Rensselaer County Democratic Committee By-Laws
ARTICLE I GENERAL PROVISIONS
SECTION 1 PARTY MEMBERSHIP
The membership of the Democratic Party of the County of Rensselaer shall consist of duly enrolled Democrats within Rensselaer County.
No test for membership in, nor oath of loyalty to, the Democratic Party of New York shall be required or used that has the effect of requiring prospective or current members of the Democratic Party to acquiesce in, condone or support discrimination on the grounds of race, sex, age, color, creed, national origin, religion, ethnic identity, sexual orientation, disability or economic status.
The Democratic Party on all levels shall support the broadest possible registration without discrimination on grounds of race, sex, age, color, creed, national origin, religion, ethnic identity, sexual orientation, disability or economic status.
ARTICLE II PARTY ORGANIZATION
SECTION 1 RENSSELAER COUNTY DEMOCRATIC COMMITTEE
There shall be a County Committee in the County of Rensselaer to be known as the Rensselaer County Democratic Committee ("County Committee").
The County Committee shall be the official organization of the Democratic Party of Rensselaer County, and shall possess such powers and perform such duties as may be fixed by statute or prescribed by these rules.
The unit of representation within the County Committee shall be the various Election Districts within the County.
The County Committee shall consist of two members from each Election District in Rensselaer County. Each member of the County Committee shall have a weighted vote in accordance with section 2-104 of the Election Law of the State of New York; as such provision of law may be amended from time to time. Each Election District shall elect its two County Committee members bi-annually in the Democratic primary conducted each even-numbered year.
At each organizational meeting of the County Committee, it shall elect the following officers: 1) Chairperson; 2) First Vice-Chair; 3) Second Vice-Chair; 4) Third Vice-Chair; Treasurer and Secretary.
In the event of a vacancy in the office of Chairperson, the First Vice-Chair shall become Chairperson of the Committee with all of the powers and duties of the Chairperson to call and govern meetings of the Committee and shall serve the full unexpired term of the Chairperson. In the event of the temporary incapacitation of the Chairperson, the first Vice-Chair shall serve as Chairperson until such time as the Chairperson is able to resume the duties of the Chair.
SECTION 2 TOWN AND CITY PARTY COMMITTEES
The other political subdivisions within the County such as cities and towns shall have party committees.
ARTICLE III ORGANIZATION OF THE COUNTY COMMITTEE
SECTION 1 ELECTION OF OFFICERS
Members of the County Committee shall convene at a meeting called by the Chairperson of the County Committee to organize and elect the Officers of the County Committee and Members of the Executive Committee of the County Committee within twenty days following the primary election day on which they are elected.
SECTION 2 COMMITTEES
The Executive Committee shall be a standing committee of the County Committee. The Chairperson may designate such other committees and Chairpersons of Committees as deemed appropriate including, but not limited to, a Finance Committee, Law Committee, Nominations Committee and Campaign Committee. Each committee shall include at least two members of the County Committee.
SECTION 3 COMPOSITION OF EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE
The membership of the Executive Committee shall be selected by the Town Chairpersons and City Chairpersons in each Legislative District in ratio and in number equivalent to the composition of the membership by Legislative District in the Rensselaer County Legislature, said number being nineteen (19) at the time of adoption of these by-laws. Any disputes among the Town Chairpersons as to the membership of the Executive Committee in their Legislative District shall be decided by the County Chairperson. The Democratic Commissioner of the Rensselaer County Board of Elections shall be an ex-officio member of the Executive Committee.
Regular meetings of the Executive Committee shall be held on such days at such hours and places designated by the Chairperson. The Chairperson or the Chair’s designee shall give written notice of regular meetings of the Executive Committee by regular mail to the residence of each member of said Committee or by electronic mail to an address provided by said member for the purpose of receiving notice of Committee meetings not less than seven (7) days prior to the date of each meeting.
