Washington State Democrats

PCO Handbook

WSDCC Communications and Training Committee

March 2018, Version 18.01










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Table of Contents

Letter from the Washington Democrats Chair        6

Using this Handbook        8

Being a Precinct Committee Officer (PCO)        9

Understanding Your Relationship to the
Democratic Party as a PCO

What is a Precinct?        12

What are Legislative District Organizations(LDs) and County Organizations?        13

What are Congressional Districts (CDs)?        14

Washington Democrats        15

Democratic National Committee (DNC)        15

Caucus, Primary and Convention Schedule        16

Precinct Caucus        16

County Conventions        17

Legislative District Caucus        17

Congressional District Caucus        17

State Convention        17

National Convention        17

How Do I Become a PCO?        18

Elected PCOs        18

Appointed PCO        19

Acting PCO        19

How do I file to become a PCO?        19

How Should I Prepare Myself?        21

Organization        22

Building a Walking Packet        23

Turning Out Voters        24

I’m Ready to Canvass!        24

Identification        25

Team Building        25

Get Out The Vote (GOTV)        26

VoteBuilder        27

What is VoteBuilder?        27

Why Use VoteBuilder?        28

Logging into VoteBuilder        29

VoteBuilder User guides and Training        30

I’ll be Canvassing, but won’t be using VoteBuilder. What do I do?        30

How to Canvass your Precinct        31

Walking Lists        32

Phone Banking        34

VoteBuilder’s Virtual Phone Bank Tool vs. OpenVPB        34

Setting up a Phonebank        35

Phonebank Volunteers        36

Preparing For your Phonebank        37

PCO Legal and Party Responsibilities        39

Party Responsibilities        41

Resources        43

Training Resources        44

Additional Online Resources        44

Social Networking Sites        44

Letter from the Washington Democrats Chair

Congratulations on your election or appointment as a Precinct Committee Officer!

Being a Precinct Committee Officer (PCO) is one of the most important roles in our party. As a PCO, you are on the front lines of winning elections up and down the ballot - from the School Board to the Senate.  You are the main point of information and contact for voters in your neighborhood and within the Democratic Party. You are the person who gets to know them, their family, and their priorities - the person who shows up and listens, encourages people to vote, and makes sure that our party represents and reflects their voices and priorities.  

Our nation is facing difficult times. Americans have historically low trust in public media and institutions, and many of us move through our lives without engaging with folks who have different opinions or backgrounds from our own. Now, more than ever, face-to-face conversations among neighbors have a critical role to play in fixing our politics and repairing our social fabric.  

As a PCO, you are an important, and very personal, link to civic life for your neighbors.

As a party, we believe that there is an incredible amount of power in building relationships, doorknock by doorknock, call by call, text by text. Your role as a PCO is more important than ever, and you have the power to make a difference.

And all it takes is getting in touch with your neighbors--as little as a few times each year, or as frequently as every few weeks. There are also fantastic new tools available to help you engage with your community more efficiently and effectively than ever before:

Knocking on doors:

  • The Knock10 app lets you knock the 10 nearest doors to you from wherever you are standing in your precinct, with a simple script and pre-made list.
  • The miniVAN app lets you knock doors from a list of doors that you make in Votebuilder.

More Resources:

  • We continually collect and update resources for PCOs and activists in our Tools and Trainings folder.  You’ll find sample scripts for doorknocking and phone calls, walk-throughs on using VAN to make lists of voters in your neighborhood, and more.  Try bookmarking it and checking back frequently!

This handbook has been designed to give you a blueprint of the responsibilities of a PCO and highlight our best practices and ideas for doing the work. It’s an incredible resource, designed by PCOs who have done the work in their neighborhoods and developed a series of best practices to help you be successful in yours!

Above all, thank you for everything you do. Activism is the engine that powers our party - now let’s go win some elections!

Tina Podlodowski, Washington State Democrats Chair



Using this Handbook

This version of the Washington State Democrats PCO Handbook, managed by the WSDCC Communications and Training Committee, evolved from earlier handbooks created  by knowledgeable and dedicated party volunteers, and references presentations and training by the staff at Washington State Democrats. We also relied on information about Canvassing, Votebuilder, and Phone banking from other Democratic organizations and have done our best to cite those sources.

By the end of 2017, we will release a Spanish version of the handbook. If you’d like to translate to other languages, contact us at the email address below, and we will provide you with source graphics.

We intend to share this handbook as a living document, and appreciate any feedback you have regarding topics that should be included or expanded upon, or any information that should be changed or updated.

The handbook is available online at:


Send feedback to:


Click on the link below to take a brief survey about the handbook:

PCO Handbook Survey v.1701

Thank you for becoming a PCO and taking on the challenge!


Being a Precinct Committee Officer (PCO)

Precinct Committee Officers (PCOs) are elected officials of the Party. As a PCO, you are the primary conduit between voters in your neighborhood and the Democratic Party. Becoming active with your local Democratic organization will make you a more effective PCO, and make a real difference in your community.

The most important day-to-day job of a PCO is talking to your neighbors. Your conversations with voters in your neighborhood help you represent them effectively at local party meetings, and provide us with important information for identifying the key voters in your area and reaching out to them effectively during campaigns. To make sure the information you gather is shared and put to use, you’ll be using tools such as VoteBuilder, an online database of voter information that helps us run successful campaigns.

Being a PCO is a great way to “build our bench” of future candidates. After actively participating in your party, making connections in your community, and learning about campaigns, you may decide to run for one of the 2000+ elected positions in Washington!

