By Sarah Swetlik

Joe Reed, the vice chair for minority affairs for the state Democratic party, speaks during a debate about proposed bylaw changes on Oct. 15. (Sarah Swetlik)

The second day of the Alabama Democratic Party’s statewide convention in Montgomery ended abruptly with a large group of committee members walking out after a debate over proposed changes to the organization’s bylaws.

A draft proposal for new bylaws has been circulating throughout the party — some members claim to have seen it via Facebook, some say they haven’t seen it at all. Vice Chair for Minority Affairs Joe Reed said copies were sent out to members.

The bylaws were on the agenda for today’s meeting, but a member quickly proposed removing them since many members hadn’t seen them. When new bylaws are adopted, the party’s procedure is to mail out copies at least 10 days in advance to all members at the state’s expense, which Reed said the party did not do prior to this meeting.

In order to vote, 107 members would have to be present to meet the party’s quorum, but only 94 were counted, so the bylaws did not receive a vote.

Shortly after determining the quorum had not been met, a large group of committee members left the meeting.

Party leadership briefly attempted to discuss other business after the group left, but the meeting quickly adjourned.

The proposed bylaws have caused contention within the party — because they haven’t seen the document, many members said they are unclear on exactly what the suggested changes will be, but have expressed concern that recent minority caucuses, such as the Youth, LGBTQ+, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islanders, Native American and Disabled Persons caucus, will be removed or minimized.

The new caucuses were established after intervention from the Democratic Convention in 2019.

Reed was among those who opposed changes to the bylaws and party leadership at the time.

After the meeting adjourned, Reed said some people in the party have tried to “do everything they can to dilute the Black vote in the Democratic party.”

Reed has chaired the Alabama Democratic Conference, the party’s Black caucus, since 1979.

“It is very simple,” Reed said. “Black folks constitute a majority of the Democratic Party in Alabama.”

He added that he does not want to deprive any members of the party of what he called “their fair share of democracy.”

“It’s going to take a united front on the part of Black folks and white, with a common interest, to put this party together and rebuild it, because it’s in serious trouble,” Reed said.

Josh Coleman, who serves as one of the representatives to the DNC and is also part of the Youth and LGBTQ+ caucuses, said the 2019 bylaws change was historic.

“It gives folks from different backgrounds — the LGBTQ community, the Asian community, the Hispanic community — a voice and a place in the party,” Coleman said.

Delandrion Woods, the chair of the Youth caucus, said he believes the party would decline without the representation of young people, but until he sees an official copy of proposed changes, any debate is hearsay. Woods said that, in the meantime, the Youth caucus will continue working on engagement strategies like social media and information distribution.

Reed said there’s not an expected date for a vote on the bylaws to take place, but he believes there will be another discussion about them.

Coleman said his goal is to make sure everyone in the party has a seat at the table; if there are discrepancies in the bylaws, he said he hopes to find a healthy medium.

“I think a healthy debate is always great for any organization, especially the Democratic Party,” he said, adding that because the party is like a big tent, hearing everyone’s voice is important to standing up for their shared values. “The key is to making sure that we actually include those voices at the table when decisions are made.”

Party leadership has not announced when they will hold their next meeting.