Democrats Abroad are looking for campaigners and board members
by Eric Jackson
Since late March Democrats Abroad has been kind of a mess. Bernie Sanders won 71 percent of the primary vote here and the chair at that time, Hillary Clinton supporter Michael Long, quit in a huff. The vice chair, who under the chapter’s bylaws automatically becomes chair when the that position becomes vacant, didn’t want the post. The bylaws say that, different from all other offices, when the vice chair’s post becomes vacant it must be filled an election rather than an appointment.
Nothwithstanding the bylaws and without consulting the membership or the full board — which already had vacancies and a chronic no-show — the vice chair became chair, purported to appoint secretary Sean Hammerle as vice chair, then she resigned to allow him to become chair, after which he purported to reappoint her as vice chair. This reporter, who was a board member at large, objected to this but Hillary Clinton supporter Hammerle was recognized as chair by folks higher up in Democrats Abroad as legitimate. The upshot of this was that for the voting at the global level in a May Democrats Abroad convention in Berlin, all of Panama’s votes went to Hillary Clinton supporters notwithstanding the primary result.
Hammerle moved to replace the old elected board of directors that had meetings that were open to the membership with a secret “executive committee” composed entirely of his appointees, drawn mainly from members of the American Society of Panama. He moved to expel this reporter from the board in a scheduled “membership meeting” at a location to be kept secret. But Hammerle is not who and what he said that he was, and a rather strident political battle was joined. Within a few days he and his “executive committee” resigned.
That left the board of directors without a quorum and implicitly dissolved pending the election of a new board. This reporter has stayed on as the caretaker of the Democrats Abroad Panama Facebook pages and a transition team of former vice chair Phil Edmonston, former chair Ramona Rhoades, informal planning committee host Abby Eden and this reporter set out to pick up the pieces. The transition team called for a June 11 membership meeting to choose a nominating committee, which will consider applications from those who would want to be on an entirely new board of directors to be chosen at a July 23 membership meeting and come up with a suggested slate of officers and board members. The people who show up at the July 23 meeting can accept the slate or part of it, or elect other people. Under the bylaws nominations from the floor are acceptable.
The June 11 meeting was held at the Balboa Yacht Club and there was online participation but with an only partially functioning WebX service provided by the Democrats Abroad Americas Region. The site for the July 23 meeting has yet to be determined, and the online format is also up in the air — but under discussion are a Balboa Union Church venue and a Skype connection for those participating online. See the Democrats Abroad Panama party or open group Facebook pages for this information.
Meanwhile the nominating committee, chaired by Phil Edmonston, has already taken several names of folks willing to serve on the new board and is taking more. If you are interested in serving on the Democrats Abroad Panama board of directors, send an email to email@example.com by July 16.
This board, to take office on July 23, will be at the center of the 2016 local Democratic campaign, supporting the party ticket from the presidential nominee down to the candidates for the lowest level local offices on the ticket.
US citizens voting from abroad vote by absentee ballot in the place where they last resided in the United States, or in the case of young voters who never lived in the USA, the last place in the States where a parent who is a US citizen lived. (Quick rule of thumb — will you be 18 by election day and do you have a US passport? You are eligible to vote.) Voter information and registration, including an effort to get more of the US-Panamanian dual citizens to exercise their voting rights as Americans, will be an immediately important part of local Democrats’ work.
Perhaps there will be one or more debates with local Republicans. Very likely Democrats will gather to watch any televised debates between the US presidential nominees. There will probably be events, presentations and literature to explain the Democrats’ stands on issues facing the United States, some of these things in Spanish as well as English.
The old board that was left without a quorum and thus dissolved was originally elected for a two-year term early in 2015. The board elected on July 23 will serve until regular new elections to be held next year, probably in February. It’s essentially the local Democrats’ 2016 campaign steering committee.
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