PCO responsibilities include:

  • Knock on your neighbors’ doors (or call them) to build relationships with voters
    in your neighborhood.
  • Educate undecided or swing voters
  • Identify Democrats and Republicans
  • Ensure Democrats are registered to vote
  • Find out what issues motivate your neighbors, and share that information with local parties and campaigns
  • Ensure the voices of voters are heard in local party decisions
  • Communicate regularly with your local chair or PCO coordinator
  • Coordinate with campaigns in educating voters and generating interest in an election on behalf of candidates and ballot measures
  • Increase Democratic voter turnout
  • Remind voters to return ballots
  • Attend legislative district and/or county reorganization meetings
  • Nominate candidates for office in partisan races:

The State Party’s Rules for Nominations give local PCOs the power to choose the party’s nominees

  • Participate in the appointment process when vacancies occur in partisan offices:

When a vacancy occurs, PCOs choose which candidates are submitted to the county council for appointment

  • Participate in the candidate, proposition and ballot issue endorsement process:

PCOs are voting members who vote on the recommendations of your local organization. Check your bylaws for more information on this process

  • Chair your precinct caucus during presidential election years under the direction of your local party chair

All this hard work adds up to precinct-by-precinct victories and the election of Democratic candidates.

This is what grassroots politics is all about!

Understanding Your Relationship to the
Democratic Party as a PCO

There are more than 7 million people in Washington State, and approximately 3.6 million of these are registered voters. The Democratic Party uses the official voter files from County Auditors’ Elections Departments and the Secretary of State to identify each voter by:

  • Precinct
  • Legislative District
  • County
  • Congressional District.

In densely populated areas, your Legislative District may be just a portion of a county, and in rural areas, your Legislative District may cover multiple counties.

What is a Precinct?

 The Precinct is where the voters are—it’s where it’s happening! It is the base unit of organization for the Democratic Party. A precinct may contain several blocks in an urban area or consist of a group of houses near one another in a more rural setting. Both the geographical and population size of precincts in Washington vary widely. There are approximately 7,500 precincts in the State of Washington, most of which have registered voters. Some precincts don’t have residential addresses and are used by counties for purposes besides elections.

The average number of registered voters in a precinct in Washington is around 550, but most precincts range from 300 to 950 voters. Many rural precincts have far fewer voters. Precinct size limits, area, and numbering or naming systems are set by the County Government.

As of 2017, There are between 55 and 220 precincts in each of the 49 Legislative Districts, and between 49,000 and 86,000 registered voters in each Legislative District. The districts are drawn by population, not registered voters, so voter registration in “red” and “purple” districts is a priority along with outreach to make sure that voters hear from Democrats.

Each Legislative District has two representatives and one senator as part of the Washington State Legislature. Each Congressional District has one congressperson in the United States House of Representatives. Our state is also represented by two Senators in the United States Senate.

What are Legislative District Organizations(LDs) and County Organizations?

There are 49 Legislative Districts and 39 Counties in Washington. Each of these is represented by a Legislative District Democratic Organization and a County Democratic Organization. To find your local organizations, search online, or go to the Washington Democrats website.

Click on the link below to find your local County organization:


Click on the link below to find your local Legislative District organization:


If your precinct is in a densely populated area, your Legislative District organization typically meets monthly, while your County Organization typically meets quarterly. The opposite may be true in rural areas. Each of these organizations also has an Executive Board (E-board) that meets separately.

The membership of your local LD or County Organization is made up of elected, appointed and acting PCOs in addition to other active Democrats and members of the community.

LD and County Organization Reorganization Meetings happen every other year, after Congressional elections. At the Reorganization Meeting, elected PCOs vote for the organization’s  Executive Board which includes at minimum, a Chair, a Vice-Chair, and two representatives to the State Committee. One State Committee member from each organization generally identifies as female while the other generally identifies as male. Elected PCOs also vote to adopt or amend bylaws for the organization.

The election of other officers is dictated by the local party organization’s charter and bylaws. Both elected and appointed PCOs are eligible to vote to fill vacancies that occur in party offices before the next Reorganization Meeting.

General meetings may be held monthly or quarterly, with executive boards meeting separately. Official “calls” to general meetings are dictated by the bylaws and are often posted on their website, emailed, or advertised in a local paper. General meetings share information about party matters, current events, and candidates.

LDs and County Organizations:

  • Recruit, support, and train PCOs
  • Collect and manage local voter data
  • Represent their local communities at the state level
  • Raise funds to help finance operating costs and for campaigns
  • Endorse candidates
  • Fill Democratic vacancies that occur between elections.

What are Congressional Districts (CDs)?

Currently there are 10 congressional districts in Washington State. Each congressional district represents approximately 700,000 people. Your congressional district may only cover a portion of your county or LD.

Click on the link below to find out about your Congressional District:


Democrats who organize and meet at the congressional district level, often form Political Action Committees (PACs) to support candidates within the district.

Washington State Democratic Central Committee (WSDCC)

This is our state-wide organization, consisting of the State Committee Members from each LD and county. Many of the State Committee Members are also PCOs. WSDCC is presided over by a Chair and other officers who are elected by the State Committee Members at the WSDCC Reorganization Meeting held in odd-numbered years during the last weekend of January.

WSDCC sets the tone for the Democratic Party in Washington State by developing the state platform and managing resolutions. It assists LDs and county organizations in supporting, recruiting, training, and financing campaigns for state, CD, LD, and local office. It also takes the lead in recruiting and assisting Democratic candidates for federal and statewide office. WSDCC meets 3 times a year at locations throughout the state.

