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KCDCC PCO Administration FAQ

Topics covered

Forms

  1. Where is the Current PCO Form?
  2. Why you should never send forms to PO boxes
    (and why forms mentioning PO boxes must be destroyed)
  3. Application Forms vs. Candidacy Forms
    (how the Secretary of State has a Completely Different Form for a completely different purpose; don't confuse them)

District Approval

  1. District Approval vs. Actual PCO Appointment
    (why this distinction matters and why you might need/want to fix your bylaws)
  2. Voter Registration of PCOs
    (and how PCO appointments get annulled if people screw this up)
  3. Your District Approval Process
    (how to not have your meetings turn into seething pits of hell the next time you have a legislative vacancy)
  4. What happens at KCDCC after you send the form
    (what to bookmark so you can keep tabs on our end of the process and track the fates of your various batches)
  5. About Custom PCO Applications
    (what actually needs to be on the form)
  6. About Going Paperless
    (yes, Virginia, that PGP thing really is a signature)

Acting Positions

  1. What is an Acting PC?
    (An Acting PC serves a precinct where no one is available to be the PCO. Acting PCs used to be called "Acting PCO"s but that terminlogy is now deprecated.)
  2. Why can't Acting PCs (vote for chair/vote on bylaws/etc)?
    (These privileges are restricted to PCOs and Acting PCs are not PCOs)

Removals

  1. How may a PCO be removed?
    (You can't.)
  2. How may an Acting PC be removed?
    (Recruit an actual (resident registered voter) PCO for that precinct.)
  3. What to do when PCOs move away from their precincts?
    (Always try to chase down an explicit resignation, because that's the best way to ensure the slot opens up.)

Other Issues

  1. Does elected PCO vs. appointed ever matter?
    (Almost never. Just call them "PCO"s.)
  2. Why are some precincts listed as having more than one PCO?
    (Because this can actually happen.)
  3. How do precinct boundary changes work?

The current PCO form and where to get it

Go here. Or you can go menu-diving on our main website http://www.kcdems.org -> "Get Involved" -> "Become a PCO" -> item #2 ("PCO Application Form").

Some districts use their own forms; this is fine as long as the form conveys the necessary information. More on this below.

Completed, district-chair-signed forms go to

pcoforms@kcdems.org

Either scan and email, photograph and email, or physically deliver them to the Secretary at a meeting. (I do want to work out a completely on-line process, but we're not quite there yet).

Why You Should Never Send a PCO Form to a PO box.

Some districts maintain and continue to make copies of PCO forms that still mention KCDCC PO boxes. These forms are all a minimum of three years out of date, meaning any PO boxes mentioned on these forms are defunct and for sufficiently long that the forwarding simply will not happen. If you're lucky, forms sent there will get returned, but more likely they'll just disappear into the void.

So if you have any of these forms please destroy them.

Application form vs. Candidacy form

There is occasional confusion because the Secretary of State *also* has a form for PCOs, this being the Declaration of Candidacy.

Declarations of Candidacy only get used for that one week in May every two years to file for Actual Election as a PCO for the term that begins on the following December 1. Candidacy forms must be submitted directly to King County Elections, not to KCDCC. These days, for King County, paper Declaration of Candidacy forms are mostly pointless; it's better to just use their on-line filing web-page.

At all other times, what we're doing is filling PCO vacancies, and for that you need the PCO Application form, be it either the KCDCC form form (or a corresponding custom PCO form if your district prefers this).

District Approval vs. Actual PCO Appointment

In a nutshell, the process is:

Occasionally, people try to skip ahead by sending their application directly to KCDCC; I get a steady stream of these and have a script that forwards them back to you at the district. Some of you have seen a bunch of these forwardings already.

Never say:

"We appointed [someone] as PCO at our district meeting last night,"

PCO Appointments are made by the County Chair. The district meeting vote is merely an approval of the application by the district organization, which is a prerequisite, but is not the end of the process.

Yes, most of the time the eventual appointment is automatic, and we at KCDCC generally try to make this happen as quickly as we can, but there are cases where it does not [keep reading].