Special meetings of the Executive Committee shall be held at the call of the Chairperson of the County Committee or at such date, time and place designated in writing by ten members of the Executive Committee to all members of the Executive Committee. Special meetings of the Executive Committee shall be upon at least five (5) days notice.
A member of the Executive Committee may authorize his or her written notarized proxy to be executed by any other member of the Executive Committee.
Fifty one percent (51%) of the Executive Committee present in person shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business.
Notice of an adjournment of an Executive Committee meeting shall be provided in the same manner as Notice of a special meeting of the Executive Committee.
Except in matters requiring the action of the County Committee under the provisions of the Election Law, or in matters otherwise specifically provided for in these Rules, the Executive Committee shall have the power to act for the County Committee between meetings of the County Committee.
SECTION 4 TERM OF OFFICE
All Officers and members of the Executive Committee shall hold office until their successors are elected.
SECTION 5 FILLING OF VACANCIES
In the case of the death, declination, disqualification, resignation, removal from office of a member of the County Committee, or failure to elect a member from an Election District, the vacancy caused thereby may be filled by the Members of the County Committee by the election of an enrolled voter of the Democratic Party qualified to hold such position and recommended by his or her County, City or Town Chairperson.
In the event of death, declination, disqualification, resignation, or removal from office of an officer, such vacancy may be filled by a vote of the members of the County Committee at a meeting where such vacancy shall occur or be reported, or at a subsequent meeting.
If the office of First Vice-Chair, Second Vice-Chair, Third Vice-Chair, Treasurer or Secretary becomes vacant for any reason, the Chairperson may fill such vacancy by appointment and the person so appointed shall hold office until the vacancy shall be filled as provided in paragraph (b) of this section.
SECTION 6 NOMINATION OF COUNTY LEGISLATOR CANDIDATES
The County Committee will take the recommendation of County Committeepersons from within each Legislative District for the purpose of designating the nomination of candidates for the office of County Legislator.
ARTICLE IV MEETINGS OF THE COUNTY COMMITTEE
SECTION 1 REGULAR MEETINGS
At least one regular meeting of the County Committee shall be held each year, at such a time and place within Rensselaer County as the County Chairperson may fix upon ten (10) days written notice.
SECTION 2 SPECIAL MEETINGS
Special meetings of the County Committee may be called by the Chairperson at any time upon ten (10) days prior written notice of regular meetings of the Executive Committee by regular mail to the residence of each member of said Committee or by electronic mail to an address provided by said member for the purpose of receiving notice of Committee meetings. Special Meetings shall also be called by the Chairperson on such date and time as requested in writing by one-third of County Committee members, provided such date is at least eleven (11) days following receipt of the request. The Chairperson shall call such Special Meeting and provide at least ten (10) days written notice as set forth in this section. In the event the Chairperson shall refuse to call a Special Meeting as set forth in this Section, a member of the Executive Committee may call the meeting by providing five (5) days prior written notice in the manner required by this section.
SECTION 3 QUORUM
The presence of sixty (60) members of the County Committee present in person or by proxy shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business.
SECTION 4 PROXIES
The use of proxies at meetings of the County Committee shall be limited as follows:
Proxies shall be non-transferable.
Proxies shall be notarized, shall have the date executed incorporated in the proxy.
The most recently executed proxy shall be the one voted.
A proxy in the form attached to these bylaws is presumptively valid when properly executed and notarized.
SECTION 5 ORDER OF BUSINESS
At all meetings of the County Committee, the following shall be the order of business:
Pledge of Allegiance;
Verification of Proxies;
Calling of the roll:
Election of Officers (if necessary);
Nomination of Candidates (if necessary);
Consideration of Minutes of previous meeting;
Filling of vacancies on County Committee.
ARTICLE V DUTIES OF OFFICERS AND COUNTY COMMITTEE MEMBERS
SECTION 1 GENERAL DUTIES
The Chairperson, First Vice-Chair, Second Vice-Chair, Third Vice-Chair, Treasurer and Secretary shall perform the duties customarily incident to their respective offices or as may be assigned to them.