Washington Democrats

WSDCC, LD Organizations, and County organizations are supported by the paid staff and volunteers at Washington Democrats, who provide guidance, organizational assistance, technical support, and training to Democrats across the state.  

For more information, go to www.wa-democrats.org or call 206-583-0664.

Mailing address:                Physical address:

Washington Democrats        Washington Democrats

PO Box 4027                        615 2nd Ave. Suite 580

Seattle, WA  98194                Seattle, WA  98104

Democratic National Committee (DNC)

This national Party organization is composed of members elected from each state. The WSDCC elects four DNC members (two identifying as male, and two as female), at the January meeting in Presidential election years. The State Party Chair and Vice Chair are also members of the DNC. It is presided over by a Chair and other officers elected by its members. For more information, go to www.democrats.org or call 202-863-8000.

Democratic National Committee

430 S. Capitol St. SE 

Washington, DC 20003

Caucus, Primary and Convention Schedule

Caucuses and conventions are held in even-numbered years. Congressional District Caucuses and the National Convention are held only in presidential elections years where delegates are selected based on their presidential candidate preference.

Precinct Caucus  

Held only in presidential years. These are usually held in large facilities (like schools) that are wheelchair-accessible and  meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. Voters attend the precinct caucuses and select delegates who go on to the LD Caucus and County Convention. You’ll be trained by your local organization on what you need to know to run your precinct caucus—the forms, how to calculate delegates per candidate, etc.

County Conventions  

Precinct delegates in presidential election years discuss local issues and candidates, adopt a county platform and pass resolutions, which are submitted to the Platform Committee of the state convention. In non-presidential years, all Democrats are invited to participate.

Legislative District Caucus  

Delegates to the state convention are elected, and an LD Platform and resolutions may also be developed. In presidential elections, delegates to the legislative district caucus are elected at Precinct caucuses; in non-presidential years, all Democrats are invited to participate.

Congressional District Caucus  

Held in presidential election years only. Delegates from the legislative district caucuses elect delegates to the national convention. Each congressional district will elect 3-7 delegates to the national convention based on prior Democratic performance in that district.

State Convention  

Delegates elected at the LD Caucus vote on a State Party platform, vote on resolutions submitted from county conventions and LD caucuses and make decisions regarding Party governance. In presidential election years, additional delegates to the national convention are selected.

National Convention  

In presidential election years, the DNC holds a convention to adopt a platform and nominate a Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidate. It also conducts other business, such as adopting resolutions. Super Delegates, elected State and National office holders and others, also attend and vote.

How Do I Become a PCO?

As a PCO, you are the responsible Party official at the precinct level. All PCOs must be registered voters.

NOTE: When you file to become a PCO, your filing information becomes public record, and is subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Elected PCOs

PCOs are voted into office during the primary election in even-numbered election years to serve two-year terms. If you were the only one to file in mid-May for your precinct, you were automatically elected. In contested precincts, candidates for PCO appear on the August primary ballot and are elected by voters in their precinct. The State Party requires that all elected PCOs receive at least 10% of the highest vote total for a Democrat in that precinct. Once elected, you take office on December 1st of that year and help elect new officers and  vote on or amend by-laws in your legislative district and county during the Reorganization Meeting.

Appointed PCO

If no PCO is elected in a particular precinct, then a Democrat who lives in that precinct can be appointed by the county or legislative chair as the Appointed PCO. For more information about the requirements for becoming an Appointed PCO, contact the Chair of your legislative district or county organization. You may be required to fill out an application.

If you were appointed to the precinct in which you reside, you have much the same benefits and length of office as someone elected—but after the reorganization occurs.

Acting PCO

If you are interested in serving as a PCO, but live in a precinct that already has one, you can be appointed to serve as an Acting PCO in a different precinct. The primary mission of an Acting PCO is to find someone within that precinct who is willing and able to be appointed and then file to be the Elected PCO. While the search for that person is underway, an Acting PCO can do everything else necessary to be the connection between that precinct and the party.

If you were appointed as an acting PCO, you have much the same benefits and length of office as someone elected—until an appointed PCO can be found or a reorganization occurs.

How do I file to become a PCO?

Running for election as a PCO is easy! Just submit a Declaration of Candidacy to your County Auditor during filing week, which begins two Mondays before Memorial Day and runs through Friday. Mail-in filing generally starts a few weeks before that.

You can file:

  • online
  • in-person
  • by mail

Because PCO positions are unpaid, there is no filing fee.

When filing, be sure to:

  1. Enter office name and any position or district number defining the office for which you will be a candidate
  2. Enter your name and address exactly as it appears on your voter registration
  3. Print your name exactly as you want it to appear on the ballot
    (Nicknames are acceptable)
  4. Enter Democrat for party preference
  5. Read, sign, and date the oath. Your Declaration of Candidacy won’t be approved without your signature

Click below to find the website of your County Auditor:


Click below for a PCO Declaration of Candidacy form:


How Should I Prepare Myself?

Now that you’re officially a PCO, and before you start canvassing, spend some time getting to know your precinct. If you are replacing a PCO, ask them to share their wealth of information and insights into your precinct. Find out if your Legislative District (LD) or County Organization has a PCO mentoring program; if not, ask them to pair you with a seasoned PCO.

Research your precinct’s demographics, and be sensitive to the economic and cultural makeup of its residents. Census information, and community websites are useful. Check if your local LD or County Organization has demographic information. Data in VoteBuilder, an online database, often referred to as “VAN”, will also help you get a sense of your voters.

