How Do You Get to Be a Delegate?

It’s happening again!  I’m getting a slew of emails from friends because they don’t have a clue who they should vote for in the upcoming California Democratic Party Delegate election. Like the judicial elections, the average voter is either completely clueless or is only vaguely aware of the delegate process and knows next to nothing about the candidates.

Truth is, unless you’re among the small percentage of Americans who are political activists or political junkies, you probably don’t know much about the upcoming delegate election. Unfortunately, most Americans are oblivious to this process. Yet, this election determines a lot.

Twelve people (6 men / 6 women) from each of the 80 Assembly Districts in California will be elected to represent their district for both the 2011 and 2012 State Conventions.  These elected delegates will have direct access to the Democratic Party, attend the Democratic Convention, elect party officers, endorse candidates for Congress, state legislature, executive office and more. Remember the super delegates who were receiving personal phone calls from Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama during the presidential primary?  Although some delegates are appointed many of the superdelegates initially got involved in the delegate process by participating in an election much like the elections that will be held this coming weekend. The point being — this isn’t a meaningless exercise. Its results can have long lasting effects on us all.

I wrote an article a couple of years ago about the experience Dick and I had when we ran to be delegates in our assembly district. It’s a funny story. If you’re interested in reading it, you can find it here. In a nutshell, neither Dick nor I won. But what we discovered was that only about 150 people turned up to vote. This is for a district that has a voting population of over 300,000.  With so few people participating in the process, a candidate only needs to bring a van full of his or her friends (provided they live in the district and are registered Democrats) and that candidate is almost assured a win. Of course, most candidates didn’t do this but some did.

Unlike most elections, this election is about voting for someone who could be your neighbor, someone you have contact with who can carry your message to the party. This is your opportunity to select from a slate of candidates who you might actually know, who you may run into at the supermarket or at the gas station. In other words, this is where representation begins.

So, since there are probably a few of you out there who might find this information helpful, I’ll share with you what I’m going to do to prepare for the election. But before you get way into this, you should know that you have to be a California resident and a registered Democrat as of Oct. 20, 2010 to vote in the election this weekend. There are more delegate FAQs here.

Here is my list of things to do before I go vote:

1) Find the date and location of the election for my assembly district (AD). I already know mine but if you don’t know yours you can find out by clicking here.

2) Review the list of official qualified candidates for my AD that have met the criteria established by the California Democratic Party to run in this election. To see your list click here.

3) Check to see if those candidates are listed as progressives here.

4) Finally, use Google!  This is a great way to learn  more about the candidates, especially the ones you’ve never met.

Another source for good information is the Progressive Slate. This site will help you find your assembly district, explains the process, lists the issues that progressive candidates will take action on. Unfortunately, once again,  California’s prison industrial complex is not listed as a priority issue but that’s a topic for another article.

Also, not all ADs have candidates listed on the Progressive Slate. For example, AD 44 and 45 don’t have any candidates listed on the Progressive Slate but I happen to personally know several progressive candidates in those two ADs. So if you find that your Assembly District doesn’t have any candidates listed on the Progressive Slate website, you probably shouldn’t assume that there aren’t any progressive candidates running in your district. This is where using Google comes in handy.

sharon kyleThe election is this weekend January 8th and 9th at various locations up and down the state. For those of you who want to see the Democratic party adopt more progressive positions, participating in this process is one of the steps you can take to make that possible.  Earlier in this article I mentioned that Dick and I campaigned to be delegates in our AD. We each lost by one vote. Yes, your single vote makes a difference.

Good luck delegates.

Sharon Kyle

Published by the LA Progressive on January 6, 2011
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About Sharon Kyle

Sharon Kyle, J.D. is the Publisher of the LA Progressive which she co-founded with her husband Dick Price. Ms. Kyle is an adjunct professor of law at Peoples College in Los Angeles. She sits on the board of the ACLU Pasadena/Foothills Chapter and is on the editorial board of the Photo courtesy Wadeva Images.