Approved on Party Platforms

By David L. Edwards, MD, Washington Hemp Education Network

In Washington State we use the caucus system for selection of delegates to County, Congressional District, State and National conventions. Through the same system the party develops and approves the party platform and resolutions on political issues.

Any registered voter can attend precinct caucuses and attempt to be elected as a delegate or alternate to the next higher caucus or convention level. A voter can introduce resolutions at the caucus to be approved and forwarded to the next higher level for eventual inclusion in the State Democratic Platform or to be approved as a party resolution.

The resolutions (or platforms) are gathered at the County and Congressional District Caucus levels and forwarded for approval or rejection by the State Platform Committee. If resolutions of similar intent are received from a large number of precincts or county or legislative district caucuses, their chances of adoption are improved.

Activists can get involved more effectively by becoming precinct committee officers (PCO's), who have the right to vote on party matters within their county. Precinct committee officers perform such duties as doorbell ringing to get out the vote, canvassing their precincts and passing out literature on candidates and issues. They attend monthly meetings and vote on party issues. They also chair the caucus meetings in election years, and can wield some influence on issues discussed and/or adopted.

Registered voters can run for election as PCO's by paying a $1 registration fee. Their Democratic County Central Committee may also appoint voters as PCO's. There are often many unfilled vacancies for PCO's, and it is reasonably easy for activists to be elected/appointed as PCO's.

PCO's can also apply to be on county or state committees. A key committee that wields influence on party issues is, of course, the Platform Committee. The chair of each legislative district gets to appoint one member to the legislative district platform committee and another to the state platform committee. The chair asks for volunteers to form a pool from which the appointments are made.

We were fortunate this year to have a member of the Washington Hemp Education Network (WHEN) Board, Mr. Tim Crowley, appointed to the State Platform Committee where, with the aid of other sympathetic committee members, WHEN influenced the adoption of favorable resolutions on hemp's use, legality and medical benefit. Mind you, these adopted resolutions had earlier been adopted at local caucus levels.

It helps to have as many PCO's and other sympathetic registered voters to get elected as delegates or alternates to help support with their votes and discussions any planks/resolutions that are submitted at all stages of the process.

It is important to realize that in most elections relatively few voters are energized to participate in the caucus process. Thus, it is often very easy to get elected a delegate or be appointed to a key committee such as the platform committee because competition for the slot is often minimal.

A few dedicated activists can, therefore, wield a larger than life influence on issues. It pays to get involved in the political party system, since one and one soon makes fifty, makes a million, and then change happens.

(Final note: The 2000 Washington State Democratic Party Platform says (in part) under the heading CRIMINAL JUSTICE: "We oppose racial profiling by law enforcement. We support decriminalization of marijuana. We believe drug use to be a concern for the medical community, not a criminal issue.")

Go on-line to: www.wa-democrats.org/platform_2000.htm for the complete wording of the criminal justice resolutions and others.

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