In addition to the duties, powers and functions prescribed by the Election Law and these rules, it shall be the responsibility of members of the County Committee to disseminate within their respective Election Districts information with respect to County Committee policies, programs and platforms and to implement the same.
SECTION 2 DUTIES OF THE CHAIRPERSON
In addition to the duties usually incident to the office, the County Chairperson is empowered to act, and be recognized as, the leader of the Democratic Party in Rensselaer County and to serve as formal Chairperson of all county-wide election campaigns.
SECTION 3 DUTIES OF THE FIRST, SECOND AND THIRD VICE-CHAIRS
The Vice-Chairs shall have such duties and responsibilities as may be determined by the Chairperson.
SECTION 4 DUTIES OF THE SECRETARY
The Secretary shall take minutes of all County Committee and Executive Committee meetings, and forward copies of the same to members of the Executive Committee and to the Board of Elections when required.
SECTION 5 DUTIES OF THE TREASURER
The Treasurer shall file all financial statements and maintain all financial records of the County Committee. Expenditures of County Committee funds shall be made by Order of the Chairperson and the Treasurer.
ARTICLE VI ETHICS CODE
SECTION 1 STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES
Public trust in party leadership is essential if the Rensselaer County Democratic Party is to deserve and achieve continued success. The avoidance of conflicts of interest by party leaders is necessary to earning the public trust.
The Democratic Party must attract well-qualified individuals as its leaders and such persons should neither be unfairly denied the opportunity to participate in party politics nor unreasonably denied the rights and opportunities available to all other citizens. It is both a right and a privilege to participate in party politics. Abuses of political position for financial gain will not be tolerated.
SECTION 2 OFFICERS OF THE COUNTY COMMITTEE
No Personal gain from party business. No officer of the County Committee may accept, directly or indirectly, for his or her personal gain, anything of value from any person, association or other entity which to his or her knowledge in the outcome of any pending Committee decision, contract or policy.
No influence Peddling. No officer of the County Committee may use or attempt to use his or her party position as a means of undue or improper influence to secure for himself or herself or family members any benefit, privilege or exemption not generally available to members of the public.
Abide by all applicable Codes of Ethics. The officers of the County Committee shall abide by all applicable Codes of Ethics, including, but not limited to, New York State, Rensselaer County, or municipal codes of ethics that proscribe unethical conduct for party leaders.
ARTICLE VII LOCAL COMMITTEES
SECTION 1 GENERAL PROVISIONS
The Cities of Troy and Rensselaer and each of the Towns in Rensselaer County shall have committees consisting of the County Committee people from the election districts within its jurisdiction.
Each local committee shall meet biennially in the even numbered years within 20 days after primary day, and shall elect a Chairperson and such other officials and officers as they may choose. In the event the local committee shall not meet within 20 days after primary day in even numbered years, the County Chairperson may convene a meeting of the local committee for the purpose of electing a local Chairperson and such other officials and officers as the County Chairperson deems upon notice to the County Committee people within the affected election district that conforms to the notice provisions applicable to Special Meetings of the Executive Committee in the bylaws.
Each local committee may draft its own bylaws; however, such local by-laws shall not have provisions inconsistent with these county bylaws. Within thirty (30) days of the adoption of such local by-laws the same shall be filed with the Rensselaer County Board of Elections and the Chairperson of the Rensselaer County Democratic Committee. Any by-laws in effect at the date of the adoption of these County by-laws may continue in effect except such provisions inconsistent with these County bylaws shall be deemed null and void.
SECTION 2 CITY OF RENSSELAER
City Committee of Rensselaer Bylaws:
There shall be a City Committee of the City of Rensselaer known as the Democratic Committee of the City of Rensselaer.
The Democratic Committee of the City of Rensselaer shall consist of the members of the County Committee representing the several Election Districts of the City.
The City Committee of the City of Rensselaer shall have the following officers: Chairperson, Vice-Chair, Secretary and Treasurer.
