PCO Handbook - Organizing your Precinct

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Organizing Your Precinct

This section discusses many things you might do to organize your precinct. Some PCOs do them all. Canvassing and doorbelling are your two essentials.

Table of Contents

  1. Precinct Map
  2. Voter Lists
  3. Voter Registration Information
  4. Canvassing Your Precinct
  5. Locked Apartment and Condominium Complexes
  6. Canvassing by Phone
  7. Creating a Precinct Committee

Precinct Map

The first step in getting to know your precinct is geography. Obtain a precinct map from the County Auditor's office or your District Organization and drive the precinct (there will be plenty of time to walk it later). Six months from now you may not remember all the streets, so MAKE NOTES.

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Voters Lists

Precinct voters lists can be obtained from the Auditor's office and cite a variety of information about registered voters in your precinct; however, phone numbers and never provided. Phone numbers can be obtained by matching names and addresses in the phone book. Reverse directories which list by street address are available at libraries or local telephone companies. Precinct voters lists come in two forms:

Walking List
A list of voters arranged in a sequence of addresses that should allow you to walk the precinct in a strategic manner. You should have a firm grasp of all that is included on your walking list.
Alphabetical List
A list of voters in alphabetical order by last name.

The Party has broken down the party preference coding into the following codes:

  • Grade A: Is an individual who has been identified twice as a Democrat, never as a Republican.
  • Grade B: Is an individual who has been identified once as a Democrat, never as a Republican.
  • Grade C: Is an individual who has been either identified once as a Democrat and once as a Republican OR someone who has been identified as an independent voter.
  • Grade D: Is an individual who has been identified once as a Republican, never as a Democrat.
  • Grade E: Is an individual who has been identified twice as a Republican, never as a Democrat.

Take the time to understand all the codes on the list, some are obvious, others are not. If you don't know, ask your local Party door-to-door coordinator or voter file manager.

Voter List Abbreviations:

(1) REG NR Voter Registration Number 001656
(2) PCT/VEC/BC Computer code for Precinct B59/805/01
(3) VOTER NAME Last name first Adams, John
(4) STREET ADDRESS Street address 865 Allison St.
(5) ZIP Zip code 98102
(6) S Sex or gender identification M
(7) DOR Date of registration 3/29/89
(8) VOTING HISTORY The first two numbers are the month,
the last number is the year.
(112 = November 1992; 092 = September 1992)
112  092

Sample Alphabetical List

(1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8)
001656 B59/805/01 Adams, John 865 Allison St. 98102 M 3/29/89 112  092  111  091
002950 B59/805/01 Ash, Peggy 902 Gwinn St. 98102 F 8/15/79 112  111  110  119  118
029942 B59/805/01 Ball, William 2824 Harvard Ave. E. 98102 M 9/01/88 112  118

Sample Walking List

(1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8)
046843 B59/805/01 White, Daniel 3101 Broadway Ave. E. 98102 M 9/05/91 112  022  111
007439 B59/805/01 Allen, Mildred 3102 Broadway Ave. E. 98102 F 7/01/80 112  092  110  090
071394 B59/805/01 Snyder, Bernice 3105 Broadway Ave. E. 98102 F 1/21/92

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Voter Registration Information

A person is eligible to vote on election day if he/she is:

  • A citizen of the United States
  • At least 18 years of age.
  • Registered to vote at least 30 days before the election.

There is no residency requirement and you may register any time up to 30 days before an election. You may register to vote with any authorized registrar within the state. Your registration is perpetual if you cast a ballot at every presidential election.

You must re-register if you:

  • Did not vote in the last presidential election or in any election during the previous 24 months.
  • Have legally changed your name (by marriage or otherwise).
  • Have moved to a new county since you last registered.

You may register at your county Auditor's office, fire stations, most city and town clerk offices, public schools and libraries. For other locations call your county Auditor's office. Polls are open on election day from 7:00 am to 8:00 pm. We encourage every PCO to become a voter registrar. It takes a little over an hour of training and training sessions are offered year round. By being a voter registrar, you can provide an added service to the voters in your precinct - and you have a great opening line when you do your canvassing. If for some reason you are not a voter registrar, you should identify a fellow Democrat that lives near you that is a voter registrar that can offer assistance when one of your Precinct residents needs to register.

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Canvassing Your Precinct

Canvassing is an important tool in identifying Democrats in your precinct. With your precinct map, walking list, and voter registration information together on a clipboard, you are ready to perform your first precinct canvass.

