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What Is My Precinct Number And Do I Have An Existing Precinct Chair

There are two ways in which one can become the precinct chair for your neighborhood. If your precinct currently does not have a precinct chair, then you are able to apply (note that I am assuming you are registered to vote; if you are not, then register to vote first!) to the leadership of your party in your County to fill the position; if there is already a chair then you can run against them for the position in the next election.

Before exploring these options however, you need to know things. First you need to figure out what your precinct number is, and second you need to determine if the position of precinct chair for your precinct is currently occupied – and if so, by whom.

What’s My Precinct Number?

Now clearly if you wish to apply to fill a vacant precinct chair position; you first need to determine your precinct number, which is based on your residential address. Please note that precinct numbers are unique only within counties, so when referencing your precinct number also mention the county name unless it is clear from the context which county you are referring too. There are numerous ways to get your precinct number.

Check Your Voter Registration Card

If you have your voter registration card, look it over. Many states will have a field on the card that tells you your precinct number.  Not all states include this information on their voter registrar cards, but it is a good place to start looking as you most likely have it somewhere convenient.

Perform An Internet Search

The next thing to try is to use an internet search engine to attempt to determine your precinct number.  A search for the name of your county, your state and the phrase “voter registration” will more than likely return a result affiliated with your county government – somewhere on that page, most counties will have an option to check whether you are registered to vote or not.

Check ‘Can I Vote’

Visit www.canivote.org.  This site it useful as it provides a clearance house for state election websites. It offers an alternative way to located voter registration information specific to your state.  If you cannot find your county election site this is a good alternative place to look for your precinct information.

Contact Your Political Parties County Office

Again, this method starts with the internet.  Search for your parties county website – for example ‘dallas county democratic party’  – and one of the first few results is sure to belong to the headquarters for your county party.  On the site you should be able to find the phone number or email of someone involved in precinct chair recruitment – if not, simply call or contact them via whatever method the provide.

Whomever you speak to at the county headquarters will be able to either help you determine your precinct number, or redirect you to someone who can.  The parties love to hear from new people asking questions like this, as someone showing this type of interest has a strong likelihood of becoming an asset to their organizing and get out the vote efforts.

Determine If Your Precinct Chair Position Is Vacant Or Occupied

Having now identified your precinct, your next task is to determine if the precinct is vacant.  The following are the easiest ways to obtain this information.

Check Your Parties County Website

Your political parties county website – easily found as discussed earlier in this article – is a useful source for all sorts of local party information.  Depending on how well fleshed out and maintained the site is, something which will also be a good indicator of how well organized the party is locally, there may be a list of precinct chairs available somewhere on the site.

If you are able to find such a list you will find a list of precinct numbers for the county, and associated precinct chairs for the party; possibly with contact and other information.  Sometimes the list will include all of the precincts and simply leave the name field blank if the Precinct Chair position is vacant.  Other times the list may just include occupied precinct chairs, so the absence of your precinct from the list is likely to indicate a precinct chair vacancy also.

Call Or Email Your Parties County Office

Of course sometimes just reaching out to someone is the most effective means of getting information. As discussed earlier, the parties county website is sure to have some phone numbers or email addresses of people who will be able to lookup if your Precinct has a precinct chair or not.  When you get hold of someone, simply ask them to tell you whom your precincts chair is – they will either provide you a name and contact information, or will tell you that the position is vacant.

Be Patient But Persistent

Note that many of the people who work for the party at a county level are volunteers, so it is entirely possible they will not always be available – and may potentially not respond right away.  If you leave a message or send an e-mail give them a day or two to respond, but if you don’t hear back do not get discouraged.

Call again and try reaching out to a different person on the list of contacts.  If all else fails take a long lunch and drive to party headquarters one day to find out in person. The hardest part of applying for a precinct chair position is maintaining your motivation long enough that you don’t lose interest before you achieve your goal.

What Next?

Precinct Chair Vacancy – Appointment

Having determined your precinct number, and the current status of the precinct chair position, you must determine your next step.  If the position of chair is vacant, then you should initiate the steps to be appointed to fill a vacant precinct chairmanship.

Precinct Chair Filled – Cooperation

If the precinct chair spot is already filled, then reach out to the person occupying that spot and offer your help with their grassroots efforts.  If you find that they do a good job of fulfilling their responsibilities you may wish to just contribute your time as a volunteer to assist them indefinitely.

Precinct Chair Filled – Campaign

However, if you feel they don’t represent your precinct in a manner you agree with then you can run for the position in the next election cycle.  Just remember to keep it civil if you do so,  there is no need to make enemies – you may even find they are delighted at the prospect of someone taking the title off their hands!

