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What is County Committee?

Every two years (or every year, in some places), during the June primaries, registered Democrats in all of Hudson County’s municipalities vote for their representatives to the Hudson County Democratic Committee.

This Committee represents the interests of the county’s Democrats in the selection of the Hudson County Democratic Organization leadership. The party leadership, in turn, decides who the party will endorse in primary elections—i.e. selecting “the line.”

“The line,” is not a figure of speech. In fact, it is the very real first spot on the primary ballot that voters see when they enter the polling booth. It allows the party to attach their preferred candidates in smaller races (Freeholder, County Clerk, etc) to more popular and better known candidates in bigger races (Governor Murphy, Senator Booker, etc). Loyal party members are then encouraged to simply “vote the line” (or “Vote Column A!”), whether or not they know anything about the candidates in smaller races.

The candidates who run on “the line” rarely lose. And since the Democratic Party in Hudson County wins nearly every general election, the party leadership’s endorsements nearly always end up in the office they are selected for. The only way for average Democrats to have their voice heard, then, is through the County Committee.

The Hudson County Progressive Alliance and NJ-08 for Progress hope to increase the transparency and democracy in the County Committee by getting constituents into contact with their Committee People, and encouraging people to run for the Committee this June.

Special thanks to the Good Government Coalition of New Jersey for their help in creating this guide.

How to Find your committee people

Every registered Democrat in Hudson County should have two representatives—one male and one female—on the County Committee. You have the right to contact these people and ask them to support increased transparency and democracy on the Committee.

 

Step 1

Find your electoral district.

Use the Polling Place Search feature on the NJ Department of Elections website to find your municipality, ward, and district. Just enter your address and look for information in the image below. If you live in Jersey City, your ward will be listed as a number instead of a letter—thus Ward 1=A, 2=B, 3=C, 4=D, 5=E, 6=F.

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Step 2

Find your committee people.

Armed with your municipality, ward, and district numbers, you can now find your committee people on our spreadsheets here. Simply find the document for your municipality, then cross reference your ward and district numbers to find your reps.

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Step 3

Find out how to contact them.

Your committee people will have addresses listed on the spreadsheet, but there may be other ways to get in touch. A search through Google or Facebook may result in a way to send a digital message. But if all else fails, try writing letters or knocking doors in order to meet them.

Step 4

Get in touch.

Our committee people have probably never been contact by their constituents before, so it is best to be friendly—ask them about their experiences on the committee, why they serve, and what they think of the endorsement process. Above all, be sure to thank them for being your representative.

And if you aren’t sure what to say, you can use our form letter posted here.

 

How to Run

Step 1

Decide if you should run.

First, are you 18 years old? Are you a registered Democrat (you have until April 10 to change your party affiliation)? Do you live in the district in which you want to run?

If you answered yes to all of these, you can run.

But first, you should contact the Committee Person of your gender. You may find that your seat is open, or that your Committee Person does not want to run again. You can also ask them if they would support our efforts to allow the committee to vote on candidate endorsements.

If the seat is open, or the answers you receive are not want you want, you should run!

But you should also make sure there is an election this year. See the table below for Committee elections by municipality:

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Step 2

Make sure you have the required paperwork.

You must complete and submit a nominating petition in your municipality by April 1, 2019. Contact the municipal clerk to find out how to get a petition.

Clerk information: Jersey City, Hoboken, Union City, Weehawken, North Bergen, Guttenberg, Kearny, Secaucus, Harrison, East Newark.

Once you have a petition, you need signatures. Your petition must be signed by a specific number of registered Democratic voters, or unaffiliated voters that promise to vote in the Democratic primary on election day. Each voter must live in your district. By law, you need 5% of the number of voters in the last election to sign your petition, which usually works out to 10 or fewer (though the municipal clerk can provide you with the exact number). You should, however, try to get at least double the number of required signatures in case some are challenged and ruled invalid.

Then, you must have your petition notarized, and submitted to the municipal clerk by 4PM on April 1st. Be sure to bring a valid ID with you to the clerk.


Step 3

If you are running for an open seat, or your current Committee Person does not want to run again, you do not need to do more. You will have the line, and run unopposed.

If, however, you are challenging an incumbent (or, if you simply want to let your future constituents know who you are), you will need to run a campaign.

First, ask your municipal clerk for a walking list of the registered voters in your district. Be sure to request this in electronic format, sorted by who voted in the last primary election. You should also ask the clerk for an election district map, or access it here.

Then, make a plan for canvassing your district. Your district will be small enough to cover in an afternoon, but you may want to plan a couple of weekends (Sundays are best) to walk around meeting your neighbors. Use your walking list to plan how you can focus on registered Democrats who voted in the last primary election. And if you have friends or supporters in your district, ask them to talk to their neighbors about your campaign.

Once the day comes to canvass, put on some comfortable shoes, bring a bag of dog treats, and get ready to chat. Introduce yourself to voters and talk them about why you want to represent their interests with the local Democratic Party. Ask them about their concerns for the neighborhood, and listen and take notes of their answers. Though you should not promise to fix anything, you want to communicate to your constituents that you will advocate for their interests.

On your final canvasses before election day, be sure to bring along the sample ballot to show voters where you will appear on their ballot (you’ll be off “the line,” of course!).

And finally, if you can, take Election Day off of work and set up on the corner outside your voting location to remind voters that you are on the ballot. By that evening, you should be receiving the call that you have won the election and are now on the County Committee!

 
 

Committee Responsibilities

Once you are on the Committee, you have certain rights and responsibilities.

Within 48 hours of your election, you have the right to view the municipal party financial records, and access the party bylaws.

Your first meeting with be called soon after your election. During this meeting, the Committee will vote to approve bylaws and elect party leadership. You have the right to propose amendments and candidates for leadership. As part of the bylaw approval process, you can advocate, along with like-minded Committee People, for reforms that give the Committee, rather than the leadership, the right to vote on candidate endorsements and funding issues.

Though it is not a required part of the position, you can also take an active role in your district, advocating for necessary neighborhood reforms at the municipal and county level, and organizing block captains and community groups.

 
 

Bylaws

You can read the current bylaws of the Hudson County Democratic Organization here.