Thursday, March 10, 2005

Why You Should Become A Precinct Chair

First, what is a Precinct Chair?

(Now, bear in mind that my only experience is with Texas, so if you are reading this from another state, your mileage may vary.)

The Precinct Chair is an official position with the Democratic Party. Precinct chairs can go to conventions and give input into the official Democratic Party platform. Precinct chairs, as members of their county party's Executive Committee, give input to their County Party Xhair. Your County Party Chair helps run your local Democratic organization in many ways. The county party helps candidates, assists in campaigns, gets signs printed, and does a thousand practical things on the ground to get Democrats elected.

In short, Precinct Chairs have real power in the Democratic party. And, if you have an interest in reforming or giving input to the Democratic party, the Precinct Chair position is a great place to start.

Also, the Precinct Chair has real responsibility in the Democratic party. The Precinct is the smallest voting unit in our system. In a perfect world, each Precinct should have its own Democratic organization. The Precinct Chair and their helpers take responsibility in a political way for their neighbors in their precinct. They make sure that all of the voters who live near them get a flyer on their door telling them about the Democratic candidates in their area. They ensure that the Democrats get a phone call reminding them to go out and vote. They make sure that people who need absentee ballots or rides to the polls get them.

In short, the Democratic precinct chairs take care of the voters in their immediate community and even BUILD a community of activist friends and neighbors who are willing to help elect Democrats.

Why would I want to be a Precinct Chair?

Well, in a PERFECT world, all of what I've described would happen, but a lot of these precinct chair positions don't get filled, or some of the precinct chairs get busy and don't have time to do all of the work. So that is the big reason why you should consider becoming a precinct chair. If you want to help elect Democrats, and you have the time to give, the Democratic party in your neighborhood needs your help.

I have a dream. I'd like to see the Democratic party just as organized as the Republican party is. I'd like to see a working, activist precinct chair in every neighborhood in our state. I'd like to make sure that every Democrat gets informed about the issues and candidates, gets reminded to go vote, and gets a ride to the polls if they need one.

In order to do this we need a working precinct chair in every precinct to take care of their voters.

How would I become a Precinct Chair?

A precinct chair is an elected position and, at least in Texas, precinct chairs will run for office in 2006. BUT, if the position is vacant, the County Party can have an Executive Committee meeting and appoint people to fill vacancies.

The first thing you need to do is find out what precinct you are in (this should be on your voter registration card) and contact your county party. Ask them who the precinct chair for your precinct is. If there is no precinct chair, ask them if you can fill the position.

If there IS a precinct chair, ask them for the name of the precinct chair. Contact that person and find out if there is any way you can help.

If they don't call you back, keep calling! And don't give up. There are precinct chairs in my area who have had the position for years and years and years. They do it because they want to be the election judge. BUT, they don't want to do the basic organizational work such as block walking, passing out flyers, and building a precinct committee. Since there has been such a shortage of precinct chairs in the past, I think the philosophy has been that somebody who would do even a little work is better than nobody.

Anyway, if you find yourself in this situation, you'll know that you really ARE needed. You can become a precinct "captain," at least in my area, which is an unofficial position, and basically means, "the person who is willing to do the work." Then, if you build a successful precinct committee you'll have a good position to run against your existing precinct chair in 2006.

I've been doing the work for my precinct since last July, but my precinct chair moved away and they have not had a meeting of all the precinct chairs (where they can appoint you) since then so I have been a "pending" precinct chair this whole time.

Don't be shy! It took me three phone calls to get my walk list out of the county party office so I could walk my precinct, and it took me about five phone calls to get myself appointed an election judge.

However, I feel like the only way I can effect positive change in the Democratic party is to be PART of the Democratic party, and having an activist, working precinct chair or captain in every precinct will be an essential part of rebuilding the success of the party for the future.

Anyway, here's the Dallas County precinct chair manual. It's pretty good and will give you some idea of the duties of a precinct chair.

Good luck, and please consider becoming a precinct chair or a precinct captain in your area. The Democratic Party needs you!


Blogger Perry Dorrell, aka PDiddie said...

Great job.

I'll probably sample this for a post I'll make at Houston Dems next week.

8:33 AM  
Anonymous CitySky said...

Thanks for the practicals. I never made it past the "looking up the name of my precinct chair" phase last year; have not to my knowledge ever met this person. So I basically chose to get involved in campaigns and area Democratic clubs instead, walked door-to-door in other precincts with Dem clubs and candidate campaigns. It makes sense to find out what my chair is doing first. Thanks!

9:39 AM  

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