Visualizing Democracy

 Jackson Heights Resident RadHa Vatsal described how she was elected to represent her block on the Queens County Democratic Committee

Jackson Heights Resident RadHa Vatsal described how she was elected to represent her block on the Queens County Democratic Committee

One way to think about democracy—-it’s an interface for the community to shape its own reality. There is a renewed interest in democracy and politics from the humblest elected office to the highest, and I’m proud to support democracy by visualizing voters’ priorities and by making the machinery of democracy more visible through visuals. Recently, I did visual listening for the New Visions Democratic Club where Ben Yee, Danny Dromm, and Radha Vatsal explained the nuts and bolts of the Queens County Democratic Committee—-part of the local party machinery which is simultaneously neglected by many and exploited by a few. While on paper the committee which comprises of hundreds of neighborhood representatives, has influence over appointing judges, allocating resources to candidates, and choose Democratic candidates who fill in when someone resigns/dies/leaves in mid-term in reality it’s controlled by a few at the top AKA the Queens Machine. This may be changing. But if it’s going to change, it first needs to be understood, and that’s why I helped the speakers turn their knowledge into pictures.

Afterward, participants told me I helped them keep track of the complexity of how the Queens Democratic Committee works. I certainly needed to draw pictures to keep track for myself! (Photo credit: Tammy Rose)

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For such a seemingly dry topic, we had great turnout and participation. At the end of the meeting local Democratic nominee for Senate Jessica Ramos (standing) recruited volunteers to knock on doors for fellow state senate candidate Anna Kaplan. Great seeing democracy in action! Seated behind her in Blue, Democratic nominee for state assembly, Catalina Cruz, told us she would foster a collaborative process for her district’s approach to the county committee.

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The local committee system has roots in the Tammany Hall operation of the 19th century. Time to modernize!