And there are also cases where the delay, i.e., the distinction between District-Approved PCO Candidate and Actual PCO matters:

For the second case, a common District Bylaws mistake is to word it so that someone has to actually be a PCO in order to be considered as a member, in which case mere Approved PCO Candidates who haven't already achieved membership via some other means (e.g., paying dues) can't even participate in, e.g., endorsement votes. This, at least, is something you can fix if you want to.

While one would think this issue will become moot as KCDCC gets better/faster at processing PCO appointments, there will always be the issue of PCO candidates having the vote later in the same meeting that they were approved at in the usual case where the County Chair is not actually present to sign off on them.

Voter Registration of PCOs

In order to be appointed as a PCO, applicant must be registered to vote in the precinct at the time of the appointment. That is state law (RCW 29A.80.041)

In practice, the most authoritative way to check this is on the KC Elections website (bookmark this page):

https://aqua.kingcounty.gov/elections2/voterlookup.aspx

but "most authoritative" is a comparative term, here. KCE will go to great pains to point out that their website is not totally authoritative...

... meaning there are cases where properly registered people might not show up there (doppelgangers, 'Sr'/'Jr'/'III' at the same address, people who've suppressed display of their records due to privacy / stalker concerns, or applications that have been received/processed by KCE but not yet entered into their website db, or you're in the period immediately before an election where things are frozen and the website only shows registrations as of two weeks before election day....)

... meaning negative results on the KCE site (and likewise for the Secretary of State data dump which depends on KCE and therefore lags it, and likewise for Votebuilder, which depends on the SoS and therefore further lags) cannot be show-stoppers. We are thus still stuck having to take people at their word about where they live and are registered (just like with the caucuses).

... meaning you generally have to assume they've already sent in any necessary change of registration and it's just sitting in the queue in Renton somewhere.

...but feel free to remind applicants anyway, because people do forget. And it's still good to do the lookup because you catch all sorts of mistakes that way.

In cases where someone's registration is not yet visible from the registration lookup, you should do an address lookup on King County's IMAP server to determine/verify the precinct.

Note that if an applicant moved recently and it turns out they had not actually re-registered as necessary, it will eventually be obvious.

If, say, a month goes by, and there's still no registration at the claimed address -- and we can do an official Voter Information Request if we need to be sure of this (though, typically, we won't be going to this trouble unless there's something important on the table like a legislative vacancy, a reorganization, or a district chair election) -- then at that point we will have prima facie evidence that the person was not actually registered in the precinct at the time of appointment (or if they were, then they no longer are).

... and then the appointment can be annulled.

Note that this is basically the only way to get a PCO out of office (show that they moved or were never resident in the first place).

Needless to say, we want to avoid this as much as we can, because it's potentially a mess if it happens (if, say, someone was up for election against an applicant who later turned out to be a nonresident -- fortunately in most cases there's time to suss things out before the next leg.vacancy or other Big Event) which is why you should do whatever checking you can before your district's approval votes.

How to Determine Someone's Precinct When They're Not Registered Yet

King County's IMAP server usually has the most up-to-date boundaries and the most reliable address geocoding you can get (since it directly accesses the assessor's parcel database).

  1. Visit the IMAP webpage.
  2. Set the layer list as follows
    • click on the layers icon (2nd icon at the upper right)
    • expand (click on) "Electoral Districts"
    • check "Voting Precincts"; uncheck "King County Council Districts"
    • check "Electoral Districts" to actually make the precinct names and boundaries appear on the map (though these still won't show up until/unless you zoom sufficiently close)
  3. type the addresss in the search box

(if you're in a hurry, the 41dems site has a lookup that is somewhat faster to use, however be aware that it relies on Google's geocoding (which is not always accurate) and boundary information can occasionally be out of date.)

The District Approval Process

Prior to voting on applicants, you need to check for

This tends not to be problem when there are few applications, but in certain situations, you will need to be prepared to handle high volumes of PCO applications. It is especially not unusual for a district to get swarmed with applicants in advance of a legislature vacancy vote.

The key in such situations is to treat PCO Validation as an essential meeting function, much the way you'd treat sign-in and tally when you, say, have important votes or officer elections taking place. Set aside a Validation Table for this and have enough people assigned to it and ready to do registration/precinct lookups (just like you would have at a precinct caucus) so that you can handle the expected volume. 90% of the battle is simply knowing in advance that you can get deluged and therefore always having a few people trained and on hand if need be.

