Many voters feel they are not properly represented in government by either the Republican or the Democratic parties. There are several ways disgruntled voters can deal with this unfortunate reality.
Ineffective Voter Coping Mechanisms
Drop Out of the Electoral Process
Some people choose not to vote, given the lack of appealing candidates. This is by far the easiest way to cope, but is also the least productive. By not voting these people are not only giving up the opportunity to influence elections, they are failing to perform what many would consider their civic duty.
Vote for the Least Unpleasant Party
Another portion of the electorate responds by simply voting for the party they find less odious. They choose the ‘lesser of two evils’. While at least they are casting their vote, they are rarely excited about the people they elect. The best result they can hope for is that those they dislike most do not gain office.
The Third Party Protest Vote
Others will choose to vote for a third party – such as the Green Party, the Libertarian Party, the Constitution Party or any of a raft of lesser known alternatives. These people may gain the satisfaction of having voted their principles, but when push comes to shove they seldom have any of their candidates gain office. The chief impact these parties have at the polls is that if they draw sufficient votes from one or other of the mainstream parties they can tip a Democratic seat Republican, or alternatively a Republican seat Democratic, depending on the demographic makeup of the voters involved.
All of these options, in one way or the other, lesson an individual voters impact on our democracy. Thankfully there is a better solution available.
Respond Positively – Get Involved
Become a Precinct Chair!
I am far from the first person to look at these options and wish there were a better alternative. Thankfully there is such an alternative; to get involved in politics yourself! You might think that doing this means running for congress, or some other highly public elected office, but this is not the case at all.
There are simple ways to get involved that don’t require you to have the personality of a politician, while still allowing you to have an impact. This is where precinct politics comes into play! Precinct officials are the grassroots of a political party, and indirectly influence the political parties’ policies and the candidates they nominate for elections. This is a place where a citizen upset with the status quo can easily make a difference! So, what exactly is a precinct?
Precincts and Precinct Chairs Definition – What are they?
A precinct is a small geographical area that covers a number of potential voters. Usually the number of voters in precinct will be somewhere between 1000 and 4000. The precinct is the base of all political activities in political parties, and is the home of what many consider the most important elected official there is – the precinct chair. For information on determining your precinct number, or whether you have a precinct chairman, read this article on gathering your basic precinct info.
The definition of a precinct chair – sometimes referred to as the precinct committeeman, precinct committee person, or precinct committee officer – is an elected official of a political party that represents the interest of voters in his or her precinct within the party itself. These positions are voted only the voters who live in a particular precinct. In an ideal world, each precinct would have an active Republican precinct chair and an active Democratic precinct chair; however often times this is not the situation on the ground. One of the parties positions – particularly if the party is the weaker of the two where you live – will frequently have many precinct chair openings, which they are often desperate to fill.
Can I Really Become Precinct Chair?
Becoming a precinct chair is often easy. Let me say that again as it bears repeating, becoming a precinct chair is often easy! The main reason for that in order to be the precinct chair for a party you have to actually live in the bounds of the precinct. If there are no politically active supporters of your party of choice living within a few streets of your home, it is quite possible the position of precinct chair is open to anyone who is interested. When you are running for office unopposed it is very difficult to lose! Even if these is an existing precinct chair, if they are relatively inactive there is a strong chance you could beat them at the polls just by asking a couple of your neighbors to vote for you on Primary day.
If your precinct does not have a precinct chair for your party, there are two ways to gain that office. The first, if the timing is right, is register with your local party officials to get your name on the ballot. This is free, and the requirements to do so are very easy to meet. When you do this you – if you are the only candidate – will automatically become the precinct chair when the next Primary elections occur.
Most times during the election cycle however, you will need to apply to get yourself appointed to fill a vacant precinct chair position by the local party authorities. This may sound difficult, but it really is not that hard. While you may think the party powers that be would not want to pick a random outsider to fill a spot, they usually prefer just about anyone to having the position empty.
Naturally, you don’t want to show up at a meeting where they are voting on your appointment to the precinct chair position looking unkempt, you will want to make a good first impression – visible tattoos and eyebrow piercings might scare off many of the often middle aged or older party members who are members of party committees.
All Politics is Local – Precinct Chairs can Change their Party for the Better
It is surprising to many people just how easy it is for the average Joe (or Jill) Citizen to get involved themselves in the mainstream political process for either the Republican or Democratic Party. Once you have taken up the reins as your local precinct chairman or chairwoman, you will be an – admittedly small – part of the party machine; and in the future can find yourself part of party conventions at the county or state level. If you really get involved you may even find yourself becoming a delegate at the parties national convention. Your next step is to start to change your chosen party for the better, but that is a subject for a different post!
If all this sounds interesting to you, and you would like some help getting your start at the grassroots level of the Democratic Party, feel free to contact me and I will do my very best to help you out!