Ask these sorts of questions regarding  the makeup of your precinct:

  • What percentage of adults are registered voters?
  • How many young people?
  • How many working families?
  • How many retirees?
  • How many union members?
  • How many migrant or seasonal workers?
  • How many military veterans?
  • Are there religious centers?
  • Are there immigrant communities?
  • How civically engaged are people?
  • What other communities are part of the precinct?
  • What languages are spoken?
  • Does a particular employer or industry dominate your precinct?
  • Is your precinct part of a residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural, or second-home area?

Does your precinct have unusually high population turnover possibly caused by being near a   military installation, or a college or university? Are there a lot of apartment units? If your precinct’s population changes often, you’ll need to focus more on voter registration, and the turnover may impact how your precinct votes.

Learn about the issues that impact your precinct. You might find it helpful to keep a list of your precinct’s elected officials and civic leaders, and the different districts such as school, hospital, parks, fire, EMS, water, irrigation, cemetery, etc., of which your precinct is part. Consider subscribing to any local newspapers and joining community organizations and social media groups.

Do you know how your precinct voted in previous elections?  You can find out online by going to your County Auditor’s website and looking for archived election results. Election results are recorded by precinct and give you a quick snapshot of how your precinct votes. In the example below of the 2016 Presidential Election, the Democratic candidate received 81% of the vote in Mazama, 34% in Malott, and 26% in Loomis. Even though these 3 precincts appear similar on the surface—same county and rural—the voters are clearly different.


Tips for managing your PCO responsibilities:

  • Set up a filing system (electronic and/or paper-based) to organize your materials. Set it up in a way that works best for you and makes information sharing with your local organization seamless and efficient.
  • Keep a calendar of your canvassing schedule, precinct events, party meetings, and caucus and convention schedules
  • Post a map of your precinct for easy reference
  • Consider setting up a dedicated email address
  • Set up folders to manage email
  • Consider ordering business card with contact information, but only include information you are comfortable sharing with the public. You can always write a note on the back.
  • Create a personal checklist for canvassing.

Building a Walking Packet

You are almost ready to go! Before you head out, you will want have a plan of action and a walking packet.

Your walking packet might include:

  • Voter registration forms  in the languages spoken in your precinct (even if the person registers online later, it’ll remind them to register)
  • Times and locations of your local organization meetings
  • Campaign materials (during election season)
  • Endorsement lists (during election season)
  • Locations of ballot drop boxes

Turning Out Voters

The purpose of the Democratic Party is to advance our shared values by electing good, Democratic candidates up-and-down the ballot. PCOs play an important role in our campaign plan. As you work your way through your neighborhood, you should get an idea of who the Democratic voters are, and which ones might need a reminder to send in their ballots. Make sure these voters vote in every election. The more they vote, the more likely they are to vote in the future. You may also run into progressive-minded people in your neighborhood who haven’t registered to vote. Get some voter registration forms from your PCO Coordinator, your County Elections Department, or from the Secretary of State’s website, and carry them with you as you walk your precinct. You never know when you’ll find a new Democratic voter!

Click on the link below to access Voter Registration forms available in multiple languages:


I’m Ready to Canvass!


To be an effective PCO, means building relationships with voters every year and all year long. You should canvass your precinct (do a census) once a year.  Because of the changes in people's lives, up to 10% of a list can change in just one year (Census Bureau, 11/16/16).

Door-to-door canvassing is one of the most effective means of reaching voters. Voters can change the channel or mute the TV if an ad is played; they can hang up the phone on campaign/canvass calls. Campaign literature can be tossed without reading it. Emails can be deleted without being read. Some people don’t use social media. When people have a meaningful conversation with someone in their community, when we LISTEN to their concerns, they remember that.

Team Building

There are lots of good Democrats who aren’t involved with the Party because no one ever asks them to help. Break the ice first, “Do you want to join me for coffee? ” If you get good responses, try asking for more: “Would you help me talk with other neighbors?” Always try  to build your team. The most successful PCOs have help.

When you are not canvassing, there are a number of ways to stay engaged with your precinct and continue to build relationships:

  • Host potlucks and barbecues
  • Host discussions about issues affecting your precinct
  • Meet informally at a local coffee house or restaurant
  • Maintain a Facebook or online group
  • Send regular updates, emails, etc.
  • Invite candidates to speak to your precinct voters

Attend community events in your precinct—you can talk to many neighbors at once. It also shows you support your community and are involved even when it isn’t “election season”.  Always be respectful. Support “issue based” allies, like unions, environmental groups, etc. Build that “grassroots” base by noting community issues. Expand your precinct’s base of people who vote. Do you know influential people that can help us contact voters (i.e., churches, community clubs, etc.)?  Remember to send a note/email thanking them.

Get Out The Vote (GOTV)

Get Out The Vote is the effort of candidates, parties and ballot measures to increase the number of campaign supporters who will vote in an approaching election.

Typically, GOTV is a distinct phase of the overall campaign. Tactics used during GOTV often include:

  • Telephoning or sending personalized audio messages to known supporters on the days leading up to an election (or on election day itself)
  • Canvassing known supporters (Canvassing for voter registration usually ends when GOTV begins)
  • Literature drops when ballots drop or near election day
  • Active tracking of eligible voters who have already voted

GOTV can also be important in high turn-out elections when the margin of victory is expected to be close.

