IDP Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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What is the mission of the Indiana Democratic Party (IDP)?

The basic mission of the Indiana Democratic Party is to elect Democrats up and down the ballot in Indiana. While this is our operational mission, our vision for the state is much more than that. We believe that when Democrats are in office, good things happen for Hoosiers. Our vision for Indiana is illustrated in our party’s platform that is considered every two years at our State Convention. The as-passed 2020 Indiana Democratic Party Platform can be reviewed here.

Who is in charge of the Party and where can I find basic information on it and how to get involved?

The Indiana Democratic Party is largely a volunteer-driven organization across our state’s 92 counties. Like many other grass-roots organizations, the Party is organized through a set of Rules (also known as bylaws) that put in place a structure for how the organization conducts various processes and elects its leadership. It should also be noted that in certain cases, federal and Indiana state laws govern certain procedures when filling vacancies for offices and complying with campaign finance. In these cases, those laws supersede our Party Rules.

Governance structure

The Indiana Democratic Party Rules can be viewed here. Changes to the Party Rules are made by action of the IDP Rules Committee, which is made up of members of the State Central Committee. If the Rules Committee passes a rule change, it is then considered by the full State Central Committee. Once rules are changed, the main document is updated and posted to our website.

The governing body of the IDP is the State Central Committee, made up of elected officers from each Congressional District, elected constituency caucus representatives, elected members of the state’s delegation to the Democratic National Committee, appointed officers and the four elected executive officers: Chair, Vice Chair, Secretary and Treasurer.

Like officers at the county and Congressional District levels, members of the State Central Committee serve terms of four years that begin and end on very specific dates:  elections take place on the third Saturday in March in the year after the Presidential election. For the 2021 election, those elections will take place on March 20, 2021.

County party organizations elect their leadership on the first Saturday in March in the same year, and Congressional District elections occur on the second Saturday in March.  One important thing to know, however, is that terms of precinct committee chairs do not coincide with these dates, as those are determined by state law.  Democratic precinct committee chairs are elected in the mid-term primary elections, with the next election for those happening in May 2022. If there is a vacancy for a precinct chair, the county chair may appoint someone to serve.

Meetings & Accessibility

Meetings of any Indiana Democratic Party organization are open to other Democrats, as prescribed by IDP Rule 10, and must be fully accessible to other Democrats, free from any and all discrimination. For instance, State Central Committee meetings are posted on the IDP website.

One important point is that political parties are not government entities, and are not subject to open door laws like local and state government. Party organizations are not required to allow press to their meetings and elections, and they are not required to be open to the general public or members of other political parties. Legally, we are “private” organizations, not a public government entities.

What more should I know about the Indiana Democratic Party’s rules and how they’re changed?

How they’re changed

While the formal process for changing the rules was explained previously (consideration and passage by the Rules Committee, then the State Central Committee), any Indiana Democrat can suggest an idea for a rule change to its leadership, largely via members of the State Central Committee. When this happens, the suggestion is discussed among Rules Committee members and a decision is made whether further action is taken.

What do I do if I don’t like something that’s happening in the Party?

The IDP Rules have specific procedures in place for taking formal action if a party member or officer disagrees with an official action of a precinct, county or district party committee. Decisions made by those committees are appealable at each of the levels, with the State Central Committee being the final step in an appeal where all decisions made there about a certain issue are final. These procedures are laid out in Rules 19 and 20 of the IDP Rules.

How is leadership within the Party elected at the county, Congressional District level, and in constituency caucuses?

Precinct chairs and vices

  • Precinct Chairs are elected in the primary election every four years in the mid-term election (next election being 2022). Those wishing to run file a candidacy form (CAN-37) with their local County Clerk or Election Office (by the deadline) for placement on the primary ballot.
  • Where vacancies exist in a county for a precinct chair, the county chair may appoint a Democrat to fill the vacancy.
  • Precinct chairs may appoint their vice chairs immediately following their election (there is a deadline), and any remaining vacancies are appointed by the county chair. Consultation with the precinct chair in making that appointment is encouraged.
  • Appointments and filling vacancies is governed by IDP Rule 11.

