I’m An Elected Precinct Committee Officer

This bipartisan wing Democrat won an important Precinct Committee Officer (PCO) race in the 2022 August primary. Very few voters even know what a PCO is anymore and that’s a problem.

Primary Election Results for My 36-1306 PCO Race
I won my race to become the PCO in my neighborhood voting precinct which is #36-1306. The precinct is a rectangle from the north side of NW 73rd to the south side of NW 76th between 3rd NW and 8th NW in the PhinneyWood neighborhood of Seattle. A voting majority of registered voters in my precinct chose me, a bipartisan wing Democrat, to represent them at the 36th Legislative District Dems group. I won out over the incumbent who is quite “progressive” and has run unopposed for years. I consider the win to be significant.  

If you don’t know what a PCO is, don’t worry, you’re sure not alone. I’m going to make it my mission to see to it that more people learn about PCOs in hopes that they, too, will become one which will help us moderate the politics in our city, county, state and country.   

The Economist magazine said recently that “far from being laboratories of democracy, American states are now Petri dishes of polarization”. We’re definitely one of those states feeding a national culture war. Rather than a bipartisan balance, we have an echo chamber with Dems in charge of the House and Senate, as well as the offices of the Attorney General and Governor. This sounds great at first if you’re a Dem like me, but it’s not. Whether it’s all blue or all red, trifectas like that often stymie reasoned debate and bring “solutions” that fire up the base, but don’t solve problems. 

It gets like that because people who claim to belong to a party often phone it in and leave the very few folks at the partisan Legislative District meetings to run with their sometimes fringe ideas and extreme candidate endorsements. There’s no check and balance. I joke that the Seattle LDs are outposts for The Stranger, but there’s so much truth there. Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell, elected in 2021, noted recently that not a single Democratic Legislative District group in Seattle endorsed him. Not a single one.  Please people. We need to rebuild the center of politics.  

This brings me back to PCOs because PCOs can fix that problem. A PCO is a Precinct Committee Officer. It turns out that the entire country is broken down into neighborhood voting precincts with each electing an officer from each party every two years in even-numbered years. PCOs begin their term the following December. I’m an elected PCO in the 36th District Democrats now, but I was a voting dues-paying member for 10 years before that.

The grand idea is that these PCOs vote on the bylaws and leadership of their LD groups, their county partisan group leadership, i.e. King County Democrats or King County Republicans, and in turn they vote on the state party leadership, Washington State Democrats or Washington State Republicans. If you think your D party is too left or your R party is too right, there’s a reason for that.

When once each PCO position was competitively filled and our politics were moderated, now the LDs in Seattle (and nationwide) have hundreds and hundreds of vacancies, and a very small group of people have taken both parties toward the extremes. Of course they did, because a whopping 70% of the Democrat PCO positions and 85% of the Republican PCO positions are vacant across the state of Washington.

This allows various voter suppressing practices to be maintained from years gone by. Imagine if you will a room full of political zealots voting publicly on candidate endorsements at meetings that might last from 7pm until midnight when voting could instead be done privately and efficiently by mail. There’s plenty of room for much-needed reforms, but without sensible elected PCOs to propose and implement them, it rarely happens.

Here are the facts about PCOs in the 36th Legislative District where I live. There are 245 precincts in the 36th. That means there should be 245 elected Democrat PCOs and 245 elected Republican PCOs. But do you know how many elected PCOs will be filling those spots come December? Instead of 490 PCOs, there will be just 102 (87 Ds, 15 Rs). That’s 388 PCO vacancies in the 36th.  And to make matters worse, there were only two races that had more than one candidate, mine and one other.

One of the problems with that is when a race is uncontested, it doesn’t appear on the ballot, so it’s totally invisible to voters which means it doesn’t even exist to most voters. That’s not good.  Another problem is that the County Partisan group can approve the appointment of an unlimited number of Appointed PCO slots for the partisan LD groups and even worse, Acting PCO slots are filled by people who don’t even reside in that neighborhood voting precinct. All that comes with nearly the same voting powers as elected PCOs.

When my neighbors asked me what this other PCO office was that I was running for in 2022 when I was also running for Washington State Senate. I explained, and they were all basically gobsmacked. They had no idea about this essential piece of our democracy because they’ve never seen it on the ballot and I’m pretty sure we didn’t learn about such things in school. When I explained that the whole country is set up this way, their minds were blown. Maybe yours is, too.     

I hope you will mark your calendar now to register and run to be a PCO next time. Ask a trusted neighbor friend to run as well because we need two candidates in each race in order to appear on the Primary Ballot in August. Filing week in 2024 will be May 13 – 17. Subscribe to The Seattle Journal to stay tuned. It’s all online, free, and very easy at King County Elections, or other county elections offices if you’re outside of King County. Whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, especially if you’re anywhere near the political center, please run to be a PCO in 2024 because moderates have all but abandoned participation on this level and the success of our democracy depends on us getting back on it. You can see with your own eyes the damage it’s doing when we sit this stuff out. 

Between now and next year when you take office, you can become a voting member of your LD group and perhaps even “fill” one of the many PCO vacancies by becoming an appointed PCO. That will get you warmed up for the real deal in 2024.

Start by just visiting this site or a similar site in your county elections jurisdiction. Click the green button and put your address in and it will tell you what LD, voting precinct, county district, city council district, school board district, and more. Then Join the Democratic or Republican Legislative District Group of your district such as 36th District Democrats. In Seattle there are six different Legislative Districts, some just partially in Seattle. They are the 32nd, 36th, and 34th along the west side of Seattle and the 46th, 43rd and 37th along the east side of Seattle.

Here’s a table showing how we really need to get to work running for PCOs next year, and every even year after.
Statewide Number of Democrat PCO PositionsRaces with no candidates (did not appear on ballot)Races with one candidate (did not appear on ballot)
Statewide Number of Republican PCO PositionsRaces with no candidates (did not appear on ballot) Races with one candidate (did not appear on ballot)
Washington State Elections – PCO Statistics 2022