Realize that it's not just Big Seattle Districts that have to worry about this. Even in the suburbs you will be facing this the moment a legislature vacancy is announced in your district (which can happen at any time), so be ready.

You are allowed, in your district rules/bylaws, to set a deadline for receiving applications, which may be up to two weeks in advance of your general meeting. If you decide to do this, please inform us at KCDCC so that we can be sure to have correct instructions for people applying in your district. Having an advance deadline means

  1. applications received after the deadline must be excluded from consideration at that meeting, and
  2. if none of the applications received for a given precinct are timely (i.e., prior to the deadline) then no approval vote for that precinct takes place at that meeting, and, assuming a typical monthly meeting schedule, all applications received then can and must be voted on at the following general meeting.

If you do not specify an advance deadline in your district rules/bylaws, then the default rule per current KCDCC bylaws (4.3) is that if someone shows up on time at a meeting with an application, then it must be voted on at that meeting.

Note that there's a tradeoff here. An advance deadline does remove the stress of having to validate applications at the meeting itself, but it can also make PCO slots harder to fill.

Note that even if you do not set an advance deadline in your rules/bylaws, it is still entirely allowed and highly recommended that you have a cut-off during the meeting beyond which applications will not be considered (this implicitly follows from your ability per Roberts RONR to set an agenda for your meeting). However it will be best, especially in high-volume application situations, if you have greeters aware of your process who can then circulate and inform people as soon as they enter the room, and perhaps also frequent announcements so that anyone who's confused will get to the right place (remember: many applicants will be newbies).

Regardless of whether you enact an advance deadline or not, you must treat all applications uniformly. State Charter V.B.3 requires "a procedure that affords every Democrat registered to vote in the precinct fair and equal opportunity." Every candidate who submits a timely application must be included in the district vote for a given precinct; you cannot filter out applications from people you don't like. Only a vote of the body may do this. (You can, however, speak against.)

Some considerations for the vote itself:

What happens at KCDCC after you send the form

You will want to bookmark this page (but first, use the select box at the upper left to switch it to your own district).

This page shows all PCO changes (appointments, resignations/moves, reassignments due to boundary changes, etc) that have happened since your reorganization

You will also want to be signed in to your s.kcdems.org account when viewing this page so that you see the full address+contact information available. Everyone who is a District Chair, Vice-Chair or PCO coordinator should be able to see this information for their district (if you're having trouble or if additional people need to be added to that list, please let me know).

In this particular view, events are sorted by event date (district approval date or end-of-term event date for resignations), so particular batches of approvals from a single meeting will be listed together, so that you can be sure we've got all of them.

"Approved" shows the date of the district meeting at which the candidate got approved. When you're signed in, this will be a link to a scan of the application as we received it.

The "Status / since" column is where the county action takes place. Status will either be "PCO" for PCOs or "Acting" for Acting PCs.

and the "since" date is either the actual date of Appointment or what that date will be once the County Chair signs. In general, unless there are issues to resolve, Appointments will be dated from when we receive the form so that you're not penalized by slowness on our end.

Once the Appointment is made the date in the "Since" column will be a link to either

either of which means the person in question is an actual PCO (or Acting PC) with all rights and privileges thereunto appertaining.

If, however, you see "(Pending)" that means it hasn't been signed yet. Here, there are two possibilities:

About Custom PCO/Acting-PC Applications

You can do a PCO application on a cocktail napkin. The form we provide is a convenience. As long as whatever you submit contains all of the necessary information, we're good to go.

The essential content of the form, is that you, the District Chair, are attesting/witnessing that a given person showed up at your meeting on a particular date wishing to be appointed as PCO for a given precinct or as an Acting PC somewhere, and that your general meeting body indeed voted to approve this.

