PCO HANDBOOK ~~ A Guide for Precinct Committee Officers in Kittitas County, Washington
Active service as a Precinct Committee Officer is an important opportunity to contribute to the strengthening of the Republican Party. The PCO is an ambassador for the Republican Party at the neighborhood voter level. PCOs also have a significant role in selection of Party Leadership and in support of Republican candidates for public office throughout the range of government (i.e. local, regional, State and National).
If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace.
— Thomas Paine
Service as a PCO can be gratifying and certainly interesting. Each PCO’s skills, judgment, imagination, motivation, confidence and reliability are needed and very much appreciated. This handbook is an initial reference for those serving as a PCO. When questions arise, Republicans throughout the party are available with extensive informational resources to offer answers.
Table of Contents
Statement of Principles 2
The Party Structure 3
PCO Rules and Duties 3
Precinct Canvass 5
Precinct Caucus 7
PCO Newsletter 7
After The Election 9
Contact Information Append
Statement of Principles
We are Republicans because:
- We believe the strength of our nation lies with the individual and that each person’s dignity, freedom, ability and responsibility must be honored.
- We believe in equal rights, equal justice, and equal opportunity for all, regardless of race, creed, sex, age or disability.
- We believe free enterprise and encouraging individual initiative have brought this nation opportunity, economic growth and prosperity.
- We believe government must practice fiscal responsibility and allow individuals to keep more of the money they earn.
- We believe the most effective, responsible and responsive government is the government closest to the people.
- We believe Americans value and should preserve our national strength and pride while working to extend peace, freedom and human rights throughout the world.
- We believe the Republican Party is the best vehicle for translating these ideals into positive and successful principles of government.
- We believe the proper role of government is to provide for the people only those critical functions that cannot be performed by individuals or private organizations and that the best government is that which governs least.
- We believe Americans must retain the principles that have made us strong while developing new and innovative ideas to meet the challenges of changing times.
The Republican Party exists in support of a common belief in the strength of the individual. We espouse and practice respect for the right of the individual to determine his or her own destiny. Party members work to ensure that our government does not evolve into collectivism as it administers our democratic principles.
Our Constitution guarantees that the rights and freedoms of each individual are protected and not subject to arbitrary restriction by Government bureaucracy. Maintaining vigilance in protecting these constitutional rights is an individual responsibility shared by each of us.
Precinct Committee Officers, elected or appointed, serve their Republican neighbors as representatives to the party, and are the first building blocks in the foundation of the Republican Party. With a strong voter level organization, the Republican Party gives voice to conservatives at the local community level.
“You don’t win elections on Election Day. You win them by what you do all year round, by the day-to-day goodwill you generate in each precinct.”
—Jake Avery, Chicago political boss
PCOs are Important!
The Republican Precinct Committee Officer job is an extremely important one. In many respects, PCO’s are the Republican Party within their neighborhoods. They represent the Republican voters in their precincts. They play a pivotal role in selecting and electing Republican candidates for a wide variety of responsible positions, including: United States Congress, State Legislature, County Government, City Government, local School Board and Party leadership. They are the first and in many ways the most important link in the chain that makes up our representative form of government.
PCOs Can Make a Difference
By becoming a Precinct Committee Officer, one makes a commitment to making a difference. PCO’s will share the ups and downs, the joy of victory and the disappointment of defeat. Most important of all, PCO’s share the final sense of accomplishment that comes with electing good public officials, with making our Republic work effectively, and with making a meaningful personal contribution.
The suggestions contained in this handbook have proven helpful over the years for committee officers across Washington, but they are suggestions, not rules etched in stone. There is no single formula for success in the political arena. Good judgment and knowledge of an individual precinct should be the guide in deciding which suggestions will work for the precinct. The PCO’s goal is to inform voters, identify favorable voters and get them to the cast their vote. How PCO’s attain this goal, however, will be determined by individual experience and creativity, coupled with guidelines contained in this handbook. County party chairs manage their counties independently. It is important that PCO’s note all communications from their leadership in order to effectively work in their precinct.
Remember, every Republican vote counts so even if a precinct has a small minority of Republicans it is extremely important that all of them participate in every election!
Precinct Committee Officers form the neighborhood voter level base of the Republican Party for the county, State and ultimately the Nation.
