Embracing the Political Process to Enact Change
You can feel it everywhere you turn. Something new is happening in our communities. People who have never been engaged in political activism before are planning and attending rallies, contacting legislators, and even considering running for office. We have finally realized that government isn’t something we can sit by and let happen to us. Government is OF the people, BY the people, and FOR the people. WE ARE THE GOVERNMENT.
Our government model is Federal Republic…and many people think that term simply means we elect people to represent our VOICES at the local, state and national levels. What many people don’t understand is that it also means we elect people to represent our VOTES throughout the electoral process – and not just in the Electoral College in Presidential Elections.
In order to ensure we are prepared for the next Election(s) the work starts now. Our vote on Election Day is the last step in a long process, which starts locally, in the living rooms and backyards of our neighbors…and most of us are not participating in it.
Participating in precinct activities is a way to get involved ithat will give you the power to enact real and lasting change in your community, affect policy direction, and get politicians to listen to you and your neighbors. While we will focus on the NC Democratic Party in this document, the same information holds true for the Republican Party though the processes and procedures for their meetings may differ. Contact your county or state party office for details.
How do we make it happen?
In order to ensure our voices are truly heard and our votes accurately represented in our parties and our government, we need to get involved at the most basic level – in our neighborhoods, with our friends, in a small geographical area called a Precinct.
What is a Precinct?
A Precinct is the geographical area of people who vote at your polling location. They are the foundation upon which the entire political party is based. Precincts are drawn based on a number of factors. You can find out your polling location by visiting the Board of Elections website.
Precincts are designated as being Organized or Unorganized.
In order to be considered Organized, an Annual Precinct Meeting must occur within a designated window which varies depending on the year. In 2017 that window is between February 22, 2017 and March 8, 2017. Contact your county party office to find out exactly when your precinct meeting is. A minimum of 5 people must attend the meeting. Three must be elected to hold the following official positions: Chair, Vice Chair, and Secretary/Treasurer. Then you need at least two additional at-large members.
If your precinct missed the deadline to be an official Organized Precinct, you can gather and get active as a precinct at any time, you just won’t have representation at the conventions until the next round of Precinct elections in 2019.
What happens at a Precinct Meeting?
At the annual precinct meeting there are a few important orders of business.
- Precinct Committee Officers are elected: Chair, Vice Chair, Secretary/Treasurer. The Chair and Vice Chair represent your vote on the County Executive Committee (CEC) and are responsible for representing you at County Party meetings and communicating any developments and initiatives to other Precinct members. There are some diversity guidelines for the committee, which can be found in the Precinct Packet. Two additional at-large members also need to be elected.
- Precinct Delegates are also elected and represent your VOTE at the County Convention and elect County Party Officers (in odd-numbered years). Precinct Delegates also elect members to the State Executive Committee who then vote for State Party Officers…and then you move on up to National. Basically, by having well-organized Precincts, you have a more direct say in the direction of the Party. Committee Officers may also be Delegates, and in fact it is recommended that at least the Chair and Vice Chair are.
- Resolutions can be created, voted on, and sent for consideration up the chain for inclusion in the Party Platform. This is how you ensure your VOICE is heard regarding the direction of the Party – ultimately leading to the creation of Policy by our elected officials. Resolutions help direct party rules and platform issues locally and on up the line.
Please consider being elected to take one of the Precinct Committee Member or Delegate positions. We’ve all been making calls to our elected officials about issues – and sometimes we all wonder whether our one voice is ever going to make a difference. How much more impactful do you think it would be if the next time you called you could say “I represent x,xxx voters in Precinct y, and I am calling to tell you how we feel about z issue.”
NOTE: You must be a Registered Democrat to be a Precinct Committee member or Precinct Delegate. You can change your designation at the Precinct Meeting by completing a new Voter Registration Form.
Oh – and in addition, if you are able, please go to the meeting prepared to make a donation to the NC State Democratic Party.
What are the responsibilities of Precinct Committee Members?
- The Precinct Chair schedules and presides over regular precinct meetings, plans a calendar of precinct campaign activities, and assign specific responsibilities to precinct committee members.
