Caucus Handbook

 

 

 

2016 GIP Municipal Caucuses Handbook



In order to remain a qualified political party in the State of Maine, the Green Independent Party is required to hold biennial caucuses statewide. Caucuses are called by the existing municipal committee of the party, or in the absence of a committee, by a registered member of the party who is a resident of the municipality. If a municipal committee fails to convene a caucus, than a county committee may do so during the biennial caucus season. If there is no municipal committee in a municipality, then an enrolled Green Independent within a municipality may convene a caucus at any time during the year for the purpose of forming a municipal party committee. The following rules and guidelines are derived from the State of Maine statutes governing biennial caucuses.

The obligations of municipal clerks herein noted are only applicable to biennial caucuses held every two years during general election years (even numbered years).

Rules Governing a Biennial Caucus may be found at http://janus.state.me.us/legis/statutes/21-a/title21-asec311.html


Summary

  1. The caucus may be called by the chair of the committee, a majority of the members of the committee, or in the absence of a committee, by a resident who is a registered party member whom must also follow the same procedure of public notice required of a committee. In biennial years, the municipal clerk must provide public space for the caucus if requested. If a municipal committee already exists and that committee fails to call a caucus, then the county committee may order the caucus to be convened.

  2. The caucus must be held before March 20 (January 1-March 19).

  3. The secretary of the committee (or resident calling the caucus) must have a notice of the caucus published in a newspaper having general circulation in the municipality at least 3 and not more than 7 days before it is to be held, OR must post a notice in a conspicuous, public place in each voting district in the municipality at least 7 days before the caucus. The notice must contain the name of the party, the time and place of the caucus, and the name of the person calling it. If the caucus is not published as required, then the caucus is void. The secretary (or resident calling caucus) must file a copy of the notice with the municipal clerk who shall record it. Contact registered Greens in the municipality by phone or mail, to notify them of caucus.

  4. The caucus shall be opened by the chair of the committee, or in his/her absence by the secretary of the committee or any resident party member, or in the absence of an existing committee, by the resident party member calling the caucus.

  5. The caucus shall first elect a secretary (of the caucus) and secondly elect a chair (of the caucus). Not to be confused with officers of the committee, these are only officers of the caucus itself. The chair presides over the caucus, and the secretary records its proceedings. The caucus shall choose its own parliamentary procedure.



Free Lists

In biennial years, the chair or secretary of the municipal committee, or the person or persons calling the caucus may request from the municipal registrar at no charge, a certified copy of the voting list for its use. Upon receipt of the request, the registrar has 5 business days to prepare and provide the certified voter list to the requestor. Be sure to request the list at least 5 business days before the caucus to be able to use it at the caucus. Request the list even earlier if you plan to use it to contact Green Independents to invite them to the caucus.

This statute can be found at http://janus.state.me.us/legis/statutes/21-a/title21-asec312.html

The state party will also provide caucus conveners with a list of registered Green Independents from its own database. The party list may have additional information such as phone numbers, that will be helpful. However, enrollment data is constantly changing. The list from the municipality is the most accurate list of voters, and is very valuable. Please acquire it even if you don't intend to use it. Using the two lists in conjunction will give you the best use. Coordinating with state party officials, in regards to the differences between the two lists, will help to keep state voter lists up to date.



Registrar Available

In biennial years, the municipal registrar or an authorized agent must be available at the location of the caucus for at least one whole hour (in presidential years) or one half hour (in gubernatorial years) prior to its commencement to register and enroll party members who may then participate in the caucus.

This statute can be found at http://janus.state.me.us/legis/statutes/21-a/title21-asec158.html



Rights and Restrictions

Any person who is registered to vote as a Green Independent in the municipality of the caucus, who is not currently under "restrictions during change of enrollment," may participate in the caucus. A person, who changes enrollment from one political party to another in the same municipality, is restricted from caucus participation for 15 days after filing the change of enrollment. This statute can be found at http://janus.state.me.us/legis/statutes/21-a/title21-asec144.html

Examples for an imaginary caucus in Fort Fairfield on January 16:

  1. A Fort Fairfield-registered Democrat who changes to Green Independent on January 3 MAY NOT participate in the caucus.

  2. A Presque Isle-registered Republican who changes to a Fort Fairfield-registered Green Independent on January 13 MAY participate in the caucus.

  3. A Fort-Fairfield-registered Unenrolled voter who becomes Green Independent on January 16 MAY participate.


Challenges and Oaths

Any enrolled voter in the municipality may challenge another's right to vote at the caucus. The challenged person may then vote only after taking the following oath: "I, (name of challenged person), swear that I am a registered and enrolled voter in this voting district, that I am a member of the party holding this caucus, and that I have not been enrolled in any other party in this municipality within the last 15 days." The secretary of the caucus shall record the administration of the oath and provide a copy of the record to the municipal registrar. If the registrar compares the record to voter and enrollment records, and verifies that the oath is false, then the person who swore to it is guilty of a Class E crime. This statute can be found at:

http://janus.state.me.us/legis/statutes/21-a/title21-asec314.html


Voting Provisions

  1. The caucus may order voting to be done by checking each voter's name.

  2. The caucus may order voting to be done by secret ballot which may be printed or written on plain paper.

This statute can be found at http://janus.state.me.us/legis/statutes/21-a/title21-asec313.html


Party Members Govern Political Committee

The members of a party within a municipality shall determine the method of election, and the terms of office and the duties of their political committees. This statute can be found at http://janus.state.me.us/legis/statutes/21-a/title21-asec315.html


 

Why Form a Municipal Committee?