Thus, here's what needs to be on the form:

  1. The district meeting date.
  2. The LD chair signature, which constitutes the LD chair's approval for the purposes of RCW 29A.80.031.
  3. Information identifying the applicant, including
    1. Full Name as Registered to Vote (not just nickname)
    2. Registration Address (not mailing address)
    3. Registration Precinct
    4. Birth Date (required only if there are multiple people registered in the same household with the same name).
  4. In the case of an Acting PC application,
    Service Precinct, (PCOs always serve their registration precinct)
  5. In the case where the service precinct is the same as the residence precinct,
    whether this is a PCO application or an Acting PC application. Generally if only one precinct is specified and it matches the applicant's address, we assume this is a PCO application. However if the person in question is, e.g., not a US citizen, is sufficiently underage, or is in some other circumstance that forbids registering to vote, then they can only be an Acting PC and the form submitted needs to indicate this.
  6. Contact information (optional but we need something)
    1. email address
    2. phone number (please indicate if (C)ell, (H)landline, (W)ork number, or (E)mergency contact only)
    3. mailing address (only if different from registration address)
    Note that contact information provided will be assumed public unless otherwise indicated. As holders of elective office, PCOs are expected toprovide at least one piece of public contact information that their precinct residents can use to get in touch with them.

About Going Paperless

Re the county-chair digital signatures. These are what you get when you're on the s.kcdems.org PCO page, signed in, and you click on an appointment date in the "Since" column and it happens to be a case where the County Chair did not sign a physical form, which will be most cases, where you will instead see something like

   -----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
   Hash: SHA256

      Status: PCO
   Appointed: 2017-01-19
          LD: 5
   ... etc
   -----BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE-----
   iQIcBAEBCAAGBQJYy3ToAAoJEL8/jSYlftLPyuwP/jEiMoaNLz8tU2EG3nXO+SFe
   ... <>
   -----END PGP SIGNATURE-----

This is essentially a digitally signed PCO certificate, which you can verify if you have some version of PGP installed and have it pointed at our private keyserver hkp://s.kcdems.org:11371

(... e.g., on Windows, you can download and install gpg4win from https://www.gpg4win.org, which, in turn, installs Kleopatra, a not-entirely-hostile PGP front-end, which then allows, after some amount of configuration pain, taking one of these PCO certificates, selecting+copying it, and then doing "Clipboard"->"Decrypt/Verify" to see that there is indeed a valid signature from the County Chair on it.

(... more detail on this later, but suffice it to say, it's currently WAY less user-friendly than I would like...

... the eventual goal, however, once we DO have something more user-friendly for securely making and viewing these certificates, is to then give that to LD chairs to correspondingly produce PCO-candidate District-Approval Certificates, at which point we can stop sending paper forms back and forth...)

What is an Acting PC?

"Acting PC", short for "Acting Precinct Coordinator", is someone who does the work of a PCO serving a precinct (knocking on doors, etc.), but is not eligible to be the PCO for that precinct for whatever reason — the usual issue being residency, i.e., the person's own precinct's PCO slot is already occupied so they serve another precinct, one in which they do not reside.

Acting PCs used to be known as "Acting PCO"s, however the latter terminology is now deprecated due to the confusion it caused (the main point being that Acting PCs are not actually PCOs).

Why can't Acting PCs (vote for chair/vote on bylaws/etc)?

The position of PCO is defined in state law (read RCW 29A.80 if you care) as an elected office, just like Senator or School District Director. The state party charter references it and there's nothing anywhere that authorizes county or district orgs to change what it means, including the rule that the office can only be held by a precinct-resident registered voter.

And the state bylaws reserve certain functions (voting on certain officers, voting on bylaws, voting on nominees for legislature vacancies) to PCOs only.

However county and district organizations remain free to define whatever additional offices they want for their own purposes. E.g., state party only cares about and specifies that district/county organizations have a single "Vice Chair". But district and county organizations are free, in their own bylaws, to create 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. Vice Chairs for any purpose, the catch being that the state party will simply ignore the additional Vice Chairs and not recognize them as having any particular role or privileges outside of their organization.

And so, at some point in the distant past, KCDCC decided to create "Acting PCOs" in those King County precincts without bona fide PCOs. It is a distinct office, and it evaporates the moment a bona fide PCO (precinct-resident registered voter) is appointed. And that's really all there is to it. And in March of 2017 we changed our bylaws to rename this office to "Acting PC".

