Editor’s Note: John Grosser is an American living in Germany. He sent us this report on his recent visit to Washington D.C. as Democrats Abroad Germany representative to the DA Global Meeting.
As many of you know, I spent the last four days at the Democratic Party Committee Abroad Global Meeting in Washington DC, where I represented my Country Committee.
I was honored to attend and am incredibly thankful to everyone who supported me.
Over the course of these four days, we were lucky enough to hear from wide variety of speakers, both public officials and party officers. After pre-meetings on Friday, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand spoke about her history abroad and how it showed her the importance of the work Democrats Abroad does to engage Americans overseas.
After welcoming China as a new Country Committee, Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland, a DA France alumnus, talked about restoring the Democratic Party by focusing on grassroots efforts and progressive values. We also heard from Congresswoman Holmes-Norton of Washington DC, who drew interesting parallels between the unique voting situations of Americans abroad and of residents of the District of Columbia.
Larry Cohen of the DNC Unity Reform Commission, Chairman of Our Revolution and former president of the Communication Workers of America spoke about the importance of unions and progressive values on Sunday, providing a thematic kickoff to the formation of the Democrats Abroad Progressive Caucus on Monday.
Also on Monday, we heard from Michael Blake, the newly elected DNC Vice-Chair, who gave a rousing speech on the changes we are seeing under the new leadership of Chairman Perez and Deputy Chairman Ellison, grassroots efforts by the DNC, advances in candidate recruitment, a newfound focus on state and local elections and the importance of organizing.
Chairman David Pepper of the Ohio Democratic Party, Interim Chairwoman Kathleen Matthews of the Maryland Democratic Party and Voter Protection and Policy Director Georgina Cannan of the Virginia Democratic Party gave speeches about the importance of the overseas vote on close races in their states, the lessons we can learn from the mistakes of 2016 and closer cooperation between State Parties at home and Democrats Abroad before joining us for a panel discussion.
More important than fundraisers and guest speakers was, of course, the actual business of the DPCA meeting. We voted on amendments to the bylaws, many of which were simple clarifications of unclear language.
However, the body spent a large amount of time debating more controversial and complicated bylaws amendments, such as gender-balancing requirements for the Executive Committee, a shift to a one person one vote system in the DPCA, a change in Country Committee vote allocations and more stringent transparency rules for members of the DPCA working with Super PACs.
I was glad to see Julia Bryan and her slate win in the international Executive Committee officer elections.
In addition to votes on bylaws amendments and resolutions, we voted on selecting the host country for the 2018 DPCA Global Meeting, discussing bids from Japan and Costa Rica before settling on Japan.
To further transparency, the final section of this note will detail my votes on the elections during the 2017 DPCA Global Meeting.
Votes in officer elections
I cast two votes each for: Julia Bryan (DA-Czech Republic) for international Chair, Alex Montgomery (DA-Hong Kong) for international Vice-Chair, Lissette Wright (DA-Canada) for international Treasurer, Jeffrey Cheng (DA-Sweden) for international Secretary and Tom Schmid (DA-Japan) for international Counsel.
Votes pertaining to Country Committees
Vote to admit China as a country committee: China was unanimously admitted as a new Country Committee.
Vote on the 2018 DPCA Global Meeting: I cast one vote to hold the 2018 Meeting in Japan.
Votes on amending the bylaws
Resolution to amend the Democrats Abroad Charter to expand the number of DPCA officers on the International Executive Committee from eight to thirteen: Due to testimony by the serving chair opposing this resolution, I cast two votes against referring the resolution to the standing bylaws committee. The committee took up the resolution.
Resolution to amend the Democrats Abroad Charter to provide for leadership diversity based on a more inclusive definition of “sex” : To ensure inclusion of non-binary/gender-fluid members, I cast two votes to change the gender balancing requirements for chair and vice-chair from “opposite sex” to “not of the same sex”. I cast two votes to refer a resolution to change the bylaws language from “sex” to “gender” to the standing bylaws committee, asking the committee to consult members with unique experiences on non-binary gender issues. Both resolutions passed.
Resolution to amend the Democrats Abroad Charter to provide for leadership diversity based on gender rather than sex: Due to the complexities of implementing appropriate gender language in our bylaws and the difficulties in gender-balancing non-representative, functional positions on the Executive Committee, I cast two votes to refer further changes to the gender balancing requirements to the standing bylaws committee. The committee took up the resolution.
Resolution to amend the Democrats Abroad Charter by noting that Country Committees should adhere to the Country Committee Election Procedures: On principle, I oppose amending the bylaws – which requires a super-majority of the DPCA – to reference an outside document that can be amended at any time without consultation of the DPCA. Therefore, I cast two votes opposing the resolution. The resolution failed.
Motion to suspend the rules to allow for an electronic DPCA meeting to discuss and vote on remaining bylaws amendments: I cast two votes opposing the motion, which passed.
Motion to instruct the chair to schedule an electronic DPCA meeting to discuss and vote on remaining bylaws amendments within 90 days: The motion passed unanimously.
Votes on Resolutions
Resolution to utilize votefromabroad.org more proactively as a GOTV tool: To reduce hurdles for overseas voters, I cast two votes supporting this resolution.
Resolution Proposing the Adoption by the Democratic Party of a “Compact with the American People on Election Reform”: I made the following comment on this resolution: “I would like to point out that two versions of this resolution currently exist, a new and revised compact submitted yesterday by the original author, and a resolution without a compact developed on Friday by a small working group. Giving the lack of available time and the importance of voting on the bylaws before this meeting concludes, I move we refer both versions of the voting resolution to the resolutions committee for further consideration with the provision that it be reported out of committee for a vote within 90 days.“ The motion carried.
Overall, the atmosphere at the 2017 DPCA Global Meeting proved that Democrats Abroad is full of leaders who recognize the challenges ahead of us for the next four years, while remaining convinced that we can make a real difference.
Although I am anxious about the current administration, I believe we can be excited about the opportunities and challenges the next few cycles will present.