As a progressive, you’re probably feeling kind of terrible right now. The 2016 election was a hard blow, and as the President fills his cabinet with incompetent appointees, bans refugees from our country, and threatens the free press, it’s only getting worse.

It’s also got us fired up. The current political climate is motivating many progressives to join groups, donate to causes, protest, march, and look for ways to get involved and stand up for what we believe in. If you live in North Carolina, one way to join the fight is to become active in your local precinct.

Back up just a sec. What exactly is a “precinct”?

For election purposes, your precinct is the district in which you vote. Precincts are usually drawn by neighborhood, and they serve as the most direct link between voters and the ballot box. It might seem dramatic to say that precinct activities are integral to the survival of the Democratic Party, except that they are.

An organized and active precinct means volunteers who live in your neighborhood are talking to friends and neighbors, encouraging them to vote, and giving them the information they need to make smart choices on election day. Getting involved in your precinct is also an excellent way to dip your toe into the larger political scene, as precinct work feeds directly into county, state, and national party activities.

In North Carolina, which is still a swing state, active and engaged precincts are key to political victory. If you’re looking for a way to get more involved in local politics, then your precinct is an excellent place to start.

Okay, this sounds interesting. But what do precincts actually do?

Precincts are busiest during election years, and mostly concern themselves with the following:

  • Voter registration
  • Get out the vote efforts
  • Canvassing for candidates
  • Distributing information
  • Encouraging early voting
  • Fundraising for the party
  • Sending delegates to county and state conventions
  • Proposing resolutions that are important to their neighborhood.

 

On election day, they might help people get to their polling place, hand out lists of Democratic candidates, or make phone calls reminding people to vote.

Think of precinct members as politically engaged social butterflies. Some of the most important things they do are unofficial. Things like getting to know their neighbors, especially people who have just moved to the precinct, attending party meetings so they’re informed about local politics and can pass that information on to their community, and keeping track of issues that matter to those in their neighborhood, such as new construction, road quality, and crime rates. They’re the voice of their community, and that requires a good balance of listening and doing.

Who oversees the precinct? Is someone in charge?

Each precinct elects a Chairperson, a Vice-Chairperson, and a Secretary/Treasurer, which are all volunteer positions. The Chair and Vice-Chair are responsible for organizing the annual precinct meetings and attending the New Hanover Democratic Party meetings, which are held monthly.

Precincts are considered “organized” if they have a precinct committee, which are simply five active Democrats who live in the precinct and were elected to officer positions during the annual precinct meeting. The precinct committee’s make-up should reflect the make-up of the neighborhood itself, representing a similar mix of genders, ages, races, and ethnic backgrounds. You don’t have to be an officer to be active and involved, though. Simply coming to the meetings, speaking your mind, and pitching in is a huge help. The more people who are involved, the bigger impact they’ll be able to make.

I don’t have a ton of time to spare. How often do precincts meet?

Precincts meet annually This year, all meetings will take place between February 22nd and March 8th. Your first step is to find out when your precinct is getting together and make plans to attend.

Meetings are usually held at your precinct’s polling location, but they can also take place in someone’s home or even a local coffee shop. The most important thing is to ensure that at least five people from your precinct attend. The New Hanover County Democrats have more information about how to organize your precinct as well as the dates and locations of upcoming meetings.

You’ve convinced me! Now, how do I figure out which precinct I’m in?

The North Carolina State Board of Elections, a non-partisan organization, has a public voter search that you can use to look up your registration status, your voting history, and your precinct. Once you have this information, connecting with your precinct chairperson and attending your first precinct meeting should be easy. Good luck, and thank you for getting involved!

(This blog was originally posted on Suit Up Wilmington)