The members of the City Committee of the City of Rensselaer shall meet biennially in the even numbered years within 20 days after primary day, and shall elect a Chairperson and such other officials as provided herein. In the event the local committee shall not meet within 20 days after primary day in even numbered years, the County Chairperson may convene a meeting of the City committee for the purpose of electing a City Chairperson and such other officials as provided herein upon notice to the County Committee people within the affected election districts that conforms to the notice provisions applicable to Special Meetings of the Executive Committee in these bylaws.
Five members of the City Committee of the City of Rensselaer shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business.
City Committee of the City of Troy Bylaws:
There shall be a City Committee of the City of Troy known as the Democratic Committee of the City of Troy.
The Democratic Committee of the City of Troy shall consist of the members of the County Committee representing the several Election Districts of the City.
The City Committee of the City of Troy shall have the following officers: Chairperson, Vice-Chair, Secretary and Treasurer.
The members of the City Committee of the City of Troy shall meet biennially in the even numbered years within 20 days after primary day, and shall elect a Chairperson and such other officials as provided herein. In the event the City committee shall not meet within 20 days after primary day in even numbered years, the County Chairperson may convene a meeting of the local committee for the purpose of electing a City Chairperson and such other officials as provided herein upon notice to the County Committee people within the affected election districts that conforms to the notice provisions applicable to Special Meetings of the Executive Committee in these bylaws.
Twenty members of the City Committee of the City of Troy shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business.
Town Caucus Provisions
Candidates for Town election shall be selected by a caucus of duly enrolled voters of the Town.
The Chairperson of the Town Caucus is to be selected by the enrolled members of the Democratic Party residing within the same Town who are in attendance at the Caucus. The Chairperson of the Town Caucus need not be the Chairperson of the Town Committee.
Proper notice of the caucus shall be posted as prescribed by New York State Election Law and rules and regulations of the Rensselaer County Board of Elections.
Notice of the caucus is to be provided to the County Chairperson in writing on or before a date 21 days in advance of the Primary. In the event the County Chairperson does not receive such notice of the caucus within 21 days in advance of the Primary, the County Chairperson may decide upon the time and place of the caucus of the Town and provide proper notice of the caucus in a manner that complies New York State Election Law and rules and regulations of the Rensselaer County Board of Elections.
The conduct of the caucus shall be in charge of the Chairperson of the Caucus. There shall be a Secretary of the caucus.
The person receiving the highest number of votes for an office at the caucus shall be nominated for that office.
Candidates for Village election shall be selected by a caucus of duly enrolled voters of the Village.
If there is no Village Committee with a Chairperson, the Chairperson of the County Committee shall decide upon the time and place of the caucus of the Village and shall appoint an enrolled voter of the Village to chair the caucus.
Proper notice of the caucus shall be posted as prescribed by New York State Election Law and rules and regulations of the Rensselaer County Board of Elections.
The conduct of the caucus shall be in charge of the Chairperson of the Caucus. There shall be a Secretary.
The person receiving the highest number of votes for an office at the caucus shall be nominated for that office.
ARTICLE VIII EFECTIVE DATE
These bylaws shall become effective August 21, 2007
ARTICLE IX AMENDMENTS
These Rules may be amended from time to time by a majority vote of the members of the County Committee present in person, or by proxy, at a meeting at which there is a quorum, provided a copy of the proposed amendment shall be sent with the notice of the meeting at which such amendment is to be proposed.
ARTICLE X MISCELLANEOUS
SECTION 1 RULES OF PROCEDURE
In all cases not provided by law or by the Rules, the authority for parliamentary procedure for all Committees in existence pursuant to these Rules shall be the latest edition of “Roberts Rules of Order,” insofar as such rules of order may be appropriately applied.
SECTION 2 COPY OF RULES
A copy of these rules shall be filed with the Office of the State Board of Elections and the Rensselaer County Board of Elections.