 

Still unsure about what precinct you are in, or if you have a Democratic Party precinct chair?  Contact me and I’ll try to help!

 

 

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State Political Conventions – Selecting The National Convention Delegates

State conventions for the two major political parties are the place where – in presidential election years – the state party determines who will represent the state at the National convention later in the election season.

While the number of delegates (and also alternate delegates) assigned to each state is set by the party at the National level, the state determines who those people will be.  The voting to fill those National level delegate spots is done by the delegates sent to the state convention by the County or Senatorial District conventions held prior to the respective parties’ State conventions.

The individuals chosen to fill the National convention delegate spots are chosen by a variety of methods, which vary between political parties, and even across individual states.  These are some of the factors that frequently come into play.

Winner Take All Or Proportional

In some states, all the delegates sent to the national level are required to vote for the candidate that performs the best in the primary or caucuses statewide.  In these ‘winner take all’ states, a potential nominee either picks up the whole pool of delegates, or none at all.

Proportional Assignment of Delegates

In other states, a proportional system is used.  The number of delegates supporting each potential candidate is determined based on their proportion of the popular vote in the parties’ primary or caucus process. In some of these proportional vote states, a certain threshold of votes – usually expressed as a percentage of the vote – must be achieve in order for a candidate to receive a share of those delegates.

Winner Take All Delegate Assignment

Winner take all states are big prizes for candidates due to the concentration of delegates that can be picked up, and are often focused on by stronger candidates.  Candidates who have trouble winning states outright are often able to accumulate a fair number of delegates by achieving strong support in many proportional states.

Caucus Or Primary

Caucus Meetings

The most common way that the states electorate was polled on their preference for the parties presidential candidate used to be the caucus meeting. These are events that are organized by the party itself and allow participants to choose their preferred candidate in an open and transparent manner, with discussion allowed and encouraged at the caucus site. Today while many smaller states still use the Caucus system, the majority of states have switched to statewide primaries.

Primaries

A primary is organized and operated using the same process as occurs in the general election process.  Voting is usually held in the same places as for regular elections, and secret ballots are cast.  Primaries are subject to most of the same limitations as the presidential elections, such as restriction on electioneering at the polling locations.

Open Or Closed Primary

There are a variety of different rules that determine who may vote in the primary election for a political party.  These rules vary between the different states.  Overall there are three types of primary held – closed, semi-closed and open primaries.

Closed Primaries

In some states, only voters who are registered with a particular party may vote in the party’s primary.  This system – known as the closed primary – has a tendency to reward more extreme candidates (i.e. very conservative Republicans, or very liberal Democrats) as the majority of the voters will be those with strong political views in one direction or the other.

Semi Closed Primaries

In semi-closed primaries, unaffiliated voters are also eligible to vote in the primary.  This allows independents the options of choosing a parties primary to participate in.  These types of primaries are more likely to favor more moderate or centric candidates, who will have greater appeal to independent primary voters.

Open Primaries

Finally, in open primaries, any voter may participate in which ever primary he or she wishes (note that in all systems a voter may vote in only one primary per election cycle).  These are sometimes controversial, and claims will periodically arise that some primary voters will be members of the opposing party casting strategic votes, or simply trying to ‘make mischief’.

Pledged And Unpledged Delegates

Pledged Delegates

Pledged delegates are delegates bound to a candidate by the primary and/or caucus process. In theory they are legally bound to vote for the candidate they are officially affiliated with.  There is, however some controversy about this; and occasionally the topic of delegates switching to another candidate will come up as a possibility in situations where the delegate count between two candidates is close.

Unpledged Delegates

Unpledged delegates – or superdelegates – are a group of important party officials.  Many senior party leaders or elected officeholders – both past and present – get this status from the national party.  At the national convention these delegates may vote for whichever candidate they feel best, with no obligation to honor the wishes of others.

Congressional Delegates and At Large Delegates

Many states separate the pledged delegate slots into two pools, congressional and at-large delegates; both pools will have their slots filled by individuals chosen (or at least ratified) at the state convention. In both cases, individuals nominate themselves for the position by submitting a filing, but are usually chosen based on their activity within the party – and in particular their perceived loyalty to/work for the presidential candidate they will be representing.

Congressional District Delegates

The national delegates chosen to represent a particular congressional district will be chosen to reflect the support the various candidates for presidential nominee received in that district.  In a typical example there may be 3 delegates assigned for a particular congressional district, which will be assigned to the candidates according to the proportion of votes they picked up in the primary or caucus.

Statewide At Large Delegates

At-large delegates are – where applicable – chosen at the state convention based on the performance of each presidential candidate statewide.  The results of the primary voting determines how many of this group of delegates will be pledged to each of the presidential candidates at the national convention.