Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Taking Back America, Part 3

In the previous entry in this series, I told you what you could do to become more politically active. Just a brief recap: ward club meetings--join them. Do more than just vote, or write letters to the editor, neither of which is bad but in this day and age really aren't enough anymore.

As I stated last time, at some point you'll want to think about running for political office. Since ours is supposed to be a representative government, citizen participation is imperative and that does include running for office. The same people were never meant to keep getting elected over and over; that's how corruption sets in.

So, which office to run for? And how to do it?

Well, a good starter position to run for is Precinct Committee Member (PCM). It's a small potatoes office; it's part time and chances are you won't even get paid for it. But, it's the foundation on which the whole system is built.

What is a PCM, and what does a PCM do, you ask? PCM's are this:
A Precinct Committee Member is an elected local representative...Each member serves a specific precinct. Each precinct also has a Vice-Precinct Committee Member. Both positions are voluntary...Precinct Committee Members are elected by ballot every four (4) years. If a precinct has a vacancy, the position may be filled at any time by appointment of the County Chair (or a city councilperson, depending on where you live).
Each city, town, township or suburb has council wards, and each ward is broken down by voting precinct. Basically what you do is you go to your local board of elections and ask for a petition to get yourself on the ballot. Depending on local laws, you'll need to gather a minimum of five signatures, and a maximum of fifteen (that's how it works for the city of Cleveland, Ohio, where I live--but it may be different where you are). You'll want to gather at least double the number of required signatures, because of the margin for error, such as people who are improperly registered. And before I forget, you'll also want to acquire a list of voters who live in your precinct, for the party you're running for. This too may be acquired at your local board of elections. Once you've gotten the number of signatures required, turn them in before the filing deadline and you're on your way.

PCM elections are typically held during primaries. If you've got an opponent, you'll want to do some campaigning, and this is where being a member of your ward club comes in handy, because chances are you'll have made connections--such as your local councilperson, whose support you'll definitely want. You'll want to go door-to-door, and depending on the race you may also want to raise money to pay for fliers to distribute to voters in your precinct. Even if you have no opponent, go door-to-door anyway. A good PCM gets to know the people who live in his or her precinct anyway, and learn what they want out of government and so forth.

Alright, now you're thinking, great; what does a PCM do again? Here are some of the duties of the office:
A Precinct Committee Member:
  • Elects the local Democratic Party's leadership team every four (4) years, specifically County Chair, Vice Chair, Secretary and Treasurer.
  • Elects office holders when Democratic officials vacate an office. For example, Precinct Committee Members for Cuyahoga County were called upon to select a new county prosecutor when Stephanie Tubbs-Jones left for the U.S. Congress.
  • Communicates with and organizes other Democrats in your precinct.
  • Appoints two (2) poll workers from your precinct to work each Election Day, both primary and general.
  • Participates in campaign and election-day activities (phone banks, literature distribution, etc.)
Like I said, small potatoes, but it has a significant amount of power. PCM's attend regular meetings, which really don't take up as much time as you might think if you're worried about the job eating up what little free time you have outside work. And the position is excellent for building experience for when you want to run for a higher, and more importantly, paid elected office.

Now before you start flooding me with comments asking if I'm doing this, the answer is YES I AM. That's right, I am running for Precinct Committee Member this year. So don't think I'm blowing a lot of hot air preaching about what you can do, while not doing it myself. I do try to make a habit of practicing what I preach.

This should be enough to get you off to a good start. Take some time this evening, absorb what I've said, and do some serious thinking. If it's too late for you to run for PCM this year, don't worry; attend your ward club meetings on a regular basis, and keep an eye out for any vacancies that need to be filled. PCM's often move on to higher office, so there's a good chance an opening will come along before you know it. And like I said, you'll want to have your councilperson or some other official who lives in your ward to back you.

In the next entry in this series, I'll give you some pointers about controlling the political dialogue. Until the next entry, stay informed, and STAY ACTIVE!


Sorry I wasn't able to get this published last evening like I said; a nasty storm and bad wiring combined to serve me with a brief brown-out at my place.


dos4ever said...

That's some good info, Michael. Please keep us posted as you progress. I am pretty ignorant on grass roots politics so I thank you for teaching me some stuff.

Michael Keith said...

No problemo. I'm learning a lot of this stuff as I go along myself, so it's fresh in my mind. If you have any questions, or if you have anything to add, feel free.