Meeting started at 11:00 am.
State Chairman Frank MacKay gave the Chairmanís report after opening the meeting and before calling for the credentials report. Chairman MacKay recounted the progress made by the Independence Party in opening up the electoral system to the people of the State of New York. Particularly cited were the work of Staten Island Committeewoman Anita Lerman, the institution of the system of Interim County Organizations (ICOís) within our party, and our February adoption of a rules change allowing non-affiliated voters (Blanks) to vote in our Statewide primary elections (those for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Comptroller, U.S. Senate, and Presidential primaries).
Ms. Lerman assisted in the chairmanís recollection of her accomplishments. Her pride is well placed. She, and subsequently the Brennan Center for Justice, argued and won a case before the Federal Courtís Second Circuit. The decision permits any member of a political party to petition on behalf of a candidate of that party regardless of the petitioner's place of residence outside of the candidate's district. This decision effects all parties nationwide. Formerly, in the State of New York, one had to be a commissioner of deeds, or a notary public to petition for a candidate if they did not live in their district.
The State Committeeís adoption of a system of Interim County Organizations (ICOís) was unprecedented in New York politics. No other party has these organizational structures. They were completely the invention of our party's executive committee, and in particular our legal staff (Harry Kresky and Gary Sinawski). The ICO has the practical result of allowing a County organization to exercise autonomy from the State executive committee/chairman. Formerly, the State Chairman exercised virtually dictatorial powers over the counties. This reform has now been copied by the Green Party.
The February adoption of rules allowing unaffiliated voters to vote in Independence Party statewide primaries gives the state's 2.2 million unaffiliated voters the opportunity to participate in the process of selecting candidates to run in the November general election. This is the first time in New York that this has been the case. Previously, the state election law required that a voter be a member of the party holding the primary. Subsequent to the February rules change, our right to hold these "open primaries" was upheld in State court.
The Chairman also recognized the accomplishment of former Watertown Mayor Jeff Graham, in winning his primary for Watertown Mayor by 68% to 22% for the first runner-up, and 9.8% for the third runner-up. No explanation was given for the remaining .2% of the vote, but it is doubtful that the supreme court will get involved at this point. Mr. Graham was glad to receive some $190.00+ contributions from those assembled for his campaign. Mr. Graham must win a runoff election between himself and the second runner up in November. The Chairman noted how important it is to the party to have a major elected official in the party (we also have two state supreme court judges and one county judge).
The Chairman called for a credentials report, and it was confirmed by the credentials committee (David Belmont & Gary Zimble), that a quorum was present.
Gary Temple (the State Party Treasurer and Chairman of Cayuga County), gave the Treasurerís report. The party has $20,505.19 in the bank less the $325.00 to be paid for the room at the Best Western Motel in which we were meeting.
Harry Kresky gave a report on the legal situation of the party. Particularly the decision by State Supreme Court Justice Thomas McNamara on Wednesday 9/3/03, which upheld the Independence Party's right to invite un-affiliated voters to vote in Independence Party primaries. As it turns out we also have a Federal case going, and it is not clear that the State court decision will not be appealed. Consequently we have reserved the right to proceed with the Federal court case. Moreover, whether to have a presidential primary in 2004 under this ruling is a complicated matter. So it looks like we are in for a period of further legal maneuvering before we can be sure that we have a secure right to open primaries.
The floor was opened up to old business, and as there was none, the floor was opened up for new business. Frank Morano, Richmond County Vice Chair, introduced a resolution for the State Committee to support the County organizations' right to hold open primaries for local elections. A vigorous discussion ensued regarding the appropriateness, timeliness, and wording of such a resolution. The result was a vote to table the resolution and refer it to the rules committee for further review. It was generally affirmed that the Counties already have the right to pass changes to their bylaws permitting open elections. And that a resolution by the State Committee is not needed to affirm the right. Dave Ketchum Chair of Tioga County, and Frank Morano, Vice Chair of Richmond County dissented on the vote to table the resolution.
The State Committee also engaged the issue of how and whether some mechanism could be developed in order to make contributions to Independence Party candidates. This was referred to the finance committee.
Dave Ketchum of Tioga County raised the question of whether there was any interest in reengaging the rump of the old Reform Party in a dialog about re-affiliation. There was some discussion and the consensus was that there was no such interest. And that we needed to engage in the "CHIP" process (Choosing an Independent President 2004) which is being organized by a number of independent political organizations and individuals from around the country.
Gary Temple of Cayuga County, raised the issue of corrupt practice by the board of elections in Cayuga County. This is a common problem around the State, and was referred to the Platform and Issues Committee for consideration.
The Chairman moved to adjourn the meeting which was seconded and the vote passed.
- - by Gerald Everett, Queens County
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