Prompted by a meeting he attended of the Black Voices Project and Sound Off, John Deeth has a post discussing the ways in which the Democratic Party can and cannot support candidates in local elections.
Local elections in Iowa are “non-partisan,” which just means that party endorsements do not appear on the ballot. Parties can still endorse candidates, of course, just like any group can. Deeth points out that the Democratic Party’s own rules make endorsements in local elections very hard to obtain, and he notes that changing the rules can be a years-long affair. (Deeth doesn’t discuss Republican Party rules, but I’ll assume they’re roughly the same.)
I left a comment saying that I wish parties would endorse—and change their rules to make it easier to do—because it’s a piece of information that at least some voters would be interested to know.
I also think that there’s a relatively easy work-around. Deeth is right that the Democratic party rules are cumbersome and hard to change. So do this: Create a new group called, say, the Johnson County Democratic Association. Provide in the group’s constitution or by-laws that every member of the Johnson County Democratic Central Committee gets one vote in this new group. Then provide much simplified procedures for endorsements in local elections. Set a biennial meeting to consider endorsements in local elections, set a reasonable quorum requirement, and then allow endorsements by majority vote at that meeting.
That’s all it would take. Of course, you couldn’t force the party to take part, and you’d need a critical mass for the system to work. But if local party committee members participated, voters would quickly come to understand that these are the equivalent of Democratic Party endorsements. And if party committee members decide they don’t want to take a stand in local elections, then at least they couldn’t blame party rules for their choice.
I don’t mean this as a cheeky thought experiment. I really believe that party endorsements can happen this easily if the parties are willing. I’d happily volunteer to draft something if anyone’s interested.