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September 25, 2015 / needhamgrassroots

Shape the Party: Become a Member of the Ward/Town Democratic Committee

If you’ve ever complained about the Democratic* party — heads up!dems

If you are a registered Democrat (vs. “unenrolled” aka “independent”), you have the privilege of becoming an elected member of the organization — giving you the means/power to effect change inside the organization. (see the opening line about “complaining”).

Your opportunity to run** for elected member*** comes once every four years — and the vote is during the Presidential Primary election. That means the window is open now. To appear on the ballot in the upcoming election, deadline to file papers is November 6, 2015.

The Secretary of State has put together a useful pamphlet about How to Run for elected membership in your town/ward committee, with useful descriptions about what a Town/Ward Committee is (in case you had no idea such things existed!):

Election and Organization. The basic legal organization of political parties in Massachusetts are the ward and town committees. Each political party may elect a ward or town committee consisting of three to thirty-five members in each ward of a city and in each town for a four year term [Needham DTC has 35 elected members].

Members of ward and town committees serve in the following capacities:
represent their party at the local neighborhood level;
• promote the objectives of the party; and
• work for the nomination and election of party candidates.

The Needham Democratic Town committee typically puts together a SLATE of candidates to put on the ballot. Read the SoS pamphlet — Ballot Format” section — for descriptions of how “slates” typically work (see footnote**** for additional notes on Needham slates). >>>This doesn’t mean you can’t get on the ballot even if you’re not on the slate.<<< However, by culture/practice, that’s not usually “how things are done” in Needham, and usually, for the sake of apple-carts and comity, aspiring members are encouraged by the Committee to seek membership via typical route.****

If you have questions about getting on the slate for 2016, contact members of the Needham Dem. Town Committee (

For more information about ways to become a Change Agent inside the Democratic party, see our earlier posts on Caucuses and Conventions, under the “Grassroots Organizing” tab on our site. Or, you can start with this post, and click to other posts linked from it.

* This is about Democrats; you can generalize to other parties

** You can also become a member if there’s a Vacancy, which opens up when someone leaves (by choice, moving, death…) — being appointed to a vacancy requires your being Known to the existing committee members, usually meaning, you show up to meetings, help out, pay dues (for associate membership) and work on campaigns. 

*** NB: you do not have to be a full, elected Member to participate in Party activities (at any level, including the Town level). And, anyone can be an “Associate Member” of the town/ward committee.

The distinction between Associate and Member is about privileges of voting on matters before the Committee. Typically, in Needham, no distinction between Associate and Full member for votes during meetings. However, if there were a contentious matter or matter of leadership that required votes, it is conceivable that decision-making via votes would be limited to Full Members. This is conjecture. 

**** The Needham Town Committee’s executive board (Pres, VP, Treas, Sec…) typically puts together the slate, taking input from other members and the community.

In deciding who to put on the slate, the Board looks for people who have been involved in campaigns, attended town committee meetings, participated in caucuses and conventions, etc. Being involved is step one. Being involved in such a way that the Exec. Committee notices is crucial step 2. (There have been many grassroots vols on campaigns who work very hard for Dem candidates, national and local, but because they don’t attend the DTC meetings — whether because they don’t know what it is/when it is or because they choose not to — they won’t be on the Board’s radar). 


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