SAB's Guide To North Dakota District Conventions: A Government Of People Who Show Up

“Eighty percent of success is showing up.”
-Woody Allen

Today and over the course of the next several weeks, we here at SAB will be posting a series of articles aimed at demystifying the process of participation in politics. While some may claim or feign cynicism and disillusionment as their reasoning why they don’t do anything else but vote (if they even do that), too often they don’t in reality understand how to participate, or participate more effectively. It isn’t that hard, nor do you have to be part of a party elite to do so.

Getting in on the ground floor — the district — is the simplest and often the best place to both get involved at, and actually make a difference. This post will seek to explain the importance of participation at the district level of a party, and show how to get involved. Future posts will feature each district, along with the voting records of their state legislative incumbents, plus feature any challengers or new faces running in those odd-numbered districts who let us at SAB know they are running.

Politics and our system of government depends ultimately on one thing — participation. Neither can succeed without it, but more importantly, the direction of both political parties and government as a whole is primarily driven by who bothers to actually show up and participate.

This concept participation — of showing up — is not lost on most, but we most often think about it in terms of winning elections (to which, obviously, it applies). Tremendous amounts of money and time is spent by both parties, not only in promoting their candidates and causes, but in get out the vote (GOTV) campaigns. These efforts are overt and obvious. But what isn’t always apparent is how those candidates got there, and how a relatively small group of people end up being the ones who decide who the electorate as a whole votes on.

That small group of people decides primarily because they showed up to participate in their party’s nominating convention process, and it all begins at the district level.

Whether we like it or not, our state and nation have two prominent political parties who control our government. Until something short of a miracle occurs, a third (or fourth or fifth) party will not rise to a level of prominence to challenge their influence on politics, and who ultimately holds offices. Politics is the art of the possible, and at least right now a third party having a significant influence on politics (short of a spoiler role in individual elections, and even then only stealing votes away from one candidate of a major party so the other major party candidate wins) just isn’t possible.

So what is possible? Getting involved in one of the established parties, starting at the district level, is.

The district level is the roots of the grassroots level for each, and the district conventions ultimately set the stage for who the electorate will vote for from the state legislature through congress, and all the way to the presidency based on the year. So how is that done?

Held every two years, each party’s district conventions lay that groundwork through the following:

Directly selecting the party nominees for the state legislature from the district through a nomination process to ultimately be voted on by the electorate in the Primary Election. Should those candidates be successful in the Primary (and rarely does a district nominee have a challenger for a legislative seat), they move on to the General Election. Legislative seats are voted on every four years. In 2014, odd-numbered districts will undergo their nominating process, with even-number districts occurring in 2016.

And who gets to vote on those party nominees for the legislature? Well, any “party member” (i.e. a person identifying with the values of a party, and intending to vote for the party’s nominees in elections — and who have paid their dues in the form of a donation to the party) who legally resides and can vote in that district… and bothers to show up.

Oh, and if you want to seek your party’s nomination for a legislative seat (even if an incumbent from your party occupies it, but is up for re-election), bother to show up and seek to be nominated. You are of course well advised to bring enough “party members” with you from your district to nominate you and vote for your nomination, but if you don’t like how your party member is currently representing your district in the legislature, you don’t have to wait until the election cycle to vote them out. You can take them out by winning the nomination from your party at the district convention, and while they may still run against you in the primary, they do so without the support of your party.

But, no matter what, you need to show up.

Selecting the district’s delegates and alternates for the party state convention. ┬áThis is the other major event at a district convention. Each district is allocated a set number of delegates for the state convention, as well as alternates. These numbers are generally set in the By Laws of each party, and the delegates and alternates are voted on by those party members who show up.

Once selected for a delegate seat, you attend the party’s state convention, where you get a hand in deciding the following:

  • Running for consideration to be, and voting on, the delegates and alternates from the state party who will attend each party’s National Convention during Presidential Election years. These are the people who will ultimately contribute to deciding who will be the national party’s presidential nominee
  • Voting for who will be the state party’s nominee for each of the statewide offices up for consideration
  • Voting on the state party’s platform and resolutions for the election cycle, which in general are supposed to be the guiding principles for each candidate for office from that party

So how do you get involved? In general, you will need to do the following:

Become a party member. You can do so by going to the NDGOP or ND Dem-NPL Membership Pages
Figure out what legislative district you live in, if you don’t already know. This map can help you identify your district, or you can call your county auditor
Find out when your district convention is. They are starting up for the most part in the days and weeks ahead, so don’t hesitate. The NDGOP and ND Dem-NPL event pages on their websites have that information available.
Contact your district chair, and let them know you want to attend the district convention, and be a delegate to the state convention if this is the case. You can find our who the NDGOP and ND Dem-NPL district chairs are on each party’s website. They can help clarify what the district requirements may be for participation in the district convention and delegate consideration. Contacting them in advance is a safe move to make.
Ask your district chair for a copy of the district’s By Laws. You will want to know the rules which your district has agreed to abide by, especially when it comes to matters of candidate nominations and selection of state convention delegates. This is so you know what is expected of you during the conduct of the district convention, and also so you can call for a point of order should the business session deviate from the By Laws. Also, if you have concerns with how the district convention was handled, let us at SAB know! If it sounds off, we will be happy to check into it and shed some light on those concerns.
Keep following SAB for an analysis by district of each district legislative race as their respective district convention approaches.
Show up. Not only for the district and state conventions, but for other party activities as well, to include the campaign efforts of your district and state nominees. You don’t have to make all these events, but even helping out with a few will make a big difference to your party’s nominees, and could contribute greatly to their success at the polls.

We hope you do choose to get involved in the process, no matter which party you choose to get involved with. Being active in a party can be very rewarding, and more importantly, it allows you the chance to better influence the direction of government. One cannot honestly complain about the results of an election if they never voted, and they definitely cannot complain about the candidates up for a vote if they don’t get involved in the nomination process at the district and state level. They also can’t complain about what that party stands for if they don’t contribute to the process used to determine the platform and resolutions, either.

So, bother to show up!

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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