In May, the Alabama Democrat Party adopted new bylaws in a contentious meeting in which non-Black minority caucuses were transitioned into committees, which they say robbed them of self-determination within the party.
The Democratic National Committee appears poised to invalidate those bylaws this week based on the findings from a Sept. 8 hearing released Tuesday.
While the numerous challengers, including ADP Vice Chair Tabitha Isner, filed 15 separate challenges, DNC hearing officer Kim Michele Keenan boiled the challenge down to two main issues: that the ADP discriminated against certain members on multiple parameters and that it improperly used a qualifying fee to create a barrier to the voting on the bylaw changes.
“It is clear that the struggle for representation in the ADP is steeped in a history of discrimination and the need for lawsuits and other activism to achieve equity with Whites, specifically as to Black Democrats in Alabama,” Keenan wrote. “However, it is difficult to understand how the Party can move forward without full inclusion and participation by diverse groups.”
Keenan noted the challengers’ accounting of membership makeup before and after the bylaws change. Before “the discriminatory purge,” the State Democratic Executive Committee has 14 LGBTQ members, nine Hispanic members and 55 youth. After the new bylaws were implemented, only 14 youth members remained, only one Hispanic member was left, and the LGBTQ representation was cut in half to seven.
“The Hearing Record fully supports that the May 6 Bylaws fail to treat all of the diverse groups equitably,” Keenan wrote. “This is a fatal defect in the May 2023 Bylaws in violation of both the DNC Charter and Bylaws as well as the October 2019 Bylaws which were put in place to achieve that very goal. The ADP can only win if all Alabama Democrats win, no one should be left out or left behind.”
Keenan found that the $50 qualifying fee that the ADP used as an excuse to prevent at-large SDEC members from voting was in fact a fee that at-large members should know they have to pay—yet the party erred because there was no clear deadline established to pay the fee, and members were given no recourse to be allowed to vote.
“…it is clear that payment of the fee constituted a barrier to participation in the May Meeting and the all-important vote on the change in the Bylaws,” Keenan wrote. “With no specific bylaw or applicable rule, it is not clear that at-large members were ever notified that payment was required within some specific time period after their election.
“… The lack of notice (regarding non-payment of the fee), lack of due process in barring the payment of the fee, lack of transparency, and most importantly, the fact that the margin of victory is clearly correlative to the number of SDEC members denied credentials, all collectively contribute to the conclusion that the May 2023 Bylaw vote must be invalidated.”
A hearing will be held before the DNC Rules Committee on Friday, Oct. 6 to determine whether to invalidate the bylaws.