Here is the third and final part to Bruce Cavender's series "Principles, Power, and Precincts". In this article we learn about the precinct process itself and how it can be a powerful tool for reclaiming our communities. The key to solving the problems facing us is become educated and active, only then can anything of real substance be done. For far too long those who have been active (thus "in charge" by default) have been those who only want power for power's sake or to appease special interests at the expense of everyone else. We need every good man and woman to help reverse this, and the good news is, it doesn't a multitude or vast amounts of time. Feel free to contact Bruce or Jacob Bogle if you would like to become involved.
Part III, Precincts
Contrary to what you have been told, a small number of people really can make a difference. Read that sentence again and let it sink in. I have seen it. It is also clearly true that there are those that don't want you to get involved and make that difference. They want the power for themselves. They are self-serving, special interest tyrants. Let me give you an example tied to the Precinct Process.
Several years back, a teacher sent me a copy of a document she received from her union that not only admonished her to get involved in the Republican Precinct Process, but laid out in great detail how the process worked and how to become a part of it. They sunk some real resources to make this document.
Now think about that for a second.
Traditional Republican Principles stand for Free Markets, Individual Rights and Meritocracy in general. Unions clearly are not bastions of the free market principle of “price discovery” when it comes to the value of their members' hourly productivity or encouraging high individual performance. Just as Crapitalists damage our system, unions seek influence that benefit their own special interests … or, failing that, at least disrupt who they see as those opposing their desired ends. Either works for them.
A little after that, I spoke at another County's Party Meeting. When I asked to meet the Chairman, I saw several executive committee member roll their eyes. One person finally spoke up and said that the Chairman was a teacher (and union member) that said he had to work late that night and couldn't make the Party's meeting. Several nodded when one finally stood up and said, “He has done absolutely nothing and needs to go.” I left there thinking just how much damage a single person can do to the morale and effectiveness of an organization. It also reinforced the point that people's driving principles need to be critically understood before electing them to positions in any Party or Government.
Whether you are electing the President of the United States or a Delegate to a local precinct, the quality of government you get out depends on the principles and degree of commitment of the elected.
The Precinct Process is the method by which county members of a political party choose (a) the executive leaders of the party that will represent them (a convention) and (b) actually select party candidates for office in a Delegated Election (also known as a Caucus).
A county party's executive committee deals mostly with internal activities, the state party, the local election commission, occasional media releases and local/state government officials to responsibly represent its county members. It is governed by State and County Bylaws as well as Robert's Rules of Order enforced by a parliamentarian. Usually this committee has fewer than 20 members.
Whether electing officials via a caucus or a new executive committee via a convention, the process of electing qualified delegates via 'Precinct Meetings' in the County is the same. The sitting executive committee sets a date, time and location for a delegate election in the precincts (Precinct Meetings) and give legal notice via local advertisement. If you don't read the classifieds each day, it is easy to miss entirely. It is up to you to get connected and in this loop. Go to a monthly party meeting or hook up with someone that is already knows the ropes. Be diligent. Scope out someone that is on the ball, tell them you are interested in volunteering and want to be involved in the party. Be principled and professional, not adversarial. That will kill your chance to influence the process. Find out what precinct you are in and ask how to contact your Precinct Captain. If there is a captain in your area, call them and tell them you would like to be a delegate. Your captain should welcome you, take your name and contact info for the upcoming Convention or Caucus. Make a note and check in with the party in case the captain doesn't execute. Write the date down and be diligent. Conventions to elect party executives generally occur in the first quarter of odd numbered years, giving them a frequency of one every two years.
If there is no current precinct captain in your area, volunteer to fill that space through appointment by the Party Chair. This is almost always welcome and very much appreciated by the Chair.
Despite the title, the Precinct Captain has no special authority or power. It is a position of leadership within the precinct that sees a wide range of participation. Some captains only get involved for a very short amount of time for Convention or Caucus elections. Others take deep interests in political happenings in their local area and can spend as much time as they like on local issues. It is a great way to meet lots of people, learn the game and move the process ahead.
The first order of business at a Precinct Meeting to elect delegates for a Convention is to elect a captain to serve for the next two years, starting with electing delegates for the upcoming Convention. If the Precinct Meeting is for a Caucus and a Captain exists, the current captain simply proceeds to handle the delegate election process. (Note: In some states, precinct delegates are elected via full primary elections. Rutherford County's parties do not function this way. In my humble opinion, this is good right now because Tennessee's “Open Primary” dissipates most differences between parties and choices for the electorate because Democrats crossing over into Republican primaries elect Republicans that are most like Democrats … and vice versa. This results in a mushy uni-Party that isn't responsive to voters. One has to ask, if 25% of people pulling a Republican Primary Ballot historically vote Democrat, is it still a Republican Primary?)
