By Kate Franch
A version of this post appeared in The Greenville Journal on January 18, 2018
In the 2016 election, we all saw the power the individual voter wields. For Democrats, the aftermath has fueled a surge of resistance in the form of demonstrating, phone calling, and postcard writing.
Those activities are compelling ways for voters of any persuasion to express their preferences to elected officials at the local, state, and national level. But to really make a difference, we should remember that “all politics are local,” as legendary Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill famously said.
That’s what precinct reorganization is all about. Precinct reorganization occurs every two years for each party, with Republicans organizing in the odd years, Democrats in the even years. This year, Greenville County Democrats will come together on Saturday, Jan. 27 to elect new precinct leadership that will help register, inform, and engage voters at the most personal level – their neighborhoods.
Although it is the heart of the electoral process, many voters don’t understand how a precinct fits into the democratic process.
● There are 151 precincts in Greenville County and boundaries are the same for both parties.
● Each precinct is a geographical district with a prescribed number of registered voters surrounding a polling place and represents the smallest political subdivision in the electoral system.
● Each precinct can have a leadership team comprised of a president, three vice presidents, secretary, treasurer, and executive committee representative. Officers must be registered voters and residents of the precinct.
● The executive committee rep is a member of the county party executive committee and brings the issues from their precinct voters to county party leadership. Through this role, each precinct has a voice and vote in county party management and direction.
This year, the Greenville County Democratic Party is embarking on a major effort to extend leadership in all precincts, and to improve the support and training of precinct leadership to organize, mobilize, and activate voters.
The precinct model is in place throughout the country. In many cities, like Chicago, it represents the grassroots level of a robust organizing machine. In Greenville County, we aren’t quite there yet, but we are building toward it. We believe that neighborhoods should be the starting point for conversations on issues that can bubble up and become part of the Democratic Party’s platform.
Registered voters interested in participating in this process can attend one of the reorganization meetings on Jan. 27 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.. Because of the number of precincts, we will be spread out over 10-15 locations. If you are not sure which precinct you are in, check your voter registration card or go to scvotes.org. Then locate your precinct meeting location.
In addition to electing officers, each precinct meeting will include an opportunity to present, discuss, and vote on resolutions – issues for consideration at the Greenville County Democratic Party convention to be held on Thursday, March 1. You can download a resolution form to take to precinct meetings.
We invite every member of our community to attend the reorganization meeting and participate in the discussions and election of leadership. Candidates for precinct leadership can declare themselves ad hoc and will be elected by the members present. Each candidate will get a few minutes to present their credentials and goals.
Precinct organization is the essence of our democracy. Issues bubble up from neighborhood conversations, informing and engaging voters. Grassroots leadership mobilizes to register voters, support candidates and get out the vote. It is all about fulfilling our civic responsibilities to be an informed and active electorate.
It is this civic involvement that will lead to decisions and outcomes that truly reflect what our community wants.
Kate Franch became chair of the Greenville County Democratic Party in 2016 after serving four years as president of the Democratic Women of Greenville County. Her first introduction to political organizing came as an active precinct member in North Carolina.
Photo Caption: DACA supporters rally at the Peace Center in September – one of many local protests and rallies that have help Democrats become more active.