During GOTV, you’ll want to talk to every Democratic voter in your precinct in the month leading up to the election. If your local party makes endorsements, pass those endorsements on to voters. Major campaigns will all have lists of “targeted voters” (voters they expect will swing the election) in each precinct. Once you’ve done your first pass through your precinct, reach out to the campaigns and help them re-canvass their targeted voters.

Make sure your contacts are marked in VoteBuilder! We don’t want to be talking to the same person over and over again.


More than likely you’ll be using VoteBuilder to help us gather and analyze voter data. Our campaigns rely on good data, and this is where you as a PCO play a crucial role! To get started, Ask your local organization or PCO Coordinator for a VoteBuilder account.

VoteBuilder is where we house information so that we know what our voters are most concerned and enthusiastic about. This tool is what allows us to run the smartest, most efficient campaigns, with your important work leading the way. When you talk to your neighbors, you’ll have conversations about the issues that motivate them to vote for Democrats. And when you find a neighbor who is not registered to vote, you get to talk about what motivates you as a Democrat, and sign them up as a registered voter.

What is VoteBuilder?

VoteBuilder is an online database, often referred to as “VAN”, that contains two sections:

  • My Voters which contains information about every registered voter in the state
  • My Campaign which allows political parties and candidate campaigns to track and manage their volunteers.


VoteBuilder is exclusive to Democratic organizations and is used by every State Democratic Party and Democratic candidates ranging from presidential campaigns to local races.  This standardization across states and campaigns has given Democrats an enormous advantage over other political parties for several reasons:

  • Existence of a large user-base familiar with VAN
  • Data is no longer kept in silos walled off and is now accessible.
  • Democratic Parties and campaigns have been putting data into the system regarding voters’candidate preferences since 2007
  • Constituency issue data is stored which has helped create finely tuned models of political preferences and voting behaviors
  • VoteBuilder reduces the time a candidate’s committee would have to spend acquiring data allowing them to spend more time on other campaign activities[1] 

As a PCO using VoteBuilder you will be able to:

  • Search for Voters
  • View a Voter’s information
  • Create Lists
  • Save Lists
  • Share Lists
  • Print Lists
  • Use VoteBuilder’s Turf Cutter to create walking packets
  • Enter data into VoteBuilder.

VoteBuilder has other capabilities as well, and the more you use it, the more you’ll discover.

To get started using VoteBuilder, ask your local organization’s Chair or PCO Coordinator for a VoteBuilder account.

Why Use VoteBuilder?

Why should you use VoteBuilder instead of a paper list or a locally created database?  

  • VoteBuilder is updated monthly with the statewide Voter File obtained from the Secretary of State which has up-to-date registration information on all voters
  • VoteBuilder contains voting history information for General, Primary, Presidential, and local elections in one easily searchable place
  • Years of collecting Survey Responses from voter contact have helped create the Likely Party Model contained in VoteBuilder which classifies voters as a Democrat, Republican, or Independent
  • VoteBuilder contains data enhancements such as additional phone numbers, address corrections, and certain consumer information that is not available from the Secretary of State or local lists
  • VoteBuilder organizes your data in a secure place that can be accessed anywhere as long as you have an internet connection
  • VoteBuilder allows you to save the lists you create and share them digitally with other users[2] 

Logging into VoteBuilder

Once you have an account from your local party organization, you can access VoteBuilder from any computer with a current web browser. It is important that you update your browser regularly since using an out-of-date browser may cause some loss of functionally.  VoteBuilder is updated regularly, so your interface may be different from the example below.[3]

Typically, Your local party organization Chair or PCO Coordinator will email you a login link to set up your VoteBuilder account. If a VAN administrator has already created an account for you with a password, you will be asked to change that password the first time you login to ensure your password is only known by you.

VoteBuilder User guides and Training

Once you have logged into VoteBuilder, you have access to more than 40 training guides and videos for the beginner, intermediate, and advanced user.

Topics titles are categorized under:

  • Administration
  • Data Entry
  • Output
  • Phone Services
  • Searching

I’ll be Canvassing, but won’t be using VoteBuilder. What do I do?

If you are not comfortable using VoteBuilder, or are unable to access it while canvassing, keep careful records and coordinate with someone who does have an account to make sure your data transfers in a timely manner. Be sure to let your PCO Coordinator or local organization know if you won’t be using VoteBuilder.

Ultimately, the information you gather needs to be in the VoteBuilder database!

How to Canvass your Precinct

Ideally, you’ll be able to canvass your precinct by knocking on doors.  However, in some areas, phoning may be more practical than walking your precinct. In order to keep our records up-to-date, you should be canvassing at least once a year. Candidates or ballot measures may also seek your help especially if you are in a “swing” precinct. By attending the LD and/or County meetings, you’ll be informed on issues and candidates, and you can present “endorsement” lists, campaign materials, and voter registration cards to your precinct.


Don’t try to do this all by yourself in one day, as most precincts have too many residents to reach in a day.  For safety reasons, always have a buddy when you canvass.  Try to organize friends and volunteers into teams to cover more ground.

You’ll likely have a walking list, generated by cutting turf (dividing your precinct into smaller neighborhoods) from the VoteBuilder database.

Walking Lists        

A walking list typically is just a part of your precinct. If you don’t have a copy of your precinct map, ask your PCO Coordinator or the Elections Department of your County Auditor. If you are canvassing a precinct with non-English speakers, try to recruit volunteers who speak the language of the voters, and ask them to join you when canvassing. Remind your local organization to prepare literature in languages other than English.

The VoteBuilder walking list will note whether the voter is a Strong Democrat (SD), Leaning Democratic (LD) or Independent (I). VoteBuilder also identifies voters as strong or leaning Republicans. Craft your conversation accordingly.

