The organization of the Democratic Party can seem very confusing and difficult to understand. There are many different officers, special terminology, and navigating all this can be one of the biggest barriers to getting involved. This guide will explain what Precinct Meetings are and how they’re important to the Democratic Party.
What is a Precinct?
On Election Day, every voter has an assigned location to cast their ballot. This polling location is based on where you live, so you and all your neighbors likely vote at the same place. In North Carolina, the lowest level of Democratic party organizing is centered around that polling location, which we call your precinct.
All power in the Democratic Party derives from your precinct. Officers at the state party level, contents of the state party platform, even what the party rules are – that all begins with your local precinct. Your precinct helps enable democracy by staffing polling workers, recruiting election day volunteers, and helping make sure issues in your community are represented in the party.
A precinct committee is made up of at five registered Democrats from a precinct. Of those five members, three will be selected as precinct committee officers. These officers are selected by other registered Democrats from the precinct in odd-numbered year, or at any meeting to fill a vacancy. The officer positions and some of their associated responsibilities are:
- Chair – preside over meetings, establish goals for the precinct, organize voters in the precinct, attend county party meetings, update precinct members on party activity, recruit precinct election officials
- Vice Chair – fill in for chair when necessary, perform community outreach for precinct activities, attend county party meetings
- Secretary/Treasurer – keep all records of precinct meetings (including minutes), report any fundraising to the county party, prepare reports on precinct activity.
There’s a lot more these officers do, but these are just some of the basic responsibilities. If you don’t know what precinct you’re in, click here to open the North Carolina Board of Elections Voter Search tool to find your precinct assignment. Once you locate yourself, look for your precinct number on the right hand side of the screen – see the example below.
At the annual organizing meeting, each precinct will send a number of delegates to the Buncombe County Convention. Being selected as a delegate is usually straightforward – each precinct has a decent number, usually more than the number of people who attend the precinct meeting. Showing up to your precinct meeting and being a delegate will give you the ability to vote at the county convention. In odd-numbered years, the county convention is responsible for electing a new set of county party officers who will manage county-wide party business for the next two years. The convention will also elect state executive committee members to represent our county at state meetings.
Resolutions passed by each precinct will also be discussed at the convention. Any resolution passed by the convention will be sent to the district and eventually to the state level – then hopefully into the state party platform!
Annual Precinct Meetings
Every year, each precinct across the state meets at least once – but in Buncombe county, we tend to meet a lot more!
In odd-numbered years, each precinct with at least five registered Democrats in attendance will have a quorum – enough people to form a precinct committee. Members of each precinct with five members will elect precinct officers (listed above), as well as select delegates to represent the precinct at the county convention (more on that later).
In even-numbered years, precincts meet to fill open vacancies, discuss resolutions, and plan how to get out the vote in their neighborhoods in the coming election.
These precinct meetings are a great opportunity to see grassroots organizing in action, and participate in strengthening the democratic party! Even if you don’t want to be a precinct officer, going to your meeting will help the party grow and represent your neighborhood in the year to come.
Being a Precinct Officer
Once you attend your precinct meeting and are elected as a precinct officer, you will be expected to carry out the responsibilities of the office you hold. Precinct officers are responsible for organizing their precinct to help elect Democrats, first and foremost. If you are elected Chair or Vice Chair, you will be a voting member of the County Executive Committee, which gives you a say in how the county party operates during the year.
For example, County Commissioner Al Whitesides was elected by precinct officers from District 1 in a special election this year – a few dozen people had the power to choose a commissioner for the district. State Senator Terry Van Duyn and Buncombe County Register of Deeds Drew Reisinger were both initially elected in these types of “special elections” as well.
Precinct officers are leaders in the county democratic party and can end up doing a lot more than what the job description entails. It all depends on you and how active in the party you want to be!
There’s a lot to understand about Precinct Meetings – not to mention district and state level organization! District and state will be covered in other guides, but to summarize:
- Precincts are the foundation of the Democratic party and correspond to where you vote
- A Precinct Committee is a group of 5 or more registered Democrats living in a precinct who attend the Precinct Organization Meeting
- Precinct Committee Officers are selected at the meeting to help organize the precinct, represent it at the county party, and strengthen the party structure
- Delegates to the County Convention are selected from each precinct at the Annual Precinct Organization Meetings
- In odd-number years, delegates will vote on new County Party Officers, State Executive Committee members, and resolutions at the County Convention