The county basis for Acting PCs/PCOs tends to be forgotten because many other counties across the state, including Snohomish, do something similar. But every county is free to do something different if it wants.

(E.g., Pierce County's Democratic bylaws have nothing to say about Acting positions. Informally, PCDCC encourages district orgs to recruit people to walk unserved precincts, but that is all.. Like the state party, PCDCC *only* recognizes PCOs. Any additional titles/offices are up to the individual LD orgs. Meaning, if, say, the 30th or 31st LDs wanted to have official Acting PCs for their Pierce County precincts, that would be something to define in their own bylaws, perhaps with some process leading to appointment by their District Chair. And there it would end. PCDCC doesn't care what its LDs do on this as long as nobody attempts to assert such appointed folks have ANY status in the PCDCC organization itself.)

How does one remove a PCO?

This is currently not possible.

State law explicitly protects elected PCOs from being removed (RCW 29A.80.041).

For other PCOs generally, while the state charter (V.B.1) does assert the party's abiity to remove/recall PCOs, in order for this to actually happen, the state committee would need to either create a procedure for this, or otherwise delegate authority to the county/district orgs so that they may specify a procedure of their own. Thus far, neither of these has yet happened...

... and since the current charter has been in place for over 40 years with no action on this in all that time, I'm not holding my breath on this one.

Meaning if the residency of a PCO is not in question, and they haven't resigned or died, then you are stuck with them until the end of the term (Dec. 1 of the next even year), even if they're doing absolutely nothing. And, even then, all you can do is recruit someone else to file for candidacy in that precinct and hope they win the election. (Typically, the person who's doing the actual doorbelling is more likely to win, and so the system tends to be self-correcting that way,... but not always).

How does one remove an Acting PC?

Recruit an actual resident registered voter to be PCO for that precinct. In that case, the Acting PC office immediately and automatically disappears and we're done.

Otherwise, you can't. (Note that, since Acting PC is defined solely by KCDCC bylaws, rules/definitions concerning Acting PCs are much easier to change, if people see a need for this.)

What to do when PCOs move away

Yes, they're supposed to be automatically removed, but you really do not want to rely on this.

Instead, you want to try to get either an explicit resignation or at least a statement to the effect that they've actually moved out of the precinct.

Here's why:

If a PCO has NOT resigned or died, then as long as their voter registration remains on the books and shows them still being resident in the precinct, our hands are essentially tied. The official record says they still live here and it is NOT our job to police the questions of domicle that underly voter registration law.

... that job belongs to King County Elections and the King County Canvassing Board, and if THEY haven't received the death certificate or the update from another county/state elections agency definitively showing that a person has moved and reregistered elsewhere, they tend to be loathe to change things if someone has been voting regularly (which PCOs tend to do), even in the face of evidence that a normal person might consider more than enough

... which is a good thing, given the importance of the right to vote...

... but in the case of PCOs this occasionally bites us.

With an explict resignation or statement of having moved from the PCO him/herself, we can then declare the position vacant and we're not waiting on another state/county's elections agency to get its act together.

Elected PCOs vs. Appointed to fill a vacancy?

When does this distinction matter? Pretty much never.

It's the same office; election and appointment are just different ways of getting there. And once you're actually in office, then you get the full package of privileges/duties that go with it.

The distinction is very much like the distinction between Elected Senator and Appointed Senator -- very occasionally it matters, but the vast majority of the time, we say "Senator" and that's that. So it should be for "PCO"s.

The fact that elected PCOs are the only ones who get to vote at a reorg is sometimes cited as a distinction, but this is more about appointments to fill vacancies not being allowed/recognized prior to the reorg. One could just as easily say that appointed PCOs *are* allowed to vote at reorgs, but, since you can't appoint anybody, you never actually have appointed PCOs at a reorg, so it doesn't matter.