During the canvass, we want to listen more than talk:

  • We want to hear our neighbors’ interests and concerns  
  • Get to know them—smile!  
  • If someone wants to argue, politely excuse yourself

Whenever possible, match extra canvassers to the demographic of your target contacts, especially when contacting younger voters or those speaking another language.

Some local organizations provide name badges that you can wear as identification—if not, wear some Democratic clothing or buttons. Introduce yourself and ask for the voter by name. Don’t ask if the voter is an Independent (they’ll usually say they vote for the ‘best person”). You can start with a simple, “As residents, we want to get to know our neighbors, and find out what’s most important to you both locally and nationally.” Get a current phone number, email address, etc., and after leaving, jot down the information on the walking list or on the smartphone App. If you phonebank instead of walking your precinct, follow the same steps.

Before you set out, practice your script on a friend or neighbor or in front of a mirror. Rehearsing allows you to remember key points and feel comfortable. Some local organizations may host practice sessions. It’s perfectly OK to have bullet points if you’re nervous. Feel free to refer to any paperwork you have, but avoid referring to your phone, as it often makes people uncomfortable.

Approach every door confidently.  After knocking or ringing the doorbell, stand back a few feet so you are respecting their personal space.  Maintain good eye contact and open body language. Assume they support our platform (America is with us on most progressive issues:  they may call it ‘single payer’ instead of “Medicare for All”).  We have a lot of people to talk to, so focus on short, effective conversations. Don’t waste time debating with non-supporters:  it’s pointless, and keeps you from knocking more doors. Persuasion contacts occur during campaign season.

If you live in a “swing” precinct, be able to talk to all types of voters. Issues like money in politics and infrastructure cross party lines. Conversations where the voter/non-voter does most of the talking (and we listen) can actually change people’s minds. In households with more than one voter, if one person votes, usually all do.

If the residents aren’t home, leave any literature at their front door, somewhere it will be visible and won’t blow away (e.g. sticking out from under the doormat, or folded in the door handle). Do NOT leave literature in or on the mailbox, or even under the little ‘flag’ alerting postal carriers to pick up letters—that is against the law. If the yard is fenced, the driveway gated, or there’s a menacing dog, skip the house and phone them instead. Apartment buildings may be locked or inaccessible. Try to find a helpful resident to let you in,  or appoint a volunteer who lives in the building to contact residents.

Phone Banking

As a PCO, there may be times when you use phone banking for canvassing your precinct. Phone banking is particularly useful in rural areas, and is also useful if you have to contact voters quickly and for reminding them to mail-in ballots. Campaigns will also ask you to volunteer for phone banks or run one in your precinct.

Contact your PCO Coordinator or local Chair to to get permission to set up phone banks, or they may decide to set them up for you, which also works fine. They will also let you know what scripts or information should be shared.

VoteBuilder’s Virtual Phone Bank Tool vs. OpenVPB

VoteBuilder's Virtual Phone Bank tool is a way to divide up lists of people to be called among multiple volunteers, and record the results of their work without extra data entry.

The basic difference between Virtual Phone Bank, and OpenVPB is that lists made accessible through OpenVPB can be worked on by people without VoteBuilder accounts. This is very useful to enable PCOs to recruit their neighbors to help, as it avoids the need for the neighbors (i.e. precinct committee members) to be given separate VoteBuilder accounts.

Once you've identified a list of voters you want to contact, the steps to create a Virtual Phone Bank are as simple as deciding what information should be included for each voter, what script to use, and what times of the day the phone bank should be available. To make an existing phone bank accessible on OpenVPB, you just select the "Publish to openvpb.com" option in the phone bank settings.

Click below for more information:


The following links are only accessible to people with a VoteBuilder account:




Setting up a Phonebank

A centralized location for phone banking is more effective than giving call lists to your volunteers. You can choose to invite people to use their own cell phones, or provide a location with multiple phone lines.

Your location should be relatively quiet. If you are using a space after hours, or one that requires security for access, be sure to have a plan for people to get in. Have signage if your location is in a large building. If you are phone banking from a coffee shop or restaurant, encourage your volunteers to patronize that business.[4]

Phonebank location requirements:

  • Phone lines or reliable cell service (pre-check cell phone signal strength)
  • Computers and Internet access for data input
  • Accessibility for your volunteers with specific needs
  • Enough space for all your volunteers to be comfortable
  • Tables or desks and seating
  • Lighting, heating or cooling (especially at after-hours locations!)
  • Bathrooms
  • Parking and mass transit access!

Phonebank Volunteers

Invite as many people as possible to attend your phonebank. Invite neighbors, precinct residents, fellow PCOs, and friends. If you haven’t already, create a Facebook or other online group for your precinct; create a Facebook event for your phone bank.

Work with your volunteers to establish dates and times. Community or school events will impact scheduling for your volunteers. Keep your volunteers informed regarding your purpose, goals, and any changes in location or schedule. Be sure to make reminder calls to everyone who has signed up online or has told you verbally they plan on attending. Turnout will increase if you ask them for a firm commitment and call to remind them. If you expect a large group, ask some of your volunteers to help with setup and mentoring your volunteers.

Through your local organization, you’ll provide a written script for the volunteers to use. Explain the purpose of the phone bank, how they will tally any results, and explain how to deal with difficult calls. Consider preparing an agenda with a timeline for introductions, sharing your purpose and objectives, orientation and training, debriefing, and celebrating.

Avoid “pitting” volunteers or groups of volunteers against each other in “friendly” competitions. All of your volunteers are working towards the same goals.

