Good preachers and priests know the trials and tribulations of a congregation, just as good taxi drivers know maps, and realtors know housing values. If you want to know the hopes and dreams of a neighborhood, check with the Democratic ward or precinct chair.
County ward and precinct chairs form the closest link between grass-roots voters and the political structures that support change. They track the needs of their neighbors and neighborhoods, surfacing ideas and suggestions to make the Party stronger. In New Mexico, a ward is a district comprised of precincts; precincts are small continguous census units of up to 750 voters or 2500 residents as tallied during the most recent census.
Terry Storch, chair of ward 11B, says she and the ward’s volunteers have physically touched at least ¾ of the doors in the district, which extends from just east of Rio Grande to Broadway, south from Griegos and into downtown—one of three large North Valley wards in the Democratic Party of Bernalillo County (DPBC).
Until 2020, she and ward volunteers were continually active in “deep canvassing” –that is, listening to people, actively encouraging expressions of voters’ shifting priorities while sharing opportunities to meet with elected officials.
“I’m wild and crazy about canvassing,” the ward chair elected in 2017 said. And, as odd as it may seem, in-person outreach to people who may become voters is one of the most satisfying tasks of her elected position. Of course, Storch also identifies volunteers to ensure that voters show up to meetings and candidate events, to take on party tasks, to knock on doors for the canvass, to give rides to the polls, stuff envelopes, make calls and send texts. But even so, the highest priority is to find and engage new voters in the democratic process.
The pandemic of 2020 severed the precious physical ink between the Democratic party and its base, forcing almost all communications into virtual spaces, and leaving ward and precinct chairs longing for the day they can return in-person to feel the pulse of the public. Even without the physical touch, though, DPBC’s election outreach contributed to New Mexico’s highest-ever voter participation, in large part because of initiating virtual “huddles” to link neighborhood voters with candidates, encouraging participation from anyone with access to the internet.
So, even if deep canvassing remains beyond safe bounds for the near future, there is always work to be done. As a ward chair, Storch said, “you’re part CEO, part delegator-in-chief, part cheerleader.” Whatever needs to be done ultimately falls to the chair, so recruiting reliable help becomes critical to surviving over the long haul.
Although challenging, the ward chair’s job is “incredibly rewarding and very educational,” Storch concluded. “Being part of the process of moving the party forward, collaborating with more community groups and bringing people together” is her pleasure and reinforces her determination to foster grassroots connections for future policymakers.
NOTE: Ward and precinct chairs are elected from geographic areas within the county. If you’re interested in running for your neighborhood ward or precinct, watch this space to learn more.