  • An excellent time for canvassing is late summer and early fall of odd-numbered years. Another good time is February of even-numbered years, before the biennial precinct caucuses. Both parties hold their caucuses in March of these years. It is important to identify Democrats so that we can encourage them to attend our caucuses.
  • We suggest a two person approach, if possible, with each person working opposite sides of the street within eyesight of each other. In rural areas, working as a team, one person could drive the car, with the other going to the door. This work could also be done by phone.
  • Call at the door of each household in your precinct, even those with no registered voters indicated on your walking list. Introduce yourself by name as their Democratic Precinct Committee Officer (or precinct worker, if appropriate). Smile and be relaxed. Explain that you are trying to bring your precinct records up to date and see that everyone is registered to vote.
  • You could say "I'm _______, your Democratic Precinct Committee Officer. We are conducting a voter registration drive. Are all adults who live here registered to vote?" This could be followed by the polite inquiry "Do you consider yourself to be a Democrat, Republican or Independent?" If the answer is Democrat, invite them to attend the next Legislative District Meeting, encourage them to attend the caucuses, and explore whether the voter would be willing to work in future campaigns.
  • If any voter has recently moved into your precinct from within the county, have them fill out voter's change-of-address card. Offer to register anyone who is not registered to vote, if you are a voter registrar, or direct them to places where they may register. If your Party organization has such a service, you can offer to have a voter registrar call at their home later to perform this service. (If you make this committment, make sure it actually happens.)
  • Note the ages of those present in the household. Youngsters who will be turning 18 at a later date will need to be registered then. Elderly and handicapped people should be noted so that you can ask them if they want an ongoing absentee ballot application, in order to avoid a trip to the polling place.
  • Always be polite and friendly, never argue. Avoid the dinner hour and after 9:00 pm. If possible, do your door-to-door work during daylight hours. When people are not at home, make a note and return another time of day. Always use the sidewalks and avoid cutting across lawns.
  • If you happen to be out doorbelling during a footbal game, you can look like a real trooper and endear yourself to the voter if you ask what the score is, what quarter it is, or what it looks as if the outcome might be. The person will know that you'd rather be watching the game, but are so committed to this work that you are willing to sacrifice for it.
  • When canvassing, be alert for good places for yard signs, such as arterial streets or busy intersections. Always be on the alert for potential volunteers to help the Party, campaigns, or you with your precinct work.
  • When canvassing you should also take note of residents in your Precinct that may be interested in hosting a Coffee Hour or fundraiser for a political candidate or for an organizational function for the Party. Do not ask the person at the time of canvassing, however, make a note that the person seemed very supportive and that the residence had the capacity to host a function.
  • When you complete your basic canvass, give a copy of your annotated list to your legislative district chairperson for permanent retention in the district files. This will help build a district mailing list and will help ensure that your successor will not have to duplicate all of your work. Your work will last for many years as long as it is periodically updated. Good information leads to victories.
  • Each succeeding year, try to obtain new, complete computer-generated walking lists for your precinct. These will include all newly-registered voters and delete those that have transferred or been removed due to non-voting. Transfer notations about each household onto your new walking list. Remember to keep your files as up-to-date as possible.
  • The information you collect from voters is given to you because of your special position as a political party representative. Be careful how you use it and with whom you share it. Respect your neighbor's confidence.

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Locked Apartment and Condominium Complexes

Locked apartment buildings represent a challenge to the canvasser or doorbeller. Try to find a friend inside to let you in and/or escort you around the building. Usually at least one voter or manager will let you in if contacted over the intercom. One approach is to say, "I'm _____, your Democratic Precinct Committee Officer and I have some literature for your registered voters."

If all else fails, leave your literature by (not in) the mailboxes or by all entrances. Sometimes you get a good response by leaving a note with each packet giving your name and how to contact you for information or voter registration. Door-to-door canvassing and doorbelling may not be possible in locked apartment buildings or complexes. One alternative is a telephone canvass of registered voters.

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Canvasing by Phone

If you live in a rural area, or a precinct with many inaccessible apartment complexes, a telephone canvass may be the only way to acomplish your canvass goals. The approach to the voter would remain essentially the same.

"Hello, I'm _____, your Democratic Precinct Committee Officer. We're conducting a registration drive. I would like to inquire if you are a registered voter. Is there anyone currently in your family or household that needs to be registered to vote? Do you consider yourself to be a Democrat, Republican or Independent?"

Carefully note all information that you receive and politely thank the voter at the conclusion of the conversation. Remember that phone canvassing can be just as intrusive as doorbelling ... some people will object strongly to being approached in this manner. In the event this happens, politely thank the person and terminate the call. Note the response of the voter so that the person is not approached in this manner again.

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Creating a Precinct Committee

After canvassing, you will have a list of interested Democrats in your precinct. One method of harnessing this resource is to create a precinct committee. According to the Charter of the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, "Precinct committees shall be composed of registered voters within the precinct who agree to the disclosure of their names as Democrats." You might hold periodic meetings timed to inform selected Democratic Voters in your precinct of the events of your legislative district, of the candidates who will be running for election, and of contemporary issues. At the very least, the formation of a precinct committee can provide you with a pool of potential campaign workers who could share the responsibilities of precinct work.

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This document was transcribed for the Web in June, 2003 by Chad Lupkes, a volunteer in Precinct SEA 46-2324
Content is © 1995 by the Washington State Democrats' Chair Organization.
The text of this document was last updated on June 25, 1995
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