Tips for working with your volunteers:

  • Make sure you are organized
  • Have all your materials prepared and available
  • Start the phone bank on time
  • Provide an orientation or training
  • Provide food and drinks
  • Show your appreciation
  • Thank your volunteers
  • Have fun and celebrate your hard work!

At the end of the phone bank have everyone tally up the number of calls made and the number that were successful contacts. Ask how your group fared overall and ask about good calls. Also ask about challenging calls, and how the phone bank can be improved.

Use the debrief to recruit for help in your precinct and getting involved in your local organization. If possible, organize a potluck or an optional social gathering afterwards. Talk about your success together!

Preparing For your Phonebank

You’ve selected a location, your volunteers are onboard, and your phonebank is scheduled. If you haven’t participated in a phonebank, consider volunteering in a neighboring phonebank or asking for someone in your local organization to mentor you.

You’ll need to have your materials prepared and printed out ahead of time. Ask for scripts from your local organization and establish a system for inputting your data into VoteBuilder.

Plan an agenda for the event and have a clear understanding of the goals and objectives of your event. Think about any information and training your volunteers will need to have, and provide supporting materials.

What you need to have on hand:

  • Sign-in sheets
  • Scripts and call lists
  • Relevant talking points
  • Relevant campaign materials
  • Tally sheets or electronic systems
  • Pens and paper

Your volunteers will need orientation and training. Ask your local organization for any existing training, or check online or in VoteBuilder for general phone bank training.

Key things to remember when phone banking:

  • Smile! People will hear it in your voice.
  • Follow the script, but speak from the heart. You are passionate about Democratic issues and values, or you wouldn’t be here—make that clear.
  • Keep the conversation positive. Don’t argue—be polite and move on.
  • You don’t need to be an expert. If you don’t know the answer, record the response and ask someone to get back to your contact.

With some pre-planning and preparation, phonebanks are another useful tool for listening to and informing voters, and sharing our Democratic values.


PCO Legal and Party Responsibilities

The role of the Precinct Committee Officer comes with specific responsibilities defined by the Revised Code of Washington (RCW).

First is the election of your local party leadership.  Washington State has 39 Counties and 49 Legislative Districts.  The County Central Committees consist of the Elected and Appointed PCOs for precincts within each County.  This is the original organizational structure of the party, supplemented by changes made in the 1970’s to add the Legislative District organizations.  Here are the passages in the Revised Code of Washington that deal with these responsibilities:

RCW  29A.80.030: County Central Committee – Organization Meetings 

The county central committee of each major political party consists of the precinct committee officers of the party from the several voting precincts of the county. Following each state general election held in even-numbered years, this committee shall meet for the purpose of organization at an easily accessible location within the county, subsequent to the certification of precinct committee officers by the county auditor and no later than the second Saturday of the following January. The authorized officers of the retiring committee shall cause notice of the time and place of the meeting to be mailed to each precinct committee officer at least seventy-two hours before the date of the meeting. 

 At its organization meeting, the county central committee shall elect a chair and vice-chair of opposite sexes. 


RCW 29A.80.061: Legislative district chair — Election — Term — Removal. 

Within forty-five days after the statewide general election in even-numbered years, the county chair of each major political party shall call separate meetings of all elected precinct committee officers in each legislative district for the purpose of electing a legislative district chair in such district. The district chair shall hold office until the next legislative district reorganizational meeting two years later, or until a successor is elected. 


The legislative district chair may be removed only by the majority vote of the elected precinct committee officers in the chair's district. 


If a Legislative District covers precincts in more than one County, the State Party is technically responsible for the Reorganization, although they can and do appoint someone to be the person responsible.  This is a set of events that occurs every two years, so the County organizations are familiar with how it works and will work together to get the job done.  

The Legislative District Reorganization Meetings need to be scheduled, or “called”, within 45 days of the November election.  They can occur at any time prior to the first meeting of the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, which consists of the elected State Committee members (one male and one female) from each County and Legislative District.  (Plus, some special members, DNC members, etc.)

Beyond this RCW language, all of the details of how the County and LD organizations exist and operate depends on language within the Washington State Democratic Party Charter and Bylaws, as well as the Bylaws of each County and LD.  

Below is the section from the Washington State Constitution about our ability to fill vacancies in the Legislature and Partisan County Elected offices. :


Washington State Constitution:  


Article II Section 15  VACANCIES IN LEGISLATURE AND IN PARTISAN COUNTY ELECTIVE OFFICE. Such vacancies as may occur in either house of the legislature or in any partisan county elective office shall be filled by appointment by the county legislative authority of the county in which the vacancy occurs: Provided, That the person appointed to fill the vacancy must be from the same legislative district, county, or county commissioner or council district and the same political party as the legislator or partisan county elective officer whose office has been vacated, and shall be one of three persons who shall be nominated by the county central committee of that party, and in case a majority of the members of the county legislative authority do not agree upon the appointment within sixty days after the vacancy occurs, the governor shall within thirty days thereafter, and from the list of nominees provided for herein, appoint a person who shall be from the same legislative district, county, or county commissioner or council district and of the same political party as the legislator or partisan county elective officer whose office has been vacated, and the person so appointed shall hold office until his or her successor is elected at the next general election, and has qualified: Provided, That in case of a vacancy occurring after the general election in a year that the office appears on the ballot and before the start of the next term, the term of the successor who is of the same party as the incumbent may commence once he or she has qualified and shall continue through the term for which he or she was elected: Provided, That in case of a vacancy occurring in the office of joint senator, or joint representative, the vacancy shall be filled from a list of three nominees selected by the state central committee, by appointment by the joint action of the boards of county legislative authorities of the counties composing the joint senatorial or joint representative district, the person appointed to fill the vacancy must be from the same legislative district and of the same political party as the legislator whose office has been vacated, and in case a majority of the members of the county legislative authority do not agree upon the appointment within sixty days after the vacancy occurs, the governor shall within thirty days thereafter, and from the list of nominees provided for herein, appoint a person who shall be from the same legislative district and of the same political party as the legislator whose office has been vacated. [AMENDMENT 96, 2003 House Joint Resolution No. 4206, p 2819. Approved November 4, 2003.] 