Officers at the county and district level

  • County and district elections are largely similar in how they are formatted:
    • Elected and appointed precinct chairs and vice chairs in place 30 days before the quadrennial party organization meeting in March (next in 2021) elect county party officers (Chair, Vice Chair Secretary and Treasurer)
      • If one of the county party offices becomes vacant during the four-year term, a meeting (with procedures governed by IDP Rules) is held to fill that vacancy. Precinct chairs and vices do not need to be in place for at least 30 days to fill vacancies of this nature, that is only the case for the reorganization meeting that takes place every four years.
    • At the district level, the district committee is made up of the County Chair and Vice Chair from each county in the Congressional District. These officers (every four years) elect a District Chair, Vice Chair, Secretary and Treasurer.
      • Similar to the county, if a vacancy exists during that that time in a district office, the committee comes together to fill the vacancy (again, in accordance with procedures laid out in IDP Rules).

Constituency Caucuses

  • Each constituency caucus of the IDP has its own set of bylaws that the organization puts in place. Any constituency caucus bylaws may not be in conflict with IDP Rules or Indiana law and will also outline how officers are elected within the caucus itself, as well as how the caucus representatives to the State Central Committee are chosen.

Where can I find the roles and responsibilities for those leaders at each of the levels?

  • The basic duties for officers, as well as procedures for meetings, notices and other matters at each level are laid out in IDP Rules (scroll through document):
    • Precinct officers: Rule 11
    • Municipal committees: Rule 12
    • County parties: Rule 13
    • District parties: Rule 14
    • State Committee: Rule 15
    • DNC members: Rule 16

In addition to the basic duties outlined in IDP Rules, each party organization can adopt its own guidelines and structure that best works for them, including what duties are assigned to officers and appointed “agents” of the organization, so long as those procedures align with IDP Rules and Indiana law. Each party organization in this state is different, and to the extent possible, each needs to work to do what is best for is community.

How does the Party work with Democrats in Indiana and nationally?

Under Indiana law, the Indiana Democratic Party is one of two major political parties in our state. The IDP works with district and county party organizations to assist activists, candidates and elected officials with the political process and more. Indiana is also represented the Democratic National Committee (DNC), and the IDP has a strong working relationship with the DNC, which provides both financial and infrastructural resources to 57 party organizations in the United States (50 states, DC, five territories, and Democrats Abroad).

How is Indiana represented on the Democratic National Committee, and how are those representatives chosen?

Indiana currently has three elected representatives to the Democratic National Committee, who are elected by the State Central Committee every four years in the calendar year of the National Convention (as prescribed by DNC Rules). The IDP has typically held our elections for DNC members at our State Central Committee meeting closest to the State Democratic Convention. In addition to the three elected representatives, the IDP Chair and Vice Chair are also members of the DNC by virtue of their state party offices (also prescribed by DNC Rules).  It should also be noted that elections for DNC members may not be done by secret ballot.

What should I know about the State and National Convention and how to participate?

When do these occur and where?

  • The State Conventions for Indiana’s major political parties take place every two years to nominate statewide candidates (under state law). In the presidential election cycle, the offices nominated at the Convention are Lt. Governor and Attorney General. In the mid-term election year, those offices are Secretary of State, State Treasurer and State Auditor.
  • At the State Convention there is also party business conducted, including consideration of the Party Platform and various party committee meetings. In the presidential election year, National Convention delegates are also selected at the State Convention.
  • The Democratic National Convention occurs every four years on dates and in a location chosen by the Democratic National Committee Chair and Officers. The purpose of this Convention is to nominate the President and Vice-Presidential candidates for that cycle, as well as conduct necessary party business such as the Party Platform and rules matters before the Convention.

How do I file to become a delegate?

