The grass roots and foundation of the political parties are its precinct committeepersons. They serve as the foot soldiers to the most fundamental political unit of government, the precinct. The precinct committeeperson helps shape party policy and participates in the selection process of candidates. A precinct committeeperson is elected to a two-year term in the even-year primary elections.
Expectations of a precinct committeeperson:
- Represent the party’s voters at the county central committee convention to elect the county central chairman and its officers. The precinct committeeperson casts a total number of party votes, (weighted vote), as cast in the precinct at the recent primary election.
- Attend and become involved in the party’s Township meetings.
- Become a voter registrar and register all qualified constituents.
- Appoint and fill vacancies of election judges for the precinct polling place.
- Provide candidate and election information to the voters.
- Circulate petitions for candidates prior to the primary election.
- Become familiar with the elected officials and legislatures so the concerns of the voters can be passed on to them
Put simply, for both Democrats and Republicans, PCs are literally “foot soldiers” for the party. The job of the PC is to develop relationships with voters (and neighbors!) in their own precinct and encourage them to vote. One’s reward (besides the good feeling of helping Democrats get elected) is to be able to cast a vote to elect the county central chairman and its officers. Note that only elected PCs are awarded this privilege — appointed PCs (that is, people who volunteer to cover an “orphan” precinct) are not allowed to vote in these party elections, although both do the same work.
I was first introduced to the Democratic Party in DuPage when I was inspired by a speech given by Daniel Hebreard, then a candidate for President of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, and collected several pages of petitions with signatures to help get him on the ballot. I took them to a party event to be notarized, and the kindly notary asked me if I wanted to get involved. “Yes!” I said. I met with a guy who sorrowfully told me that there is someone already elected in my precinct. “But he never does anything!” I said (and it’s true — we’ve been here eight years and he literally does nothing besides collect signatures every two years to get re-elected and hang around on election night). “Well …. he’s a good guy and …. well, you can be an appointed PC in another precinct! But then you don’t get a vote.”
Absolutely none of this made any sense to me. A vote, what vote? Why do I care? And, why are you protecting someone who doesn’t do his job?
Fast forward — I become an appointed PC in a nearby precinct. Although I think the golden standard is for PCs to actually door knock and get to know their constituents, around here doing a “PC letter” at election time seems to be the accepted standard. Here’s the PC letter I wrote for the 2021 election.
(Humblebrag: Check out how well qualified the York Township candidates were!)
Each precinct has several hundred voters. The easiest way to reach them is to get copies made (about $81 in printing) and stuff envelopes and mail the letters (postage currently costs around $255). Plus you need to buy envelopes and maybe some cute rubber stamps so people will actually open it.
During my campaign I also rode my bike around and hand-delivered them to talk with voters — so that saved money (and was enjoyable) but took a lot of time.
What’s the point? The point is I’ve been “unvolunteered” as an appointed PC. That means no one in my precinct is hearing from anyone ever. And, in my home precinct, no one is hearing from anyone ever either. And since I covered both of these precincts during the 2021 election, that is about 800 fewer Democratic voters in York Township who receive any information at all about local elections, and have no trusted resource if they have questions.
Who does this serve?
I’ll end with this. Just took a count of the currently filled PC positions in York Township. There are 51 empty spots out of 136 (including my former appointed precinct which now sits empty). That’s more than one third.
Seems that someone or someones in local party leadership have taken a dislike to me — and so to “punish” me have relieved me of the burden of an expensive and time-consuming volunteer position that went unappreciated! (Although my neighbors were most appreciative and legitimately thrilled with the PC letter when they got it — they said they usually had “no idea who to vote for.”)
My opinion: seems like more time spent developing and retaining an active volunteer base would be wise. PCs not only do the hard and essential work of electioneering and GOTV (Get Out The Vote), but becoming an elected PC seems like the only accepted avenue to becoming a Democratic candidate for other positions. If this is the pipeline for future candidates to take on important roles in the community, it needs tending.