To read the Washington State Constitution click:


The County Central Committee is defined as the Elected (and Appointed) PCOs from precincts within that County.  In practice, Legislative Districts may include precincts in multiple counties or may be a subset of precincts within a single county.  It’s the PCOs within the Legislative District that meet to determine the list of three names to pass to the County Councils.  Remember, after December 1st all Appointed PCOs end their term and will need to be reappointed before they can officially be members of the County Central Committee.

Party Responsibilities

In addition to the specific legal responsibilities defined in state law, the PCO has responsibilities defined by the Democratic Party.  Let’s start with the Charter:


Article I, B:  The Democratic Party of the State of Washington shall be composed of: 

        1.         Democratic precinct committee officers.


This means that the PCO is considered a “member” of the Democratic Party in Washington.  No dues, no oath, nothing like that. You are in the door. As a PCO you must be “willing to support the principles and goals of the Democratic Party as expressed in the Charter and wish to be known as Democrats.”  


Article III (Washington State Democratic Central Committee), Section B:  “Members. The SCC shall consist of two state committee members elected by each county central committee and by each legislative district organization, with one (1) identifying as male and one (1) identifying as female.” 


The State Central Committee elects the State Party Chair.  There is a direct line from the PCOs elected in August to the election of the State Party Chair at the reorganization meeting of the state party.


Article III, Section D: “... At its organizational meeting, the SCC shall elect a chair who shall be known as the Chair of the Democratic Party of the State of Washington (and also called the “state chair”).” 



PCOs are also mentioned specifically in Article V


Article V (Other Organizations or Elected Officials Authorized to Function Continuously), Section B: 


B. Precinct Committee Officers 


  1. Precinct committee officers shall be elected, appointed or recalled according to state law, this Charter and other provisions adopted pursuant to the authority of this Charter. 
  2. Vacancies in the office of precinct committee officer that exist because of failure to elect at state general election shall not be filled until after the reorganization of the county central committee and/or legislative district organization. 
  3. Vacancies that occur in this office by reason of death, resignation, permanent change of residence, change of voter registration from the precinct, recall of the incumbent, or failure to elect, shall be filled by appointment according to a procedure that affords every Democrat registered to vote in the precinct fair and equal opportunity. 

To read the Charter of the Democratic Party of the State of Washington click:


To read the Washington State Democrats Code of Conduct click:


If you are a Precinct Coordinator (or Chair of an organization without a PCO Coordinator) , ask to be added to the Washington Democratic PCO Coordinators Facebook group (closed) for access to innovative tools and discussions.

Washington State Democrats


You may direct people to this website if they have questions about our Platform, if they need contact information for officials/candidates, or if they want to get further involved in the Party by attending an event. People in your precinct may want to join the email list to learn more about the party and how they can get involved.

Young Democrats

Young Democrats is an organization of people age 35 and younger who are involved and engaged. If you meet young people in your precinct who are interested in becoming more active within the Party, encourage them to contact the Young Democrats at www.ydwa.org or email info@ydwa.org. Colleges and even some high schools have branches. Consider contacting the group if you need help in your precinct. They have an amazing amount of energy and a more flexible schedule than others involved in the party.

Washington State Federation of Democratic Women


Washington State Progressive Caucus




Training Resources

National Democratic Training Committee


Emerge America




Additional Online Resources

https://www.sos.wa.gov/ Washington State Secretary of State

www.pdc.wa.gov :  candidates running for office, lobbyists, PACs, etc., register and submit reports regarding money they’ve raised and spent. (The PDC also has classes in Olympia)

www.opensecrets.org: also shows fundraising/expenditures

www.govtrack.us has information on Congress, legislation, etc.

www.congress.gov is another information source on Congress

www.countable.us covers bills in Congress

www.dailypress.senate.gov is the Press Gallery in the Senate

www.leg.wa.org is loaded with information on our Legislature (Classes are given on the Legislative Process.)

www.washingtonvotes.org covers our State Legislators

http://sdc.wastateleg.org/ is the WA Senate Democrats page

www.housedemocrats.wa.gov is the WA House Democrats page

Social Networking Sites

Washington State Democrats are here, too:

Washington State Legislative hotline (to leave messages for your State Senator and Representatives):  800-562-6000.

WSDCC PCO Handbook v.18.01                                                                          

[1]  John Fass, VANual: A Guide to VoteBuilder, Vermont Democratic Party, 2015, page 3 http://www.vtdemocrats.org/sites/vtdems/files/pictures/VANual%20v15.1.pdf

[2] John Fass, VANual: A Guide to VoteBuilder, Vermont Democratic Party, 2015, pages 3-5

[3]  John Fass, VANual: A Guide to VoteBuilder, Vermont Democratic Party, 2015, pages 3-5

[4]  Guide to Running Your Own Phonebank, Organize for America, date unknown