By Washington State Rep. Cindy Ryu
In Washington state, the Precinct Committee Officers (PCOs) are the grassroots base of either the Democratic or the Republican Party and are vital to their successes. They serve as the political representative for their respective precincts. They form the basis for communicating the values and principles of either party to those within each of their precincts.
PCOs are non-paid, publicly elected officials who may serve for unlimited two-year terms. They are elected to office by the voters within their own precincts during the state’s primary election every even numbered election years. This year, the primary election will be Aug. 5. Once certified, they become the duly elected partisan representative for their precinct for their respective party.
PCOs are responsible for electing the leadership of their legislative district, county, and state party organizations. When there are midterm vacancies in the legislature, the PCOs of the same party as the last occupant of office elect their first, second, and third choices of candidates for appointment by the county council (or the governor when the district encompasses more than one county). Several appointments occurred in 2013 and 2014, making the PCOs crucial in these appointments.
PCOs participate in their precinct and district caucuses, as well as the county and state conventions every two years. Democrats elect state convention delegates in the legislative district caucuses.
As part of the Electoral College process during a presidential election year, Democrats elect their national convention delegates at both the congressional caucuses and at-large delegates at their state conventions. Republicans may be elected by their fellow PCO delegates to serve as a state delegate at the Republican National Convention.
It looks like a lot of work to be a PCO, doesn’t it? Yes, you can spend a lot of time if you would like to. But most active PCOs invest two or three hours per month to attend the monthly meetings and volunteer a couple of half-days to “walk” their precincts during an entire election cycle. It is an excellent way to get to know your neighbors, become a part of the democratic process, and find friends with similar political values. You will become a part of an extensive political grassroots system which will be crucial to your success when and if you decide to seek higher office.
Benefits of becoming a PCO
You earned your election to office. It is easy to step up to leadership positions within the party with opportunities to contribute and practice your leadership skills. If you are seeking a judicial position years later, you cannot state which party you belong to, but you may state the fact that you were a Democratic or Republican PCO to the endorsement board.
How do I become a PCO?
Find your county here: http://www.sos.wa.gov/elections/auditors.aspx and look for Elections, Candidate Filing.
King County online filing occurs from May 12 to May 16: http://www.kingcounty.gov/elections/candidatefiling.aspx.
2014 Precinct Committee Officer filing information can be found at http://your.kingcounty.gov/elections/candidate/pdfs/PCO-filing.pdf.
Snohomish County candidate filing information can be found at http://wa-snohomishcounty.civicplus.com/1989/Candidates-Political-Parties.
Online filing occurs from May 12 to May 16: http://www.snohomishcountywa.gov/228/Candidate-Filing.
If you can’t file online or in person, you may file by mail. Filing closes at 4 p.m. on Friday, May 16. If no one else files, you win automatically! If you must campaign, it is easy — doorbell (visit) 50 of your neighbors and tell them that you will be on the ballot. If they like you, they don’t have to be of the same party, since they can cross over on the same ballot, but make sure they don’t vote twice for PCO. You most likely will win with some amount of campaigning.
A lot of people vote the first weekend after the ballots “drop” about three weeks before Election Day. So get out by that weekend with a short explanation of who you are and why you want to be a PCO on a “Doorbelling Piece.” If no one answers the door, leave a “Hi, I came by to meet you” note.
Appointment to be a PCO
Missed the election cycle? Then check in with your preferred party. Many precincts go unfilled and you may be appointed to this office upon the recommendation of the legislative district to the county organization. If it is already occupied, then you can “adopt” another precinct, show the whole world that you are a good party person, and you will win over your party leadership and members, and may be asked to run for higher office! (end)
(Text adapted from the 47th District Republicans’ description of the PCO and the Washington State Democratic Central Committee)
Washington State Rep. Cindy Ryu represents the citizens of the 32nd Legislative District, which includes northwest Seattle, Shoreline, south Edmonds, Woodway, west Mountlake Terrace, and Lynnwood. In 2008, she was elected as the first female Korean American mayor in the United States.