There are two possibly-real distinctions that I know about:

  1. District Chair removal votes are limited to elected PCOs (RCW 29A.80.061)
  2. State law explicitly protects elected PCOs from removal (RCW 29A.80.041)

The first thing to note is that RCW 29A.80.061 has been mostly struck down by a recent court decision (Pillough v. KCGOP), which invalidated the clause that district chairs need to be elected (the Other Party likes to have the county chair appoint them) as being unwarranted interference of the state in internal party affairs, so there's a very good chance that both of these clauses are unconstitutional as well. But even if not,

The protection offered by 0.41 only makes a difference if the state party ever enacts or allows a procedure for removing PCOs at all. Which they could do (see discussion above under "How does one remove a PCO?") but thus far they haven't.

And district chair removal votes come up maybe once every 10 years state-wide, so this is a pretty rare occurence. (To be sure, organization chair removal attempts of some form or another happen quite a bit more often than that [and perhaps more often than people want to admit], but it's extraordinarily rare for the process to get all of the way to the point of Actually Taking the Vote, if for no other reason than most sane people will tend to resign before they can be voted out...)

Precincts with more than one PCO?

This can happen as a result of boundary changes. If KC Elections draws a new precinct boundary around two or more people who have PCO status, then they all become PCO of that precinct. The reason for this is you can only be PCO of the precinct where you're living/registered, and in order to get the precinct back down to one PCO, we'd need the authority to remove the others, which we don't have, and the various higher rules (state charter, state law) don't have any provisions for this, so we end up with a precinct with multiple PCOs.

It's not really that huge a problem, i.e., you'll have a precinct that's exceptionally well-served, and, next even-year election, it's likely there'll be a fight over who keeps the office for the following term.

How do precinct boundary changes work?

From one month before filing until the general election, precinct boundaries are frozen by state law.

Outside of that period county councils/commissions can do what they want to revise things, modulo the various rules they have to follow. E.g., precincts are required to be all the same congressional, legislative, county council, city/incorporation status, city council, and judicial district, so whenever the larger districts change, precinct boundaries have to follow suit. There are also population limits; if precincts get over a certain size then they have to be split.

The two ways that a precinct boundary can change are (1) county ordinance, and (2) annexation; the latter can happen at any time outside of the elections boundary freeze (and causes precincts to get automatically split if only part of a precinct is included in the newly incorporated area). Typically, there will be an ordinance every year to do population rebalancing and to clean up the various messes (overly weird shapes and discontiguities) left behind by annexations (e.g., when Seattle created city council districts).

Some counties are more aggressive about revising precinct boundaries than others. King County is particularly aggressive.

At the beginning of every year, King County Elections draws up a set of boundary changes, typically in February some time, there is a (brief) public comment period, after which the proposed ordinance is submitted, and the Council typically passes it within a few weeks.

For PCOs, it's best to think of it as if KC Elections were drawing an entirely new map -- even if in many places it'll look exactly like the old map. If you're a PCO and you don't move, then your PCO status is guaranteed -- it's not your fault if KC Elections rips the rug out from under you -- and then whatever precinct you're in on the new map, that's your precinct from now on.

... even if your new boundary is completely different from the precinct you got elected/appointed to,

... even if (and this is the weird part) your new precinct contains other PCOs; this happens; see previous question.

For Acting PCs, it's different since your precinct assignment doesn't depend on where you live. In this case we go by precinct id. In King County there's a choice on this because precincts have both names and numbers; we use the numbers because they change less often, also the only renamings that ever happen are when an unincorporated precinct gets nearly or entirely annexed to a city, in which case it goes from being a named precinct (e.g., "AQUALINE") to one following the naming convention for incorporated precincts ("RNT 11-0031"). So an Acting PC for AQUALINE becomes the Acting PC for RNT 11-0031. If, later on RNT 11-0031 ever gets swallowed up / cannibalized by other precincts and the number 31 is retired, then said Acting PC is out of a job.

Also if you're an Acting PC, your new boundary might include a PCO, in which case it's just as if you'd recruited that person (well done!) and you're likewise out of a job.

Something else that can happen if you're Acting PC, is your residence may end up in a precinct with no PCO. KC Elections will fix up your registration and now you're eligible to become a PCO. Note that becoming PCO is not automatic since Acting PC and PCO are distinct offices. There has to be a separate appointment dated after the boundary change, and to get that you need to follow the process (you apply to your district, district votes on approving you, etc. as before).