The Republican Party starts with individual voters, who elect a Precinct Committee Officer to serve as their liaison with the Party organization. In order to be elected as a PCO, a registered voter living in the precinct must file as a candidate with the County Auditor during the statutory filing period prior to Primary Elections in even numbered years. There is no filing fee. The PCO candidate’s name will appear on the Primary Election ballot. An elected PCO serves a two-year term beginning Dec. 1 following the General Election. A county chair may appoint a PCO in a vacant precinct from among those within the precinct who apply for the vacant PCO position. Legislative District organizations will make recommendations to the County Chair for appointments.
The Legislative District
Legislative Districts are geographical divisions by population for electing the State Legislature. In counties with several legislative districts, a district organization brings PCOs together on a regular basis to exchange ideas and information. Larger counties are composed of many political subdivisions (cities, county council districts, school districts, etc.). To coordinate and administer Party activities, Counties have Legislative District organizations. Most activities are organized through these district organizations. This ensures that the Legislative District Chair is part of an effective countywide team and has the support of his/her district. The District Chair organizes the district staff and committees.
Collectively, all PCO’s within the county constitute the County Central Committee. The Central Committee holds an organizational meeting in December or January of alternate years to elect officers (County Chair, Vice Chair, State Committeeman and Committeewoman, etc.). The elected office holders will lead and manage the county organization for the next two years and will represent the county as members of the Republican State Committee and State Executive Board.
Washington State Republican Party
The voting members of the Republican State Committee elect the State Committee Chair and Vice Chair of the Washington State Republican Party. The State Chairman is the Party’s Chief Executive Officer and manages the Party’s business on a daily basis. State Party officers serve two-year terms. In addition, State Committee members meet by Congressional District and elect two people from among themselves to serve on the State Executive Board. The State Executive Board (consisting of the Congressional District members, National Committeeman, National Committeewoman, Vice Chair and Chair) oversees implementation of State Party programs on behalf of the State Committee, develops party policy and reviews the party’s finances.
The Republican National Committee
The Republican National Committee consists of three representatives from each State and territory; the National Committeeman and Committeewoman (elected by the State Committee in the year of each Presidential election) and the State Party Chairman.
Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.
— Thomas Paine
The Precinct Committee Officer is the representative of the Republican Party at the neighborhood community level.
At a minimum, a PCO accepts certain responsibilities, including:
- Distribute candidate information to neighbors and engaging in Get-Out-The-Vote activities in preparation for Election Day
- Update current listings of registered voters in the precinct
- Select officers of the County’s Central Committee
- Conduct a Precinct Caucus
A strong and effective party looks to its PCOs to perform at least the above tasks. These duties are not exceptionally time consuming. Accomplishing additional tasks will make our efforts more effective. This guide describes the “nuts and bolts” of how to create a successful precinct organization. There are things you can do in each month of the year and most tasks take very little time.
A few hours a month is all it takes to create a strong precinct. These few hours allow PCOs to build a rapport with their neighbors such that they will consider the PCO as an informed source for advice and information on political issues and candidates.
There are a number of things a good PCO will do:
- Represent the precinct voters to the Republican Party; and represent the Party and its candidates and officers to the precinct voters
- Attend County Party meetings, help formulate policy, and recruit party candidates and volunteers
- Help register voters, update the voter list, urge voters to turnout, and stress the importance of each vote
- Support all candidates endorsed by the Party as Republicans
- Attend County and Legislative District meetings and stay informed on regional issues
- Assist with fund-raising events when possible
- Volunteer to help on various campaigns
- Doorbell the precinct before each election with literature on candidates and issues
- Stay involved in the local community. In addition, PCO’s will be part of the County and/or Legislative District volunteer force. They will be notified of meetings and political activities, including doorbelling in various precincts. Participate to the extent their time permits.
This may seem like a long list, but the tasks of the PCO are spread out over the election cycle, a PCO should never be overwhelmed by activities. If, however, some things get put off, it may be that activities pile up. Trying to accomplish all of these tasks in a concentrated time frame can be more demanding than need be. It helps to have a long-term plan to make the job easier and much more effective. Furthermore, many of the events, such as fund-raisers and meetings can be enjoyable and informative. Volunteers within a precinct will be happy to join in making their precinct one in which Republicans reliably participate in selecting those who will administer our government.
