Despite the Republican Party of Texas filling all county chair positions and having four precinct chairs for every three Democrat Party precinct chairs, Democrats averaged nearly 60 more votes per precinct chair than Republicans in the last general election.

According to the Texas Secretary of State, there were 4,419 Republican precinct chairs and 3,344 Democrat precinct chairs going into the 2022 General Election when there were 9,144 voting precincts. The number of voting precincts has grown ahead of the 2024 General Election to 9,849. However, the percentage of filled precinct chair positions dropped, with Republicans going from 48.4 percent to 44.9 percent, while Democrats went from 36.6 percent to 34 percent. 

Republican precinct chair advantages in 2022 likely helped Gov. Greg Abbott secure 4,437,099 votes in 235 counties to Robert “Beto” O’Rourke’s 3,553,656 votes in 19 counties. 

On average, however, Democrat precinct chairs outperformed Republicans in voter turnout.

Even if removing O’Rourke’s 108,489 votes from 137 counties without Democrat precinct chairs, he still averaged 1,030 votes per precinct chair. Abbott only averaged 973 per chair, or 57 fewer votes, after subtracting 133,092 votes from 81 counties without Republican precinct chairs.

Voter turnout matters, especially for county and state conventions. The more general election ballots cast in a voting precinct for that party’s gubernatorial nominee means more delegates, alternates, and weighted votes for that precinct, which means more influence over resolutions and even RPT chair candidates.

Democrats’ main advantage: cities. Democrats not only have significantly more precinct chairs than Republicans in the major cities, but also denser, more numerous voter precincts make voter outreach easier and more cost-effective. 

Several GOP county chairs in rural counties agreed. 

John Berry of Jack County stated, “We are deeply red, and most voters just assume the Republicans will win and thus do not get involved.” Austin County’s Charles Beers replied, “The issue is contacting people, we are rural, often with locked gates and minimal contact information.” Bosque County’s Marisusan Kennedy wrote, “The problem is the distance of the small community from the central location.”

Other factors include voter apathy and ignorance, says Robert West, who launched the Five Star Plan in 2020 and helped fill over 1,000 precinct chair positions. 

David Stein, GOP Chairman of Smith County, agreed with the recruitment challenges. “Most don’t know what the job entails, are resistant to block walking, [have] frustration with politics, apathy, [are] busy with other commitments, [or] haven’t been asked yet.” 

Mary Guinan, a Harris County attorney and founder of Adopt a Precinct, concurred that “there’s a lot of voter apathy out there. They’re almost mad enough to get off the couch.”

West noted that some county executive committees (composed of chairmen and existing precinct chairs) refuse to appoint precinct chairs to protect incumbents’ votes due to a “clubhouse mentality.”

Guinan quoted the adage, “The fish rots from the head,” adding, “If you have a problem, then look to your county chair.” 

Both also observed precinct chairs who refused to block walk, text voters, or do anything besides attend meetings, either due to age limitations or laziness. “Your job should be to make others’ lives easy, not yours,” Guinan commented. “It’s a position of service, the title is an honor, some people have forgotten that […] If you don’t or can’t do it, then don’t take the job.”

That attitude, Guinan says, helps Democrat chairs perform better because “they’re more social.” 

Guinan explained that Democrats make precinct meetings both a family affair and fun while branding themselves as intellectuals and altruists compared to some old-fashioned Republicans.

A solution Guinan suggests is a “precinct chair emeritus” that celebrates seasoned chairs’ successes while helping them pass their knowledge on to newcomer activists.

Hood County GOP Chairman Steve Biggers has had success with this model. “I established a Vice chairman for each precinct. When an opening came about, [it] was a seamless transition.”

Conservative activists must start filling vacancies and replacing inactive chairs, West stresses. 

“Why complain about the party? Do it yourself. Only you can push sane policies, but you’ve got to be part of it.” He concludes, “The people are always in power – if they choose to be.”

Stein, who managed to recruit fifteen citizens to precinct chair positions, suggested a motto, “Less tweets, more feet.”

Ian Camacho

Ian Camacho graduated from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and is a Precinct Chair-Elect for the McLennan County Republican Party. @RealIanCamacho.