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.
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.
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.
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.
Precinct chairs and vices
Officers at the county and district level
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.
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).
|Following the 2021 Indiana legislative session, Indiana Code now dictates that an individual wishing to file to run for an elected office in the primary election as a Democrat must have pulled a Democratic ballot in the last two primary elections in Indiana in which they voted. Otherwise the candidate must secure certification from the Democratic county chair in order to run on the ballot as a Democratic candidate. (IC 3-8-2-7)|
For example: Billy wishes to run as a Democrat for dog catcher in the May primary election. Because their voting history shows that they voted in the Democratic primaries held in 2020 and 2014 –and did not vote in any other primary election between those years–Billy may file to run as a Democratic candidate in the primary without county party chair certification.
OR If Billy only voted in the 2020 Democratic primary in Indiana and no other primaries, Billy needs written certification from their Democratic county party chair in order to file to run for office in the primary election.
State law is clear that the qualifications to seek election in a party office (PC and delegate) are established by state party rules. (IC 3-8-1-32). If an individual is running for a Democratic party office such as Precinct Chair or State Convention Delegate, they must abide by the Indiana Democratic State Party Rules. Party Rules only require a person to have pulled a Democratic ballot in the most recent primary in Indiana in which they voted. Someone interested in running for a party office should direct questions about candidate qualifications to their county party chair or state party staff.
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.
When do these occur and where?
How do I file to become a delegate?
How do I participate in the platform and resolutions process, and what’s the difference?
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: [email protected].