The Precinct Convention
By D. A. Sharpe
The most basic form of democracy is the precinct convention. If you have not participated in precinct conventions, I urge you seriously to become involved. Make plans to attend, and glean from this article.
I encourage every voter to participate in the precinct convention. It does not take long, and it is what helps shape the political process. If you have not participated in a precinct convention, I hope you make plans to do so. This article is for you to have a clearer and better understanding.
Precinct conventions are the process that starts the political party activity, for Republicans and Democrats, each election cycle. Texas primary elections are held on the first Tuesday of March in the even numbered years. Republicans hold their own primary, as do the Democrats. The precinct convention takes place right after the polls close at 7:00PM, usually at or near the location of the voting precinct where one has voted. In one section of the voting place, the Democratic Party conducts its precinct convention. In another section, the Republican Party conducts its precinct convention.
Anyone who votes in the Primary Election is eligible to participate in the precinct convention, but only in the precinct in which one votes. However, a Republican primary voter may only participate in the Republican precinct convention. The same holds true for Democrats. The Temporary Chairman, who is usually the Precinct Chairman for the appropriate political party, convenes the meeting at 7:30 PM. There are occasions where the Temporary Chairman may be the Election Judge or by someone appointed in advance by the Precinct Chairman.
The Temporary Chairman will arrange, in advance, for at least two other voters eligible to participate in the precinct convention to serve as a Temporary Secretary and a Temporary Sergeant of Arms. These arrangements for “Temporary” officers provide structure to start the convention. The Temporary Secretary is responsible to verify that the voters in attendance have voted in the primary. The Secretary will take the minutes of the convention, and submit them on a timely basis to the county chairman of that political party. The Temporary Sergeant of Arms is responsible to get the physical arrangements in order for the convention, such as identifying a seating area, podium or place for the Chairman, and to keep order (the bouncer).
The precinct convention does only three things. First, it elects permanent officers to replace the three temporary officers. Usually, a motion is passed to make the Temporary officers the Permanent officers. However, if there is desire among convention participants to elect other eligible participants to these roles, a simple majority vote can attain that.
Secondly, the precinct convention will elect delegates and alternate delegates to go to the county convention which will occur this year on a Saturday two or three weeks from then. The Chairman will know the number of delegates eligible to be elected. This number was determined by the number of votes cast in that precinct for that party’s gubernatorial candidate in the last general election in which a Texas Governor was elected. It is calculated by taking the number of votes cast, and divided by 25. The resulting number is the number of delegates to be chosen and a like number for alternates.
What is an alternate delegate? It is a person ready to serve as a delegate, should any of the primary delegates not be able to attend the county convention. It is good for the alternate to attend, because there are usually last minute absences, which allow many of the alternates to serve as delegates at the county convention.
The range of precinct delegates eligible from the Wise County Republican Party goes from two to 30, with an average of 11 per precinct. For our Wise County Democratic Party, its precinct representation goes from one to seven, with an average of four. A like number of alternates are selected. A precinct may elect any number of delegates up to those maximums. If a precinct is eligible for six delegates and six alternate, and only nine people were nominated to the county convention, then the six highest vote getters would become the delegates and the remaining three would become the alternates. If more than 12 are nominated, individual voting needs to take place. If only five are nominated, all five are elected automatically as delegates, and the precinct sends no alternates.
The Republican Chairman needs to have paper for written ballots available, as their participants are free to choose written ballots. However, the Democratic Party of Texas prohibits written ballots at any meeting their organizations. Only voice voting or some type of public counting is legitimate, such as counting raised hands or standing people.
Thirdly, the precinct conventions hear any proposed resolutions. The participants may discuss, amend and choose by majority vote whether to send a resolution to the county convention. The intention is to be subject matter for the party’s platform that is to be revised at that party’s state convention (and even on to the national conventions).
The county convention serves the same three functions as the precinct. The number of delegates and alternates each party may elect to its state convention is the number of votes cast in the most recent general election for that party’s gubernatorial candidate, divided by 300. There is nothing inappropriate about husbands and wives being elected.
One important thing to remember about the state convention is that delegates and alternates attend at their own expense. There may be some other source to help with expenses, but the primary responsibility accepted is to foot your own expenses. Expenses are transportation, one or two night’s lodging, and meals. You may be asked for a voluntary gift to your party to help with its expenses.
The state conventions serve the same basic three purposes. During presidential election years that includes selecting who goes to the party’s national convention from Texas. The state conventions have much excitement. You see and meet many people you usually only see in the media. A sense of deep patriotic feeling almost always gathers in those who attend these conventions.
Effective participation is the key to success. Be prepared to have qualified, willing people to nominate representing the party at the next level. Attend to the convention with other participants knowing what you will propose and who will support you. Have someone prepared to second your motion and to support you.
The people nominated as a delegate or alternate do not have to be present at the meeting. Their only requirement is to have voted in that party’s primary election. The act of voting in a party primary in Texas is the major way a person is determined to be a member of that party. One cannot vote in the Democratic Primary and be a delegate to the Republican Party set of conventions, nor can one who failed to vote in the primary have any role in either party’s conventions.
So, there it is. I strongly encourage you to participate in the process. It will enhance your experience in the community. It will broaden your horizons and perspectives.
Links for election information:
Texas Secretary of State
Texas Ethics Commission: www.ethics.state.tx.us
Democratic Party of Texas: www.txdemocrats.org
Republican Party of Texas: www.texasgop.org
Wise County Republican Party: www.wiserepublicans.org
Tarrant County Republican Party: www.tcgop.org
Tarrant County Democratic Party: www.tcdp.net
Denton County Republican Party: www.dentongop.org
Denton County Democratic Party: www.dentondemocrats.org
Dallas County Democratic Party: www.dallasdemocrats.org
Dallas County Republican Party: www.dallasgop.org
Parker County Republican Party: www.parkercountyrepublicanparty.org
D. A. Sharpe,
805 Derting Road East
Aurora, TX 76078-3712