislative district may vote for these candidates. If more than two candidates seek the endorsement by the Party for a single office, a vote of fifty (50) percent of those voters present at the Convention plus one shall be necessary to win the endorsement by the Party. If after any such balloting no candidate shall receive the requisite number of votes, then the candidate(s) receiving less than twenty (20) percent of the total vote shall be removed from the ballot and another balloting shall take place immediately. If, however, there are three candidates running for the Organization’s endorsement for a single office and none receives the requisite number of votes to win then the candidate receiving the fewest votes shall be removed from the ballot and another balloting shall take place immediately. In the event that there are more than three candidates and on the first ballot and none of the candidates receive at least twenty percent of the vote, then all but the top three vote-getters shall be dropped and the balloting shall continue as prescribed herein. These procedures shall continue until a candidate receives the requisite number of votes. If only one person seeks endorsement by the Party for a single office, the selection may be by acclamation at the discretion of the Chair of the Party.
2. Each candidate achieving the endorsement of the Committee members shall receive the Party’s support for the forthcoming Primary Election. Regardless of whether he or she has the endorsement of the Party in the Primary, the candidate who wins the Primary election for each elective office shall have the endorsement and support of the (Municipal/ County) Party in the general election.
3. In the event of a special election or other requirements to fill public office vacancies such as when the municipal party is required to recommend 3 people for vacant Council positions, a candidate selection/endorsement/recommendation process shall be established and published by the Chair of the (Municipal/County) Party that adheres to the secret ballot rules specified in this constitution and bylaws and that adheres as closely as possible to the remaining by-law requirements while providing the flexibility to adapt to timelines and other statutory requirements for filling the specific public office vacancy being addressed.