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letters | long road to the Democratic ballot in Massachusetts

Delegates perform a key, and deliberative, civic function

Delegate William Eddy tallied votes during the state Democratic Party’s convention in 2012.Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe/File/Globe Freelance

Joan Vennochi’s Feb. 23 column (“An insiders’ game for Democrats,” Op-ed) asks, “Why should 5,000 so-called ‘activists’ decide who [gets] their name on the primary ballot?”

I have been an elected delegate to our nominating conventions since 1986. I firmly believe that we perform a constructive civic function when we weed out candidates with scant support.

As Democratic activists, we participate in framing our platform every two years, and we try to assure that candidates run on those progressive principles. We seek to improve public policy, not just to help elect Democrats.

Candidates have ample notice of our rule that they must win support from 15 percent of delegates to be listed on the Democratic ballot. Therefore, they devote a year or more trying to garner support from party activists throughout the state.


By the time delegates assemble at the state convention in June, they have listened to stump speeches and mulled over candidates’ responses to their questions. By that point they are generally better informed about the candidates than most voters will be in the September primary.

Regrettably, only about 10 percent of eligible voters turn out to vote in the primaries. Were it not for the 15 percent rule, relatively uninformed voters in the primary would vote based on endorsements or irrelevancies such as a candidate’s ethnicity or residence.

There can be DINOs, or “Democrats in name only,” as surely as there are said to be RINOs.

In addition, delegates who give candidates more than 15 percent of the votes implicitly pledge to work for their election in November. A sizable convention vote seals the compact.

Julius “Jules” Levine