On Saturday, December 7th, at the quarterly meeting of the Michigan Democratic Party State Central Committee, the Party voted (video) to approve a ban on all visual and audio recording and photography for all County, Club, District, Caucus, and State Democratic Party meetings – unless prior authorization is given by Lavora Barnes, Chair of the Michigan Democratic Party. The ban states the following:
“There shall be no audio or visual recording at any meeting of any MDP unit, without the prior approval of the MDP State Chairperson.”
The State Party’s Parliamentarian confirmed the ban will be interpreted to also include still photography.
The new ban was initiated as a change to the party’s rules by Traci Kornak, Treasurer of the Michigan Democratic Party (MDP), at a meeting of the State Party Rules committee. After passing the rules committee, it was sent to the State Central Committee for a vote, the official governing body of the MDP. The State Central Committee (SCC) sets rules for all clubs, county parties, caucuses, and all chartered organizations within the party. The ban was approve, 122 in favor to 36 against.
The ban was seen by many activists as retaliation for posting a video showing the vote at the State Central Committee meeting in St. Ignace earlier this year (vote counting starts a little after the 26 minute mark). The party voted to kill a resolution supporting a presidential debate specifically on the issue of climate change. The majority of people at the meeting voted for it, but the resolution was defeated by a few people with many extra votes by paper proxy, several of them never elected to cast those votes. Despite the fact secret ballots are forbidden by Party rules (rule 2.17), leadership was embarrassed. In addition, the author of this piece was told by high ranking part insiders that the ban was specifically in response to his articles and reporting about the Michigan Democratic Party on this site. Several others were separately told the same.
Others who spoke in favor of the ban argued that it will help prevent “Republican operatives” from recording Democratic meetings and using that information and video to hurt the Party. There’s no way to stop operatives from recording meetings – if they decide to do it, they’re going to do it. The only defense against their edited videos is the full and accurate video record of the meeting – which this policy prohibits. Also, prior MDP rules allow all Democratic meetings to go into closed session when discussing sensitive topics (rule 2.7).
The ban poses many practical problems for leaders and members of Michigan Democratic Party chartered clubs, county parties, caucuses, and district parties. Want to record a candidate at your local club? You will have to ask the State Party Chair for permission. Want to livestream something at your county party meeting? Make sure to ask permission. Take pictures of meeting attendees? That’s prohibited too, without permission from one person who surely has better things to do than pick and choose who can and can’t take pictures at a meeting.
Many of these concerns were raised by those who voted against the ban, to no avail. Others raised concerns about the barrier to access this would create for young people, working people, and those whose disabilities make it difficult to attend meetings – core Party demographics necessary for victory. These concerns were all ignored.
Is this really what the Democratic Party is supposed to be about? Is this the kind of policy that will build the trust and solidarity needed to win in 2020? Or, is it the type of oppressive policy Democrats are supposed to be fighting against?
If you’re a Party member, call and write your local party chair, contact details here, and call and write the MDP at
606 Townsend St., Lansing, MI 48933
Phone: (517) 371-5410
Fax: (517) 371-2056
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Liano Sharon is a member of the Michigan Democratic Party rules committee and a delegate to the State Central Committee for the 12th Congressional District.