- The Precinct Vice Chair handles communication to precinct members by sending emails or creating flyers about political activities and/or accomplishments to voters in the precinct. The Precinct Chair and Vice Chair also represent your precinct at quarterly county-wide executive committee (CEC) meetings.
- The Secretary/Treasurer is primarily responsible for taking minutes of precinct meetings, updating voter records in the VoteBuilder database, and preparing and filing reports to the county and/or state party as required. The Secretary/Treasurer also processes any donations to the Sustaining Fund.
All other committee members (at least two) take on responsibilities as needed. All committee members and delegates are responsible for understanding how your community feels about various issues so that you can best represent their voice and vote.
What is a Precinct Delegate?
Precinct Delegates are elected by members of the precinct to serve as a bridge between the voters in a precinct and the political party of the county (then at the district, state and national levels). They represent you at the county convention and bring a “bottom up” presence to the political structure. Are you frustrated with the canned email responses you get from our elected officials that give the impression that “they know what’s best for us”? Becoming a Precinct Delegate is a great way to network with candidates and elected officials and educate them on how their constituents feel about various issues.
The number of delegates your precinct is allowed is 1 per 100 votes cast by Democrats for the current Governor. A member of the County Party staff should be able to tell you the exact number. If your precinct is not organized, or if you do not elect your total allowed number of Delegates, your say in the political process is diluted. (eg., if your precinct is allowed 10 Delegates and only 5 are elected, then you only get 5 votes.)
While all Precinct Delegates are encouraged to attend the convention, all of them don’t have to. If you have 6 precinct delegates and only one delegate can go to the convention, then that 1 person would be able to cast all 6 votes.
NOTE: You do not have to attend the Precinct Meeting to be elected as a Delegate. Contact your Precinct Chair if you wish to be considered for election as a Precinct Delegate.
What is a Resolution and Why is It Important?
The purposes of Precinct Resolutions can vary and can include, memorializing someone, raising the minimum wage, repealing HB2, to amend the Rules of the NCDP, to urge Democratic elected officials, especially in the N.C. Legislature and the U.S. Congress, or to advocate certain positions on policy issues. A Resolution is a firm decision to do or not to do something and they can speak to local, state, or national issues.
Resolutions can be created, voted on, and sent for consideration up the chain to the County, District, and National Conventions for inclusion in the Democratic Party Platform. This is how you ensure your voice is heard regarding the direction of the Party – ultimately leading to the creation of policy by our elected officials. This is what we want to see. This is how we voice to our government what is important to us, not the other way around.
If I’m not interested in becoming a member of my Precinct Committee, should I still go to the Annual Precinct Meeting?
In a participatory government it is everyone’s responsibility to get acquainted with your neighbors in your precinct, meet their families and learn their interests, and their problems. At your precinct meeting you will have the opportunity meet neighbors you may not have had an opportunity to engage with previously.
In a well organized precinct where you know your neighbors, when Election “season” rolls around, you’ll know who will be 18 years old before Election Day and can get them registered to vote. You’ll already know who will be away from home and can make sure they get an absentee ballot. You’ll know who is homebound and/or needs special assistance to vote. Phone banking efforts will be more successful because the voter database will be updated with accurate information. You’ll be able to track who has voted already and reach out to those who haven’t with a reminder.
It is also everyone’s responsibility to educate ourselves and our communities about issues and know how other people in your precinct feel them. Using the common voice of your neighbors, your questions and ideas can be passed on to your elected officials backed by the power of numbers.
What happens after the Annual Precinct Meeting?
After the initial business of “organizing” at the annual meeting, most everything else is left for your precinct members to decide. How often will you meet and what your agenda will be at those meetings, is entirely up to you. Voter registration initiatives, phone banks, Meet the Candidate events, canvassing your neighborhoods to find out what issues are at the top of everyone’s mind, or a bi-partisan picnic in the park. This is also a time to work on resolutions.
Stay tuned! RISE Together Piedmont Triad will be working with party leadership and other partners to prepare additional materials with more ideas for the kinds of activities precincts can engage in to ensure the advancement of progressive ideals and the protection of our constitutional rights.