Appendix B: Sample Proxy
City or Town _____________________ Election District ________________
KNOW ALL MEN BY THESE PRESENTS:
That I, _______________________________________________, a duly elected committee person of the RENSSELAER COUNTY DEMOCRATIC COMMITTEE, hereby designate ___________________________________ of that Committee to vote in my place and stead, for any and all purposes at a meeting of the RENSSELAER COUNTY DEMOCRATIC COMMITTEE to be held at ________________________ on _______________________________.
State of New York )
County of Rensselaer) ss.:
On this __________________ day of ______________________ before me the subscriber personally appeared ______________________________________ to me known and known to me to be the same person described in and who executed the foregoing instrument, and (s)he duly acknowledged to me that (s)he executed the same.
Notary Public or Commissioner of Deeds
Appendix C: How to Carry Petitions
A petition is a legal document that enables a candidate to obtain the Democratic Party line on an election ballot for a given office in a given geographic location. Usually, a Democratic candidate must obtain signatures from 5 percent of the registered Democrats in his or her district. To be safe, most candidates double this number to 10 percent. This accomplishes two things: It shows the strength of the candidate, and it protects him or her against disqualified signatures or pages.
Rules for Carrying Petitions
You must be a registered Democrat in New York State.
If you have signed a petition for a candidate, you may not circulate a petition for another candidate for that same office.
You cannot witness your own signature.
You may only collect signatures during the time period specified by the Official Political Calendar issued by the NYS Board of Elections. Your Chair will announce that time frame when petitions are distributed.
You must physically witness every signature. In other words, you cannot circulate the petition out of your sight or post it somewhere for signing.
Signatures must be in blue or black ink.
You must return petitions to your City or Town chair or to the County Chair by the date announced by the Chair.
Rules for Signing Petitions
Signers must be registered Democrats. Use your voter walk lists to confirm eligibility.
Signers must be eligible to vote for the candidate for whom they are signing a petition. In other words, they must live in a location where that candidate will appear on the ballot.
Signers may sign only one petition per office. That means one petition for Sheriff, one petition for Congressperson, and so on—even if the position is subject to a primary.
Signers should sign their names in full as they signed their name when they registered to vote.
Don’t let a husband sign for a wife, a mother sign for a daughter, and so on. Each person must sign for himself or herself.
Signers only need to sign the signature line (all other information can be filled in by the witness or someone else).
In Town / City column, insert name of signer’s town or city of residence, not a village or hamlet.
Use the voter list to confirm addresses.
Dates of signatures should run in consecutive order.
The signer must sign his or her name in the presence of the witness. (The witness must actually see the petition being signed). Therefore, don’t let someone take the petition out of your sight to sign it. The witness statement says “and before me signed.”
Corrections can be made to any information in signature line. However, corrections or alterations made to the date or signature must be initialed by the person making the correction.
Never use ditto marks.
Completing the Witness Statement
The Witness Statement is a legal oath. When you sign it, you are affirming that you physically witnessed each signature and that the information given is correct. If you did not witness the signatures, and you sign the statement, you are committing fraud. The information must be completed as follows (omissions, errors, or unexplained alterations or corrections made to the Statement of Witness section of the petition may invalidate the entire petition sheet):
Use blue or black ink.
Print your full name and address as they appear on the voter list.
Accurately fill in the number of signatures on the page. If you overestimate the number of signatures, the entire petition sheet is invalidated. If you underestimate the number of signatures, that is the number that will be counted, not the actual number.
Write the date. At this point, you must stop collecting signatures on that page. The date you write must be equal to or later than the date of the last signer on petition sheet.
Sign the statement with your signature as it appears on your voter registration form.
Witness identification information (“Town or City” and “County”) may be provided by anyone at any time before petition is filed.
Do not fill in the “Sheet No.” That information will be completed when the petitions are bound prior to filing.
NOTE: If you are unsure of how to fill out any information contained in the petition do not fill anything in and contact your City or Town Chair for guidance. Do be neat. A clean petition is less likely to attract attention and raise red flags that might lead to disqualification.