Building The Precinct
In the State of Washington, it is not necessary to declare political party affiliation when registering to vote or when voting in a primary election. How then do we know who the Republicans are?
Some voters join the Republican Party through membership at the State or County level. Others belong to affiliated groups like the Young Republicans or College Republicans. Still others declare their party affiliation when they attend precinct caucuses.
Hundreds of thousands of people consider themselves Republicans and vote regularly but are never formally identified by party affiliation. Helping to identify Republicans in every precinct and getting them to the cast their vote is the most important job of the Precinct Committee Officer.
Plan for Success
Good planning is the key to attaining any worthwhile goal. This holds true in business, family life, sports, civic activities and especially politics. The overall goal is to ensure that every voter in the precinct who supports Republican candidates votes in every Election. To accomplish this goal, PCO’s must first accomplish the tasks mentioned in the role of the Precinct Committee Officer. Accomplishing these tasks will be much less formidable if a calendar and timetables are developed in planning.
The calendar should include:
- Dates fixed by State law and Party schedules (Caucus Day, Conventions, Election Day, etc.)
- Dates of party activities (Lincoln Day Dinner, pre-election literature drops, etc.)
- Target dates for accomplishing each of your precinct tasks (voter registration drive, precinct canvass, volunteer recruitment, etc.)
There is a calendar of events on the County web site: CHECK BACK FOR CALENDAR
In developing a timetable, start with the date of a particular activity and determine the tasks that must be accomplished to successfully complete the activity. Now, simply work backwards from the completion date and determine what needs to be done when and in what order, the time it takes to do it and how many people are needed to get it done. After developing the steps necessary to accomplish the task, mark the day work should begin to follow the plan sequence.
Mapping A Precinct
A precinct map showing every property in the precinct is very useful when organizing the precinct. An outline of your precinct including the streets can be found on the County Auditor’s website. (A sample basic precinct map should be included with this handbook.) This map will show where the precinct boundaries are. A PCO should be an authority on the geographic area he/she represents. The map will also help when doorbelling, creating walk-lists, and noting those who have voted and those who have not yet cast their vote in the current election.
How to Map a Precinct
Secure a precinct map. The County Auditor website interactive map is a good place to layout detailed maps CHECK BACK FOR MAPS (http://org/maps/voting/index.htm). Read the instructions for map use and then zoom in to get the desired display information selected. Property ownership information is available on the county’s (SCOPI) property information interactive map at: CHECK BACK FOR MAPS http://org/maps/property/index.htm
8/30/15 These instructions are in the process of being updated:
These maps are basic tools. Consider drawing the precinct lines with a pen or colored pencil on a road map, marking churches, schools, hospitals and apartment buildings with another color or another shape, such as a triangle. Addresses can be highlighted to signify party affiliation.
Keep the map up to date. If a voter moves, remove the name but leave the address and fill in the new name after doing a follow-up with the new occupants. An updated and complete precinct map will be an excellent resource at election time.
8/30/15 These instructions are in the process of being updated:
- Precinct map from County Auditor website
- List of registered voters (can be found on the ???)
- List of identified Republicans available from ???)
??? is a Republican database resource that is available for access to those who are approved for access and issued a password by the State Party. Apply for access through the KCRP Chair.
Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices.
Canvassing the precinct will help a PCO to turn out the largest vote in elections because the PCO will know who the Republicans are in the precinct. Often elections depend not on how many Democrats or Republicans there are, but who does a better job of getting their supporters to vote. A precinct canvass will help maximize the number of people a PCO can get to cast their ballot.
- Identify voters in the precinct by party affiliation
- Find and register all the unregistered Republicans in the precinct
- Recruit Republican volunteers
- Encourage Republicans in the precinct to participate in Party caucuses
- Offer information to those who claim Independent voter status
8/30/15 These instructions are in the process of being updated:
Before starting out, prepare a walking list of the households in the precinct, and prepare a map of your precinct as described above. Walking lists of voters in street order can be generated from county auditor and assessor interactive maps and Voter Vault data. Phone numbers are the most difficult to acquire and keep updated so a PCO may want to confirm any phone numbers by checking them against a phone book. Email addresses are valuable for communications so get them if possible.
Finally, PCOs should carry voter registration forms for Republicans whom they meet who would like to register to vote. Both of these activities will help to maintain or create that “good neighbor” image and assure that all Republicans do register.
