The Importance of Fair and Equitable Access to VAN, the Campaign Technology Provider for Democrats
At our May 2021 General Meeting, we unanimously voted to pass a resolution calling for our state party to offer a fair and equitable contract offered to all Democratic candidates who wish to access Voter Action Network (VAN), the campaign technology provider for Democrats.
We sent the resolution and a cover letter to the RIDP this afternoon, and they replied that since our organization--of 450 voting members who are registered Democrats in Rhode Island--is "not affiliated in any way with the Rhode Island Democratic Party," they are "are not in the practice of commenting on or justifying Party policy with those outside the organization."
It's shameful that the state party would ignore a large, active segment of the Democratic Party base, but it is not new. It is the same M.O., implemented by new people. What the Women's Caucus will do is what we've always done: work diligently, organize well, and fight hard for the things that matter most, namely empowering women and other groups who have faced systemic barriers.
Posted here are our press release and the response from the Rhode Island Democratic Party. The cover letter and the resolution are available in our public documents.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Liz Gledhill, Chair Phone: 401-284-7439
RI Democratic Women's Caucus Calls for Equity in the State Party's Proposed Contract for Campaign Technology Provider, Voter Activation Network (VAN)
[MAY 24, 2021, PROVIDENCE, RI] - The RI Democratic Women’s Caucus voted unanimously at its May meeting on a resolution urging multiple changes to the proposed Rhode Island Democratic Party (RIDP) contract with Voter Activation Network (VAN), a technology that Democratic candidates use for organizing their campaigns. The RI Democratic Women’s Caucus is composed of over 450 voting members, all of whom are registered Democrats in Rhode Island. Despite this fact, upon receipt of the resolution, RIDP Senior Advisor Kate Coyne-McCoy dismissed these hundreds of Democratic women by stating that, "[The Rhode Island Democratic Party] are not in the practice of commenting on or justifying Party policy with those outside the organization." The RI Democratic Women's Caucus was formed in 2019 after the RIDP changed its bylaws to make it against the rules for caucuses within the party to publicly communicate objections to party operations without first getting permission from the state party chair (which is occupied by a man). Though the Women's Caucus is unaffiliated with the state party, the voting members are all registered Democrats in Rhode Island. VAN allows candidates to plan and manage voter outreach effectively, and without it, candidates are severely disadvantaged. In its resolution, the Women's Caucus noted that the proposed VAN contract fails in several areas, namely access, independence, privacy, and equality. One of the major objections the resolution addressed was that access to the system is “at the sole discretion of the Democratic Party” and may be terminated “at any time, for any reason.” In response to the resolution, Coyne-McCoy also reiterated this unilateral control of the vital campaign technology, stating, "The RIDP alone will always decide who uses [VAN], how, and when." This structural inequity is exactly what the Women's Caucus is concerned about and addressed in the resolution. The people most disenfranchised by the currently proposed contract are women, members of the LGBTQ+ community, Black people and people of color, and low-to-moderate income people. These groups are the vital base of the modern Democratic Party. Though the RIDP has dismissed the concerns of these groups, and particularly of our engaged and ever-growing organization of registered Democrats in the state of Rhode Island, the Women's Caucus will continue to advocate for these groups and continue to call for the state party to revise this contract. All candidates deserve equitable access, data privacy, uninterrupted access, the ability to conduct business without individual permissions, and the allowance of all candidates--incumbent or challenger--to purchase the software in the same way. The cover letter to the resolution, the full resolution, and the response from RIDP's Kate Coyne-McCoy are available to read at the RI Democratic Women's Caucus blog: https://www.ridwomenscaucus.com/post/fair-van-access.
Liz Gledhill, Chair RID Women’s Caucus May 24, 2021 Dear Liz, I have received today, your letter and the resolution passed by the RIDWC on April 19, 2021 related to VAN. To be clear, the Voter Access Network is a wholly owned tool of the Rhode Island Democratic Party via the Democratic National Committee. It is not a public tool; it is a privately owned and implemented tool. The RIDP alone will always decide who uses it how and when, as is standard practice in every other state party in the country. Additionally, the RI Democratic Women’s Caucus is not affiliated in any way with the Rhode Island Democratic Party. So, while we appreciate your devotion to the election of Democratic women we are not in the practice of commenting on or justifying Party policy with those outside the organization. Sincerely, Kate Coyne-McCoy Senior Advisor, RIDP