It is also important that you remember that you are a representative of the Democratic Party and of your candidates as you carry petitions. Be polite, efficient, and quick. Do not engage the signer in a lengthy conversation, but be prepared to answer questions about the candidates or to listen to voters’ concerns about issues in your city, town, or county. Offer to come back if this is not a good time for the signer.
Appendix D: Absentee Voting
Qualifications to Vote by Absentee Ballot
Unavoidably absent from your county or, if a resident of New York City absent from said city, on Election Day because of duties, occupation, business, vacation or studies; or accompanying a spouse, parent or child engaged in the above.
Unable to appear at the polls due to temporary or permanent illness or disability; or because you are the primary care giver of one or more individuals who are ill or physically disabled.
A patient or inmate in a Veterans' Administration Hospital.
Detained in jail awaiting Grand Jury action or confined in prison after conviction for an offense other than a felony.
How to Vote by Absentee Ballot (Deadlines)
Applications for Absentee Ballots are available at your county board of elections.
You may also download a PDF version of the New York State Absentee Ballot Application Form from the NYS Board of Elections’ website at www.elections.state.ny.us
Upon completion, applications must be mailed to your county board no later than the seventh day before the election or delivered in person no later than the day before the election.
You may also request an Absentee Ballot by sending a letter to your county board of elections. The letter must be received by your county board no earlier than 30 days and no later than seven days before the election. The letter must contain the following information:
the address where you are registered
an address where the ballot is to be sent
the reason for the request, and
the signature of the voter
An application form will be mailed with your ballot. The application form must be completed and returned with your ballot.
If you cannot pick up your ballot, or will not be able to receive it through the mail, you have the right to designate someone to pick it up for you. Only that person designated on your application may pick up and deliver your ballot.
If you are permanently ill or disabled, you have the right to receive an Absentee Ballot for each subsequent election without further application. Simply file an application with your board of elections containing a statement which describes the particulars of your illness or disability. The Board will review the facts stated, and if satisfied, will mark your registration record. You will then automatically receive an absentee ballot for every election until your registration is canceled.
Appendix E: How to Poll Watch
Poll watchers are designated by political parties, committees, or candidates to oversee election sites on Election Day. As the name indicates, the job of a poll watcher is to observe, with the goal of ensuring an honest and fair election.
Poll watchers must be certified by a candidate or committee. In Rensselaer County, poll watchers are qualified voters who receive signed certificates from the County Committee Chair. That certificate must be presented to the election inspectors on entering the election site. If there are multiple election districts at the polling site, you must present a poll watcher’s certificate to election inspectors in each election district.
Poll Watchers’ Rights
Poll watchers may arrive at the polls as early as 15 minutes prior to opening. They have a right to see whether votes have been cast prior to opening and to observe the sign-in poll books. They have a right to challenge the qualification of any voter to vote. (Such challenges must be made to the election inspectors.) They may remain at the election site after the polls have closed to oversee the final tallies.
In Rensselaer County, poll watchers rarely spend the day at a polling site. They may return a few times over the course of a day to pick up voter lists for GOTV purposes. They may return just before the polls close to get the final tally and report it to the Party.
Challenging a Voter
Poll watchers are not law enforcement officials. However, they may report concerns to election inspectors or to the Board of Elections, and they may challenge voters who seem to violate any of these rules:
Voter signatures must match those of previous years.
Voter residency must be provable.
Voters may not vote more than once per election.
Voters must be 18 and citizens of the United States.
No one may electioneer within the boundaries set by election inspectors.
Poll Watcher Don’ts
Poll watchers may not electioneer, carry signs, or wear buttons or shirts supporting a candidate or position. They may not interfere with voting or with the job of the election workers. They may not accompany a voter into the voting booth, even if that voter requests assistance. If the election inspectors overrule a poll watcher’s challenge, the poll watcher has no right to argue that ruling. (The election inspectors present must make a formal ruling by majority vote. Tie votes favor the voter.) If a poll watcher believes that the election inspectors are doing something wrong, he or she should immediately bring it to the attention of the Commissioner of Elections.