With only a handful of objections, Mahoning County Democratic Party precinct committee members voted in favor of significant changes to their constitution, including the elimination of secret ballots.
Local Democrats had no choice but to make the two changes, said Chairman David Betras.
If the changes weren’t made at Tuesday’s meeting, the local party would have lost access to the Ohio Democratic Party’s nonprofit discount on campaign mail and access to its computer-software voter-information system, he said.
The other change was to have its chairperson’s successor be of the opposite sex, which required the party to change the title of its secretary position to secretary/vice chairperson.
If that person is elevated to head of the party, he/she can have it for only 30 days before precinct committee members would convene to elect a new chairperson to fill the unexpired term.
Joyce Kale-Pesta, county board of elections director, was elected secretary at the party’s June 7 meeting. She automatically was elevated to the new position.
Both the ODP and the Democratic National Committee require county parties to abide by the two rules.
Though he previously had complained about the changes — saying last week that “secret ballots is going to be a huge problem. Why pick fights on these issues?” — Betras called them “small issues” at Tuesday’s meeting.
However, before the vote, Betras said about open voting, “Honestly, I fought as hard as I could for secret balloting, but it wasn’t in the cards for us.”
About 125 of the nearly 250 precinct committee members attended the meeting at St. Luke’s Parish in Boardman.
The vote for the two constitutional amendments was done as a single voice vote. A small minority voted no.
Before the vote, Tina Morell, a precinct committeewoman from Struthers, said she understood the reasoning behind the elimination of secret ballots but didn’t understand why the opposite-gender policy had to be adopted.
Bill DeMora, ODP secretary, attended Tuesday’s meeting and said, “The Democratic Party is completely equal. It’s a rule of the DNC. That’s the way it is.”
When asked by The Vindicator if the rule was equivalent to a quota, DeMora said, “It’s not a quota. It’s gender equality. We’re gender equal from top to bottom. That’s just the way it is.”
Mahoning is hardly the only county Democratic Party in the state that has these issues, he said.
“I’ve rewritten at least 40 county Democratic constitutions” over the past three years, he said. “They have to change, and they did change. A lot of counties don’t like it, but they do it. Eventually, everybody sees the light and changes.”
Ron Massullo, elected June 7 as executive vice chairperson, which made him the party’s No. 2 person until Tuesday’s vote, said, “I’m not disappointed because I understand the gender scenario that’s required in our party all the way to Washington. I wish we could have dealt with this prior to [the June 7] vote.”
Massullo said he along with others will look at the party’s constitution and recommend other changes to it. DeMora said he will provide assistance.