When canvassing a precinct PCO’s should attempt to collect several pieces of information from each household.
- Name of every registered voter in the household
- Phone number
- Party preference coded:
- Strong Republican
- Leans Republican
- Leans Democrat
- Strong Democrat
- Age and sex of the voters (by observation)
- Voter history (the Voter Vault list may already include this information)
- Are they potential volunteers?
- Email address of each voter
Be sure to select a reasonable time of day to conduct the canvass. Try to avoid the dinner hour and after 9:00 p.m. You may also want to limit canvassing to daylight hours. It is best to canvass early in the year (in the Spring before precinct caucuses) for the most up-to-date accuracy in your canvass.
Things A PCO must do
- Be brief, and be a good listener.
- Be friendly – this person is a neighbor regardless of party affiliation.
- Have as many answers as possible. If you cannot answer a question, admit it, then offer to get the information and call back again. Leave an appropriate piece of literature, if possible.
- Confine conversations to general Party principles and not specific issues.
- Be sure to indicate that the Republican precinct organization is at the service of each voter, leaving your name and phone number (card) for their use.
Things A PCO must not do
- Do not begin the conversation with, “Are you a Republican or Democrat?”
- Never converse on controversial issues or argue.
- Never make derogatory remarks about any Republican organization, Republican candidate or Republican office holder.
- Do not make any statements about opposition candidates that cannot be substantiated with proof.
Typical Voter Questions
Know the answers to these questions that may be asked by voters during the precinct canvass:
- How do I vote?
- What precinct am I in?
- When are Primary and General Elections?
- What does the Party stand for? Literature and website addresses are helpful to have.
- Who are the candidates, what are their backgrounds? Any additional detailed information about a candidate should be directed to the candidate’s campaign. Brochures are helpful.
- What can I do to help the Party?
- Where do I get bumper stickers, buttons, signs campaign literature and Internet based information?
- Who is the County Chairman / State Chairman / Legislative District Chairman?
- How do I find out if I am registered to vote?
- How do I register to vote?
- Where do I register to vote?
“I’ve never been able to understand why a Republican contributor is a ‘fat cat’ and a Democratic contributor of the same amount of money is a ‘public-spirited philanthropist.” – Ronald Reagan
The Republican Precinct Caucus is traditionally a biennial (every two years) pre-election meeting of Republican voters who reside in each precinct, although in Snohomish County, there may be an annual caucus.
During the caucus meeting, the process of electing delegates to the County, State and National conventions begins. Additionally, the caucus is an excellent opportunity for voters in your precinct to discuss candidates for elected office, issues, and other matters that may be of interest. Caucuses are usually held in the Spring of even-numbered years. In preparation for a caucus PCO’s will receive a packet with instructions and information on conducting your precinct caucus.
8/30/15 These instructions are in the process of being updated:
- It is the PCO’s responsibility to:
- Establish a location for individual precinct caucus and notify the County Republican Central Committee of the event or participate in joint precinct caucuses arranged by the County Party.
- Publicize the caucus at least to known Republicans, usually in the form of a phone call, email or form letter invitation.
- Conduct the caucus
The meeting itself may be as formal or informal as attendees would like. All voting should be done by paper ballot, and the results of the election shall be announced at the caucus in the presence of the voters and certified to the County Republican Central Committee by the chair and secretary of the caucus. Each precinct will be allotted a certain number of delegates and alternates who will be eligible to participate in the County convention. As a serving PCO present at the caucus, you will be an automatic delegate and need not stand for election.
District Caucus/County Convention
Delegates who are elected at the precinct caucus will be able to attend a Legislative District and/or County GOP convention, where delegates will be elected to attend the State GOP convention.
Delegates to the State GOP convention adopt a State Party platform and, in presidential election years, also elect delegates to the Republican National Convention.
The precinct newsletter is an easy way for the PCO to introduce himself to voters in the precinct and to let them know there is a PCO working for them. The newsletter will also be helpful at election time when it can be used to discuss Republican issues and candidates.
The newsletter need only be about a page long and no longer than two pages. It does not need to be detailed or fancy. The idea is to keep Republican voters “in the loop.”
