Opinion: Dem party elections should mirror state elections

Greg Bowens

If you want to lead the people, you have to love the people. We’re not showing love to the people when we leave them out of the Democratic Party.

Thousands attended the 2018 State Endorsement Convention of the Michigan Democratic Party at Cobo Center, Sunday.

As Democrats, we ask for people to turn out and vote during election time, then we turn around and make it hard for people to join and vote in party elections.

The rules are clear. You must be a member 30 days prior to the election and there is no absentee voting allowed – at all.

Tough luck for those with disabilities preventing them from traveling. Too bad for you if you can’t afford to get here from the Upper Peninsula. Sorry Detroit, you missed out on the deadline to register and vote Jan. 3.

Yes, we advocated for and got put into law some of the most liberal voter rights protections for people participating in general elections in the country.

Yes, you can now register and vote on the same day in regular elections. And yes, you can vote by absentee ballot without having to give a reason.

But no, you can’t do either of those things when it comes to voting inside our party.

Our hypocrisy is too much to bear. How can we look people in the eye and push for changes in state law and then deny them the same rights and privileges inside our house where we make the decisions on policy, candidates and the general welfare of the party?

We can’t. We need to change that. We will change that.

This is no small matter. Stripping us of the opportunity to fully participate in voting for party leadership, whose efforts will ultimately determine who we can vote for in a primary or general election sanctioned by our government, is to deny us equal protection under the law.

We’ve said as much in a Jan. 14 letter to party chair Brandon Dillon from our lawyer Herb Sanders of the Sanders Law Firm based in Detroit.

“I seek immediate relief for Michigan Democratic voters by allowing them the same opportunity to participate in elections and run for office as provided for by state law in regular government elections – same day voter registration as well as no reason absentee voting,” writes Sanders.

In short, we changed the law. Now it’s time to change the rules.

Dillon and party leaders at Michigan Democratic Party headquarters remain silent on the issue. The don’t hear us.

But they will.

At 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Democrats from across the state are going to rally at the party headquarters in Lansing.

If you want to lead the people, you have to love the people. And we’re not showing love to the people when we leave them out of the Democratic Party.

Join us and let them hear you too.

Greg Bowens is a longtime Democratic activist, precinct delegate, 14th Congressional District executive committee member and member of the Grosse Pointe Democratic Club.