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A step in the right direction for Alabama Democrats

Much of the controversy that has plagued the Alabama Democratic Party over the past year has finally come to an end, with the state Democratic Executive Committee on Saturday voting to approve a new ordinance that reinstates much of the minority caucus that was dissolved last May. .

The new bylaws, which passed 115-32, represent a major compromise between the two sides of the ADP, which has found little consensus over the past four years.

“It's not perfect, but it's a big step toward unifying this party,” said attorney Ben Harris, who helped draft the new constitution.

The new ordinance has not yet been published, but Harris said it differs only slightly from the proposed ordinance released by party officials last month. Harris said only minor amendments were made to ensure minority representation requirements were met. The amended bylaws he sent to his SDEC members 10 days in advance.

Attendees said the atmosphere was distinctly different from the past few highly contentious meetings, with leadership on display and the meeting being recorded and available for viewing online.

However, it was not completely without controversy. The new bylaws do not reinstate a caucus for members with disabilities and have drawn harsh criticism from the former chairman of the caucus.

“Their treatment of people with disabilities today is disappointing,” former president Josh Raby told the Alabama Reflector after the meeting.

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Several members of other caucuses were critical of the decision not to reinstate the disability caucus, but were also surprisingly optimistic about the party's turnaround.

ADP appears to have been at war with itself for much of the past five years, starting with a forced leadership change in 2019. The change, pushed by former Sen. Doug Jones and several others, forced the party to rewrite its constitution to include: Hold more minority caucuses to better represent more minority groups.

In doing so, the expansion of minority voters within the party's executive committee weakened the power of the party's black caucus, the Alabama Democratic Conference. The ADC, chaired by longtime Democratic powerhouse Joe Reed, held significant power within the ADP party, much of which was vested in the party's only true minority caucus for years. This stemmed from the fact that it was an ADC.

Once a new caucus was formed (many of which included black members to avoid diluting the power of black voters in the party), ADC and Reid no longer controlled the leadership vote. An entirely new leader had been voted in and ADP was about to be reborn.

However, Reed will not be defeated so easily. Within three years, he was able to successfully elect his favorite candidate, the Rev. Randy Kelly, as chairman in 2022, putting him back in control of the party. The scorched-earth situation calmed down a bit after that, as Kelly and Reed tried to eliminate the party, but the Doug Jones bylaws.

At last May's meeting, they disbanded many of the new minority caucuses by pushing through new ordinances using covert tactics such as effectively imposing a poll tax. And they started wars against those who challenged them.

But there was one challenger they couldn't defeat. It's the Democratic National Committee. The DNC was once again embroiled in the Alabama turmoil when several lawmakers, including Vice Chair Tabitha Isner, raised objections. It went so far as to threaten to strip ADP of both funding and representation if it was found to have discriminated against minority groups. And in the end, a newly passed ordinance turned out to do just that.

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Mr. Reed and Mr. Kelly have amended the bylaws and promised to make changes. Many doubted, or thought, that it would at least be a long and drawn-out battle to bring about such changes.

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