Each Precinct in Rutherford County is apportioned a number of delegates in accordance with the number of votes cast in that precinct during the last Presidential election. The Republican Party calls for one delegate to be elected to represent for each 200 votes cast. For example, if 850 votes were cast in your precinct, four delegates would be elected for the first 800 votes and one more delegate would be added to represent the 50 votes over the prior 200 vote unit … or 5 delegates could be apportioned in the process to vote in the actual Convention or Delegated Election. Some precincts are small, some large. If the turnout is small in the general election and only 190 votes are cast in a precinct, only one delegate can be elected to the precinct process. Some precincts will see well over 1,000 to 2,000 votes cast and could have 10 to 12 delegates elected. It can vary, but on average, only six to seven delegate positions per precinct are available to be filled. If a precinct, qualifies for some number of delegates, it also qualifies for that same number of “alternates”. Alternates do not vote in a Caucus or Convention unless the total number of delegates allowed is not met. Alternates regularly are called upon to step up because of sickness or other absence of elected delegates at the full Convention or Delegated Election.
After delegates and alternates are elected at Republican Precinct Meetings, the results are gathered and sent to the Contest and Credentials Committee. The C&C committee checks each delegate and alternate to see if they are a registered voter in Rutherford County and a bona fide Republican in good standing.
Qualifications can be:
A. Any individual who is actively involved in the Tennessee Republican Party, his County Republican Party, or any of recognized auxiliary organizations of either; or
B. Any individual who has voted in at least two (2) of the four (4) most recent state and/or local Republican primary elections; or
C. Any individual who is vouched for to the satisfaction of the State Chairman as a bona fide Republican, such as by an officer of the TRP, a member of the Executive Committee, the Republican Party of the County where the individual resides, or a Republican elected official. The State Chairman may require additional verification that the individual in question is indeed a bona fide Republican, and shall have final authority to make the determination.
If a person does not, qualify as being in good standing, the C&C Committee notifies them in writing as to what the deficiency was and an Alternate takes that Delegate position. A and C can be a bit subjective, so the reality is (B) is the objective choice for quick acceptance/rejection of being bona fide. The Rutherford County Election Commission sells a spreadsheet that quickly allows a registered voter's record of primary choices to be determined. A candidate wishing to run for a position on the County Executive Committee in a Convention must have pulled the GOP Primary Ballot three times out of four primaries to be eligible to enter a Convention race.
Usually Precinct Meetings occur two weeks before the County Convention that selects a new executive committee or Delegated Election (Caucus) that selects candidates to go on a general ballot.
Tiny Numbers Call the Shots
In a county like Rutherford with 48 precincts, 200 to 350 Republicans that understand “The Process” select the local party leadership in a convention or the ballot candidates for an upcoming election by caucus. Typically, precinct meetings do not get 6-7 applicants and many delegate positions go empty. Many times precincts cannot even elect a precinct captain and a temporary 'host' must stand in to fill out the paperwork so the precinct is not completely disenfranchised. This lack of participation concentrates power into an even smaller amount of people. Low participation in full on elections is a bad thing. Poor participation at Precinct Meetings, adds significantly to the temptation of special interest groups to insert their members to exert a very strong and broad influence with only a handful of people. Voters excuse themselves from going to the polls because they claim parties only bring poor candidates to the ballot. This is a pernicious cycle because voters' absence at precinct meetings are filled by special interests that get their way by no more than “showing up” to be counted. Believe me. These groups want you to remain uninformed about the Precinct Process and out of the loop.
In Rutherford County, I have been told that the Democrat's “Precinct Process” captures only about 20 percent of the tiny participation that Republicans see. This means about 50 in-the-loop people that show up get to decide who the leadership will be that represents all the Democrats in the County. I find it unfathomable that out of 100,000+ Democrats, that there are not at least 100 that are Pro-Constitution, Pro-Free Market, Pro-Rule of Law and Pro-Liberty that would invest a few hours a year to get involved and demand quality candidates do the right thing for their people. Likely most of the 100,000+ Democrats love the USA, they just don't know “The Process” and use it.
From the research I have done, this exceptionally low turnout is typical, if not endemic, across the US for the Democrat Party. This may well be an indication of how our current president, with almost no history or political experience found enough convention votes to get to the general election. With ~3100 counties in the US, 150,000 Democratic precinct votes may have been the key to his election.
Rutherford is nearing a population of 300,000 and literally 300 - 400 folks are selecting who will run both political parties and what kind of candidates they will promote. The next paragraph is key.
The critical opportunity here is that if just 200 Republicans and 100 Democrats that still believe in the Founders' Constitution simply showed up and became delegates, our governance could be totally changed. The dirty tricksters could be history. Most counties across Tennessee are much smaller in size. That means that even smaller numbers of pro-Founders folks could make a very big difference. One rich Crony Capitalist and one rich Progressive Liberal Socialist only get only one vote each. The Middle Class could squash both of these special interests like a flea and in a heartbeat, if they only would “show up”, understand what is happening and vote.
You can be part of this reform process if you will take the time to understand the Precinct Process, get connected and clean up our house. Everyone I know wants a return to sanity with good people at the helm. We must improve the quality of candidates we send to handle the peoples' business. That is in everyone's best interest for the long run.
Legacy Republican or Tea Party.
Direction is more important than speed.
Bruce Cavender - July 9, 2014
Links & Further Reading
The 5000 Year Leap
Chinese Cultural Revolution
Chinese Universities Embrace British Model vs Mao
The Precinct Process Links
Use “precinct process strategies” with your favorite search engine. There is a massive amount of helpful information available where people like you have blogged about what works and what does not.