Frequently Asked Questions
If you want to know more about how our local Democratic Party works, you've come to the right place. We hope the topics covered on this page will help you understand what we do and how we do it. If you want to get to know us better, we invite you to attend one of our meetings. We generally meet once a month on the third Wednesday of the month, except for December — when we host a holiday party that's strictly a social event. For more information on our meetings, click here.
What does the local Democratic Party do?
I read about all these Democratic Party organizations — the DNC, the DCCC, and the Illinois Democratic Party just to name a few — and I'm confused about how the local party fits into that structure. What do you do that's different from these other groups, and why should I care about the local party?
It is confusing. We often talk about "The Democratic Party" as if there is one organization with one leadership team that we all answer to. It's a lot more complicated than that.
The alphabet soup of Democratic organizations that are focused on national- and state-level politics don't have much to do with us locally. The Democratic Party organizations include:
- The Democratic National Committee (DNC) is focused mainly on Presidential politics, developing a national platform, and running the party convention where the Democratic Presidential candidate is chosen. This is the organization most people think of as "The Democratic Party."
- The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) helps recruit and support Congressional candidates.
- The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) helps recruit and support Senatorial candidates.
- The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) helps recruit and support State Legislature candidates.
- The Democratic Party of Illinois (DPI) also helps recruit and support State Legislature candidates, as well as state-wide candidates for Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, Treasurer, and Comptroller.
That's a bit of an over-simplification, but the important thing to note is that none of these organizations pay much attention to local and county politics. That's where we come in. It's true that we also help candidates for all those other offices, but our primary focus is on helping candidates for local, township and county offices.
We work hard to find candidates to run for these offices, but we've found that the best candidates recruit themselves. We give them the tools and training to be successful, help them attract volunteers and donors, and provide a county-level structure to help them run their campaigns. We also provide direct "in-kind" support. This often takes the form of direct mail and digital advertising, as well as other services like candidate photography, graphic design, and video production. One of the most valuable services we provide is access and training for VoteBuilder, a campaign database system that includes voter history and targeting tools. It's exactly the same software used by our Presidential candidates, but with access only to our county.
Another thing to note is that we don't receive financial support from any of the other Democratic organizations, and we don't get our marching orders from them. We run the party locally to the best of our ability, and raise our own money to support our operations. We succeed when local people like you get involved. We fail when you don't. It's really that simple.
If you care about your community enough to get involved, there are lots of ways to help. Depending on what issues you care about the most, you can choose to join one of the many civic organizations or political activists groups in the county or region. But Democrats believe that we can't fundamentally change the political conversation without electing new leaders who will represent our values. Electing Democrats in McHenry County has never been easy, but we've proven many times it can be done with the right message, the right candidates, and hard work. That last bit is where you come in. The local party needs volunteers who are willing to devote time to a variety of projects. From data entry to door knocking, we've got a place for everyone who wants to work for a better tomorrow. Let us know what you'd like to do here, and we'll be in touch!
The foundation of local politics is the Precinct Committeeman. These volunteers (PC's for short) are responsible for knocking on doors and spreading the word about our party and our candidates. If you think you'd like to be a Precinct Committeeman, let us know. We'd be happy to tell you more. You can also read this training outline for more information.
Precinct Committeemen are elected to a two-year term in each even-year primary election.
In order to run for election to the post of Precinct Committeeman, you must circulate a petition and obtain at least 10 valid signatures from eligible electors in your home precinct. If elected, you will serve a two-year term. Vacancies may also be filled by appointment from the County Chair.
If elected, you will represent the Democrats in your precinct at the biennial County Convention to elect the county party’s Chair and executive officers. You will be casting a weighted vote, based on the number of Democratic ballots cast in your precinct in the primary election.
- Attend Democratic Central Committee meetings.
- Become a voter registrar and recruit new voters.
- Appoint and fill vacancies of election judges for your precinct's polling location.
- Circulate petitions for candidates prior to the primary.
- Canvass your precinct in support of our candidates.
- Promote early voting and absentee voting.
- Recruit poll watchers for election day and early voting.
- Identify potential financial supporters and new party members.
- Be an advocate for the interests of the voters in your precinct.
How much work is it?
Most local Precinct Committeemen devote about 5-6 hours per month to party activities (including attending meetings). During the last few months before an election, many Committeemen will work a lot more hours, but there is no minimum requirement. We expect only what you can give. Ideally, a Committeeman would canvass their home precinct at least twice over a six-month period during campaign season. The amount of time necessary to do that will vary by precinct, but it averages about 40 hours to cover a precinct twice.
We have an Election Services Committee that runs a training program for our candidates. Some of the procedures for running vary depending on what office you want to run for, so the best bet is to ask us what steps you need to take to get going. The number one mistake most candidates make is they start too late. Make a decision well before it's time to circulate petitions, and start recruiting volunteers and donors.
Here's a great little guide for first-time candidates: 101 Steps to Victory
Most of our support comes from our local members and friends of the Democratic Party. Our biggest fund-raising event is the annual Thomas Jefferson Dinner. We also depend on direct financial support from people like you. If you'd like to become a one-time or monthly donor, visit our donation page.
Our largest expense is candidate support activities such as:
- Direct mail and postage
- Internet advertising
- Phone banking
While our fundraising and expenses vary from year to year (we raise and spend more in even-numbered years with Fall elections), we typically raise and spend over $20,000 per year. Like all state and local political organizations, the McHenry County Democratic Central Committee files quarterly reports (called D-2’s) with the State Board of Elections. These reports itemize our receipts and expenditures, similar to a tax return. These reports are public information, and you can view them on the State Board's website.