Some ideas for what might be include in a newsletter:
- Introduction of the PCO
- Identify district State Legislators
- Introduction of the Republican Party and what it stands for
- Information on party activities (caucuses, fund-raisers, rallies, etc.)
- Community awareness and programs
- Any other information that may be necessary or helpful for voters in the precinct
- Articles from the County Party, State Party, or National Party newsletters
Once the newsletter is complete, copies should be produced for Republican households in the precinct. A copy shop can produce it inexpensively. Production funding may be requested from the Legislative District organization. Newsletters can be distributed as part of a precinct development plan. They are best distributed during canvassing. A PCO’s visit and the newsletter will allow neighbors to become more familiar with the PCO and his/her purpose.
The newsletter might also be a good opportunity to find candidates for service in public office. A newsletter might mention the need for Republican candidates and give Party contact information for those who may be interested in serving.
No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth!
– Ronald Reagan
8/30/15 These instructions are in the process of being updated:
Many voters don’t receive much candidate information on races other than those that are most visible (President, Governor, Congress, etc.). Distributing a local candidate’s brochure may be the most effective thing a PCO can do to increase the number of Republican votes in your precinct.
One of the best ways to affect the outcome of an election is to doorbell the precinct with candidate literature before Election Day. Literature brochures can be obtained from the candidate’s campaign organization or county/district party organizations.
During the active campaign period and three to ten days before the election the PCO should doorbell the precinct. The walking list and map are helpful while doorbelling and should be updated in the process.
Ring the doorbell and introduce yourself as the Republican PCO for your precinct. Give the voter a packet of candidate literature. Include an election edition of the precinct newsletter with a brief discussion of key issues and a sample ballot. Remind the voter to cast his/her ballot, when the election will occur and where to drop ballots if they are not mailed in. If the voter is not home, leave the packet where the voter will be sure see it.
The approach to a voter household might be tailored to reflect what you know about each voter. If a person does not like being doorbelled, just leave the packet on the doorstep or in the newspaper box (but not the US mail box). If a person is known as an independent-leaning Democrat, mentioning those candidates who may be attractive to that voter could build rapport. Swinging a few votes here and there will make a difference overall.
Be courteous and brief. Discuss candidate and ballot issues only if you are encouraged by the voter to do so, but never argue. Remember, one important purpose of doorbelling is to distribute literature so that the candidates can speak for themselves. Time is best spent talking to favorable voters and making sure that they vote and know whom to vote for. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so. If you can find an answer to a question and get back to someone with that answer, they will appreciate it and that action may get a vote.
A PCO’s effectiveness will depend on time available. The most effective doorbelling includes personal, face-to-face contact and the request “I hope you’ll vote for candidate X.” Less effective, but still useful, is leaving literature on the doorstep with a signed note saying, “Sorry I missed you.” If all you can do is to “door drop” or leave the literature at each door, that’s still helpful and will produce a few extra votes for our Republican candidates and conservative ballot issues.
Without votes, even the best Republican candidate can’t win. Therefore, the Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) drive before Election Day is one of the most important jobs for a PCO. The best GOTV drives involve about five people per precinct, each doing a different job (checking the lists of people who have voted, making phone calls), this can also be done easily by two people.
Personal phone calls shortly after voters have received their ballots are the most effective device for increasing voter turnout. Simply call the voters identified as Republicans, identify yourself, remind them of the election and urge them to vote.
Thank Your Workers!
Remember to thank all the people who have worked with you to turn out the Republican vote. See to it that they are invited to victory celebrations. Be sure to write every one of them a thank you note. It is important to recognize and express appreciation for everyone’s hard work and dedication.
Volunteers in a precinct may have helped the PCO to develop the precinct and get out the vote. Regardless of election results they should be thanked and informed how important their contributions have been. The best form of thanks is personal conversation and a follow-up written ‘Thank You’. Encourage volunteers to remain active in the Republican Party, to build for the future of the community and our country.
PCO’s should critique their organization and its conduct of the various election activities. What things were done well? What can be improved for the next election cycle? The volunteer workers should be asked for their suggestions as well.
Moving into a non-election year, PCO’s need to remember to remain actively engaged in developing their precinct. Continue to participate in the County Central Committee, the Legislative District Committee, voter identification efforts, and other Republican Party activities. PCO input is important. Keep in touch with Election Day volunteers – the Republican Party will need them in the next election year.