On a typical primary election night, the most faithful members of the Republican and Democratic parties head back to the churches, schools and community centers where they cast their votes earlier in the day.There, in groups small or large, they lay the groundwork for the future of their political party.They pick delegates to move on to the next round of conventions and pass resolutions geared to shape their state party’s platform. But this year will be different. Republicans will still head back to the polls Tuesday night to participate in the precinct conventions, but Democrats will stay at home. This year, Democratic precinct conventions will be March 22, right before senate district conventions.“This is to make it easier on our voters,” Tarrant County Democratic Party Chairwoman Deborah Peoples said. “Many people said it was hard for them to make it back after 7 p.m. if they had already been there to vote. This is an effort to be more proactive and get people involved in the process.”Republicans say they aren’t moving their conventions.“We feel like it’s important to have it at those grassroots levels that night,” said Jennifer Hall, who heads the Tarrant County Republican Party.ConventionsLocal and state conventions are held every two years; national conventions every four years, for presidential elections. The next round of national conventions will be in 2016.At precinct conventions, delegates are chosen to move on to the senate district convention and any ideas that might be incorporated into the party platform are submitted.An often quiet step in the political process, these gatherings drew national attention to Texas in 2008 when Democrats wanting to weigh in on the historic presidential primary battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton showed up in such large numbers that they overwhelmed organizers.More than 20,000 Democrats attended local senatorial conventions that year, swamping decades-old systems and procedures.Such crowds haven’t been seen since.Normally, a very small percentage of the state’s population — perhaps 2 percent — attend these gatherings, said Tom Marshall, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Arlington.Republicans proceedFor Republicans, precinct conventions will begin at voting sites shortly after the polls close at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Delegates chosen there move on to the senatorial conventions, which will be March 22. And delegates chosen there will attend the party’s state convention in Fort Worth this summer and participate in a highly touted presidential straw poll.“We are seeing a big increase in people wanting to attend because the state convention is in Fort Worth this year,” Hall said.In Tarrant County, four senatorial conventions begin at 9 a.m. March 22:Senate District 9 will meet at Pantego Bible Church, 8001 Anderson Blvd. in Fort Worth; District 10 will gather at the Mansfield school district Center for Performing Arts, 1110 W. Debbie Lane in Mansfield; District 12 will meet at Birchman Baptist, 9100 N. Normandale in Fort Worth; and District 22 will gather at Beckham Elementary School, 1700 Southeast Pkwy in Arlington.Democratic delayDemocrats will begin their process March 22. They will choose delegates during precinct conventions to go to senate district conventions.Delegates chosen during the senatorial district conventions ultimately will attend the party’s state convention this summer in Dallas, listening to candidates make pitches as to why they should be elected and voting on the party platform.The precinct and senatorial conventions will be March 22 at the Tarrant County College South Campus Rotunda, 5301 Campus Drive in Fort Worth. Registration opens at 8 a.m., a general assembly will be at 9:30 a.m. and the convention will be called to order at 1 p.m. Those who want to participate may preregister online at http://register.txdemocrats.org.“We’ve been reaching out to let people know,” Peoples said.
Anna Tinsley, 817-390-7610 Twitter: @annatinsley