  • Indiana Democratic State Convention delegates are elected by county on the primary ballot every two years. Where vacancies exist, the county’s party chair may appoint them. Those wishing to serve as a delegate fill out a candidacy form (CAN-37) by the deadline (usually around February 1; this changes from cycle to cycle) with their local County Clerk/Election Office.
    • The number of delegates allotted to each county is decided on a formula adopted by the State Central Committee each election cycle. It is based on previous elections results for statewide races.
    • Members of the State Central Committee (SCC) and county chairs are automatic delegates.
    • In an odd year, county chairs must alert the Indiana Election Division (IED) by November 30th as to whether their county’s delegates will be elected at-large or by district.  County chairs must establish their districts with the IED by December 31st of that year.
  • Democratic National Convention delegates are selected at the State Convention by Congressional District by State Convention delegates, and then the rest of the National Delegation is selected by those who were selected by those who were elected at the district level (this is a two-step process that occurs during the Convention).
    • Prior to each presidential campaign cycle, each state party is required to submit a Delegate Selection Plan to the Democratic National Committee that lays out the process it will use to select delegates to the Democratic National Convention.
    • In each stage of the delegate selection process, presidential campaigns have the right to review each person who has filed and wished to run for delegate.
    • The 2020 Indiana Democratic Party Delegate Selection Plan information is here.

How do I participate in the platform and resolutions process, and what’s the difference?

Platform

  • These processes change with each Convention. First, starting with the National Convention, there is a Platform Drafting Committee and a Platform Committee that considers the final draft of the document put together by the Drafting Committee. Input for that process is provided by the Democratic National Committee.
  • For the State Democratic Convention, for the past many years, the State Central Committee has served as the official body of consideration for the IDP Platform, preceded by a multi-month process of gathering public input through party hearings, online and via e-mail.
    • Amendments to the IDP Platform are submitted to the IDP Chair or staff for consideration by the State Central Committee for inclusion in the Platform.

Resolutions

  • There is a distinction between the IDP Platform and Resolutions. Resolutions are designed to reflect the author’s desire have something occur or be considered but are non-binding as it relates to an action to occur following the State Democratic Convention if the resolution is passed.
  • The State Convention has a standing committee for Resolutions, and the rules and procedures for how resolutions are managed are laid out in two documents prior to the State Convention every two years: The Temporary Rules of the Convention and the Call to the Convention. Both of these documents are posted online prior to the Convention, and under IDP Rules, the Call to the Convention must be sent to delegates 30 days before the Convention.
  • For the past three Conventions, Resolutions have been submitted to IDP staff for collection and distribution to the Resolutions Committee members, with a deadline in place for submission.
  • All Convention procedures have typically been considered and adopted by the State Central Committee in December and February of the year/months prior to the State Convention (for instance, for the 2020 State Convention the Platform Process was adopted by on November 9, 2019 and the Temporary Rules were initially adopted in February 2020).
  • For reference, 2020 Convention materials are located here.

How does the Party encourage involvement from Hoosiers?

We encourage constant involvement from Hoosiers, especially with ways to get involved become more abundant and possible digitally and remotely. While in-person contact cannot be replaced either interpersonally or as the best method for persuading voters, the advent of social media and data-driven campaign management has created new ways for Democrats to be involved in our party organization, both at each level of the party (county, district, etc.), as well as in our many constituency caucuses. In addition, we encourage Democrats to serve in precinct committee roles (as a Chair or as a Vice) – see question #4 above for more information on this way to serve in the Indiana Democratic Party.

Our party is getting more diverse, but there is a lot more to be done on making sure the Party reflects the communities we represent, as well as making sure that the policies we fight for are inclusive and equitable.

Our job of getting people involved is never “done” – and those who wish to get involved can contact their county party organization, or by signing up on the Indiana Democratic Party website here. We are also happy to hear ideas and suggestions to our e-mail account: info@indems.org.

We surely haven’t answered every question – who should be contacted if someone has questions about this or more?

Let’s elect more Hoosier Democrats
We can't sit this one out.