PCO Handbook - Precinct Committee Officer

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The Precinct Committee Officer

As a precinct committee officer, you are the representative of the Democratic Party to and for the citizens of your precinct. As government becomes more and more complex, and elected officials seem further and further removed from the voters, the precinct committee officer's role has become much more important. The PCO brings to the party organizations the concerns of the voters and of the neighborhood. Conversely, the PCO provides a link between the voter and the legislative district and county organizations, disseminating information and providing assistance where needed to the voters of the precinct.

Table of Contents

  1. Who is Eligible
  2. Election of a Precinct Committee Officer
  3. Terms of Office
  4. Vacancies and Appointed PCOs
  5. Duties and Responsibilities of Precinct Committee Officers
  6. Your role as a member of the County Central Committee
  7. Minimum expectations of a PCO
  8. Election Board Workers

Who is eligible

State law (RCW 29.42.040) provides that any person who is a registered voter and a member of a major political party may become a candidate for the office of Precinct Committee Officer by filing a Declaration of Candidacy form and paying a one dollar filing fee to the County Auditor. Since voters do not ergister by political party in Washington, a candidate declares himself or herself to be a Democrat or Republican at the time he or she files for the office. The filing period for the office of Precinct Committee Officer begins at the same time as the filing period for other partisan offices (the fourth Monday in July in even-numbered years), and last for three weeks, ending on the third Friday following that date.

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Election of a Precinct Committee Officer

Candidates for Precinct Committee Officer do not appear on the primary ballot. Precinct Committee Officer candidates are placed directly on the general election ballot. The candidate receiving the most votes in his or her precinct for each political party is declared elected. At the present time, state law (RCW 26.42.050) does provide, however, that to be declared elected, a candidate must receive at least ten percent of the number of votes cast for the candidate of his or her party receiving the greatest number of votes in that precinct.

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Terms of Office

The term of office for anyone elected to the office of Precinct Committee Officer is two years, and commences upon the official canvass of election returns by the County Auditors office.

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Vacancies and Appointed PCOs

Should a vacancy occur in the office (caused by death, disqualification, resignation or failure to elect a PCO in a precinct), the Chair of the County Central Committee may fill the vacancy by appointment. Appointment procedures may vary slightly but they usually are made only upon the recommendation of the Legislative District Chair after being approved at a montly District meeting.

State law (RCW 29.42.030) provides that only elected PCOs may participate in the Legislative District and County reorganizations, therefore appointments to fill vacancies cannot be made between the state general election and the reorganization meeting of the county central committee, which must be held prior to the second Saturday in January following the election of Precinct Committee Officers.

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Duties and Responsibilities of Precinct Committee Officers

The following duties and responsibilities are commonly assigned to PCOs over the course of their tenure in office:

  • Keep informed on current issues and candidates; review the party platform.
  • Attend District meetings on a regular basis and actively participate in party events and activities.
  • Obtain lists of registered voters from the County Auditor's office or District organization.
  • Canvass the precinct and become acquainted with the voters residing therein.
  • Establish a record of eligible voters and party members within the precinct and provide a list of identified Democrats to your District organization.
  • Encourage voter registration within your precinct.
  • Distribute party election materials during election campaigns.
  • Recommend party members within your precinct to work as Election Board Officers.
  • Encourage voters to get out and vote on election day.
  • Encourage the use of absentee ballots.
  • Hold precinct caucuses at certain selected times for the purpose of adopting resolutions and selecting delegates to legislative, county and state conventions.
  • Gather useful data on voters such as: telephone number, e-mail addresses, age, ethnicity, and issues important to them.

Important Tip:

Collect e-mail addresses of Democrats in your precinct. E-mail them for upcoming Party events or send them pertinent resolutions that are adopted by the Central Committee. Share these e-mails with your local and state party organizations so that they can be plugged in to all that is happening with the Party.

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Your role as a member of the County Central Committee

Each Precinct Committee Officer is a member of the County Central Committee, and as such is empowered to fulfill the following duties listed below:

  • The County Central Committee has the authority to fill vacancies on the party ticket for partisan county offices and for legislative offices in districts entirely within the county. This happens when no candidate files for a position or when a candidate or nominee is disqualified, leaving no candidate of that party for the office.
  • The County Central Committee may nominate persons for appointment to the offices stated above if an incumbent of that party resigns.

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Minimum expectations of a PCO

It is important to recognize that each Legislative District and County Organization should specify the duties and responsibilities expected from their Precinct Committee Officers. This should be done by the Executive Committee of the Organization in conjunction with the development of their two-year plan.

The following responsibilities are suggested to all Precinct Cmmittee Officers as basic to the performance of any PCO in his/her elected or appointed capacity:

  • To canvass or telephone poll your precinct in coordination with election strategy.
  • To coordinate with campaigns in educating voters and generating interest in the election on behalf of candidates and ballot measures.
  • To attend the Legislative District and County Central Committee meetings.

These are the minimum effort level for a PCO to function adequately. There are many other avenues of service to the Democratic Party (committees, etc.) in which PCO's are welcome and encouraged to participate.

If you move from the Precinct in which you were elected to serve as PCO, you should contact the Chair of the District organization and submit your resignation so that a resident of the Precinct can be appointed to serve as PCO for that Precinct. If you have done your job as PCO, the new PCO will probably be someone that you have identified as a potential leader for the party.

Should you be unable to perform the minimum duties of the Precinct Committee Officer, you should do your best to find someone who can, and relinquish your position by submitting a letter of resignation to the county or district chair, or by informing them that you will not seek re-election to the position. It is very important that we have PCOs that are willing to perform their duties.

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Election Board Workers

Each Precinct Committee Officer has the right to submit names for election board workers (election officials who work at the polls on election day). These are paid positions and desirable jobs for many people. To ensure that we have Democrats working at our polling places, each PCO must submit names of potential workers early in the year. The Auditor's Office will send each PCO an application form upon appointment or election to office. Law prohibits a PCO from election board work in any election in which he/she is a candidate.

Check with your county and district organizations to see if they have someone who has served in this capacity in the past, or if they have a coordinator for Election Board Workers.

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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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