Democratic National Committee FAQ

What is the Democratic National Committee (DNC)?

The Democratic National Committee is the governing body of the Democratic Party, with general responsibility for the affairs of the Democratic Party between National Conventions. It was established in 1848 by the National Convention to “promote the Democratic cause” between the conventions and to prepare for the next convention. Over 150 years old, the DNC is the oldest continuing National Party committee in the U.S. and the world.

What is the difference between the DNC and the Democratic Party?

The Democratic Party was founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1792, and is one of the oldest political organizations in the world. Traditionally, the Democratic Party has been the Party of the people. Membership in the Party is open to anyone who is registered to vote as a Democrat or who generally votes for Democratic candidates or who identifies with the Democratic Party.

The Democratic National Committee is the organization that officially governs the Democratic Party on the national level. The DNC administers the affairs of the Party (such as the presidential nominating process) and supports Democratic candidates, legislation and elected officials.

What does the Democratic National Committee do?

The DNC plays an essential role in the Party’s affairs and elections. In very general terms, the functions of the National Committee include:

Planning the Party’s quadrennial presidential nominating convention, including setting guidelines for the selection of delegates, issuing the “Call” for the convention, determining the allocation of delegates to the states, and establishing the rules of procedure for the convention;

Conducting the Coordinated Campaign efforts to elect Democrats at the federal, state and local levels, and providing both technical and financial support to State Party organizations and federal, state and local candidates;

Formulating and disseminating Party policy statements and programs.

How does the DNC elect its Officers?

The officers of the Party are elected by the National Committee members. When a Democrat serves as President, the DNC traditionally defers to him or her for recommendations on individuals for Party office. When Democrats do not control the White House, individuals often campaign for the DNC offices. The next slate of officers will be elected at the DNC Meeting held February 23-26, 2017 in Atlanta, GA.

What other officers does the DNC elect?

Under the Party’s Charter and Bylaws, the DNC has nine officers. In addition to the Chair, the DNC has five Vice Chairs (including the Vice Chair for Civic Engagement and Voter Participation and President of the Association of State Democratic Chairs), a Treasurer, a Secretary, and a National Finance Chair.

What is the structure of the DNC?

The membership of the National Committee is composed of approximately 447 members  who fall into the following general categories:

  • State-elected Members: Most DNC members are elected by a Democratic Party process held in each state and territory. Two hundred members are apportioned among the states (including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico) based on population and Democratic voting strength – with each state receiving at least two members. (The allocations range from two members in a number of states to 19 in California.) Additional members are apportioned to American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Democrats Abroad.
  • State Chairs and Vice Chairs: Each State Party’s Chair and Vice Chair (technically, the Vice Chair position is filled by the highest ranking officer of the opposite sex of the Chair) are automatically recognized as DNC members.
  • Representatives of Democratic Elected Officials and Affiliated Organizations: The National Committee includes some Democratic officials from various levels of elected office. We have members selected by their peers to represent Democratic U.S. Senators, U.S. Representatives, Governors, Mayors, State Legislators, Municipal and County Officials, etc. We also have some representatives of Democratic organizations such as the College Democrats, Young Democrats, and National Federation of Democratic Women.
  • At-Large Members: To help ensure our Democratic constituencies have appropriate representation within the Party organization, the National Committee members elect an additional group of members (75) who serve in an “At-Large” capacity.
  • Note: Membership on the DNC among the state-elected members, the organizations and the At-large members is equally divided between men and women (or varies by no more than one). This is a principle that governs the composition of State Committees and all official bodies of the National Committee and the National Convention.
How are members of the Democratic National Committee selected?

Each state Democratic Party has its own rules for selecting its DNC members. Some members are elected on the ballot as part of the state’s Democratic primary, and in other states the members are elected by the State Democratic Committee or the State Convention.

Any Party activist who seeks to become a DNC member needs to know his or her state’s selection procedures (including any filing requirements). Often, he or she will need to campaign for the position by soliciting support from the individuals who will vote in the election.

How long is a DNC member’s term of office?

Democratic National Committee members from the states and territories are elected every four years during the presidential election year. They begin serving upon the adjournment of the National Convention, and serve until the adjournment of the next National Convention.

What is the role and responsibility of a DNC member?

DNC members are Party leaders and activists within their communities and at various levels of the Party. As such, they serve as an important liaison between the National Party, its constituencies, and state and local Democrats. Members attend and participate at DNC meetings and share their political expertise with the National organization and each other. They help the National Committee communicate its message to the public and keep the DNC attuned to the concerns of the voters. Members also play an important role in recruiting and training other Democratic activists to work on behalf of Democratic candidates and Democratic legislative proposals.

What is the National Committee’s relationship with State Democratic Parties?

The DNC provides technical assistance to the State and Territorial Parties, and helps raise money for their campaign operations. In addition, the National Committee offers training programs for State Party workers, along with training for Democratic candidates, campaign staff and other Party activists.

All state and territorial Democratic Party organizations are members of an organization called the Association of State Democratic Chairs (ASDC). This association works closely with the DNC. Its membership is composed of each state and territory’s Democratic Chair and Vice Chair, who also serve as DNC members. The President of the ASDC is, by virtue of the office, recognized as a Vice Chair of the National Committee.

How is business brought before the National Committee?

DNC members often make proposals on national issues, Party policies, and procedures. Before a matter is considered by the full membership, it is reviewed by one of the DNC’s standing committees. Each of the DNC’s standing committees have about 30 members who represent a cross-section of the membership of the full committee.  These committees report their recommendations on the matters before them to the full DNC, which in turn debates and votes on the recommendations.

  • The Resolutions Committee considers issue statements (“resolutions”) that are generally used to communicate the Party’s message, reinforce a Platform position, and/or emphasize a distinction between Democrats and Republicans.
  • The Rules and Bylaws Committee considers proposals related to the National Party rules.
  • The Credentials Committee is responsible for hearing disputes about the credentials of National Committee members, and making a recommendation about whom the DNC should seat.
  • The Budget and Finance Committee reviews the budget of the DNC and provides an annual report to the Executive Committee
  • The Executive Committee, in addition to the standing committees, may, under certain conditions, propose matters directly to the National Committee. There are about 60 members on this committee, including the Party’s officers, representatives of the four regional caucuses of DNC members, and representatives of some Democratic affiliated organizations, elected officials, and constituencies.
What is the Charter and Bylaws?

Essentially, the Charter and Bylaws is the constitution of the Democratic Party. It outlines the structure of the Party organization, and the relationship among the National Convention, the National Committee, and other Party organizations or operations.

How can someone find out more about the Democratic Party, or how to contact their State Party?

The DNC’s website at www.democrats.org contains a wealth of information about the Democratic Party, the DNC, the National Convention, State Parties, and current issues.

Official Website of the Democratic Party