  1. Green Independents of municipalities will have a direct link to the state committee of the party, as defined by party Bylaws, Article III, "Local Groups", increasing local participation in statewide representation of party views and values: "Members of the party meeting a minimum of four times annually shall be considered a local group of the party once the group designates one person to act as a state contact person for that group. The state contact person will communicate local concerns, questions, proposals, etc. of the group to the state committee, as well as relay information from the state committee to the group. The state contact person shall be a person who has an email address that he or she regularly uses,"

  2. Municipal committees “shall be entitled to appoint at least one member to their respective county committee in accordance with state and county party rules and bylaws,” in accordance with Bylaws Article III, Section B,

  3. Municipal committees “may propose items to the state committee for consideration of action. The state committee shall provide notice, agenda and minutes of its meetings to any municipal or county committee or other qualifying local group that has designated a state contact person. The state committee will keep the committees and groups informed of its actions and pose questions to them.” – Bylaws Article III, Section C,

  4. Free list of all registered voters in the municipality guaranteed every two years for committee use,

  5. Right to call a caucus, which biennially helps the party to remain qualified,

  6. Right to nominate party members for election to county committees at the statewide convention, or in accordance with county committee bylaws,

  7. Right to submit nominations for election clerks (two-year term) to municipal officers; nominations must be submitted to the municipal clerk by April 1st (on even-numbered years),

  8. Right to elect municipal delegates to the party convention (Title 21-A, Ch. 5,Sub. 1, Art. 3/321), although GIP bylaws allow all state party members to participate in GIP conventions. There have been times previously when the party has adopted convention rules that allow municipal delegates to represent the committee's suggested amendments to the party platform, and to cast special votes for presidential preference. It doesn't hurt to elect convention delegates, even though all party members may participate; at the least, it helps the party get early notice of convention attendees. The party may sometimes offer discounted registration rates for convention delegates elected at a caucus because of their participation in party organizing.

  9. Right to replace a vacancy for a candidate for representative to the legislature, in the event that a candidate withdraws from the race or is unable to participate in it. These statutes can be found at http://janus.state.me.us/legis/statutes/21-a/title21-asec365.html and http://janus.state.me.us/legis/statutes/21-a/title21-asec363.html,

  10. In some municipalities (example: Westbrook), the right to nominate candidates for municipal elected office.


Forming County Committees

At our convention this year, being held May 7 at the Belfast Free Library, 106 High St., we elect our party's county committees, from nominations made at municipal caucuses.



Caucusing Locally vs. Regionally

Technically, the caucus does not need to occur within its own municipality. Sometimes, caucuses of several municipalities are held simultaneously together in one municipality. However, the distance away from the caucus's given municipality usually lowers attendance . When a caucus is held its own municipality, attendance is always better than if that caucus were held in another town or city. When municipalities caucus together, most municipal caucuses that participate have low attendances of one or two attendees, or none at all. People are more likely to walk or drive down the street to attend their municipal caucus than they are to drive to another town.

It may seem more satisfying in the short run, to attend a meeting of 15 people in one location, representing 10 different municipal caucuses. In the long run however, if all 10 of those caucuses stayed in their own towns and got three to five people to attend, then the cumulative sum of active participants is 30 to 50, instead of 15. Municipal caucuses can nominate members to county committees, which can then organize their meetings for larger groups.

Don't be discouraged by a small turnout. These are the building blocks of our party organization. With a little love and nurture, it will grow from there. Even major parties get only a couple of people out to municipal caucuses in smaller, rural towns... so, don't feel bad about numbers.

Municipal officials are required to provide a place for your party caucus, free of charge, so there is little reason to hold the caucus outside the borders of your town.



Follow-up After the Caucus

Please provide information to state party officials so that we may stay better connected and organize together in the future. Send copy of minutes, the name, address and contact info for elected municipal committee officers, municipal delegates to the convention, nominees for county committee, any candidates, as well as votes for presidential preferences, and any suggested changes to party bylaws or platform. A caucus data sheet is provided. Please send a copy of the data sheet to the GIP municipal caucus committee.

 

This handbook of information was compiled by Benjamin Meiklejohn, to serve as a useful source and guide for party members interested in convening a caucus. Meiklejohn has served as party chairman (2000-2004), local groups organizer (2000-2006), and founded the Portland Green Independent Committee in 1999 by convening a caucus as prescribed above. Meiklejohn later became the first elected Green Independent in Portland, serving on the Portland School Committee (2001-2007). He is currently a journalist, teacher and musician, and hopes to inspire others to organize, run and get elected.

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