Insights from Denton County Democratic Party Chair Delia Parker-Mims on Building Local Infrastructure and Engaging Voters in Texas
In the 2022 Texas election, only 11 out of 254 counties saw an increase in their Democratic votes from the previous year, while the remaining 242 saw a decrease. This led to questions about what made those 11 counties unique in their approach to engagement and voter turnout.
Recently, I spoke with Delia Parker-Mims, Chair of the Denton County Democratic Party, about the need to build a party infrastructure without a historical framework. Her team emphasized training and building local infrastructure to engage with voters rather than flipping them. According to Parker-Mims, the key to their success was the grassroots approach.
In Texas, voter suppression often manifests as apathy.
Parker-Mims spoke about how her team focused on engaging voters on specific issues rather than simply telling them to vote. For example, they emphasized expanding Medicaid and explained how it would help their communities. Parker-Mims also spoke about the importance of understanding the roles and responsibilities of candidates and party organizations. For example, it is the job of candidates to run their campaigns, while it is the job of the Denton County Democratic Party to get out the vote.
When it came time for the election, the Denton County Democratic Party paid block walkers and precinct chairs to knock on doors, which Parker-Mims believes made a significant difference in voter turnout. The party also emphasized call time and presentations to donors to ensure they had the necessary resources to engage with voters. Parker-Mims expressed a desire to train other county chairs on her team’s successful approach to voter engagement to help build a more substantial infrastructure statewide.
The Denton County Democratic Party declared 2023 the “year of engagement” to emphasize the importance of continued engagement efforts even in non-election years.
Parker-Mims stressed the need to fill every precinct chair opening and to engage with the grassroots level to create a sustained effort toward voter turnout. The party holds monthly community drives and teaches precinct chairs to engage locally without flipping voters.
Her final piece of advice was to emphasize consistent organizing efforts statewide. She believes that organizing is the key to unlocking progressive growth in voter turnout, and the state party should prioritize teaching counties how to organize effectively.
The success of the 11 Texas counties in increasing their Democratic votes in the 2022 election can be attributed to a grassroots approach to engagement and voter turnout. Delia Parker-Mims and her team’s emphasis on building a party infrastructure, training, and community engagement were the key factors in their success. By focusing on specific issues and teaching precinct chairs to engage locally without flipping voters, the Denton County Democratic Party increased voter turnout and sustained efforts toward voter engagement.
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