It’s time to caucus

Silhouettes of people at political protest

Super Tuesday will help shape the presidential candidate field

by Seth Rowe

Minnesotans will help determine who becomes the nominee for president of the United States on Super Tuesday, March 1.

Precinct caucuses for the Republican Party and DFL Party, which is aligned with the national Democratic Party, will begin 7 p.m. at sites throughout the state.

The chairs of each party said they are expecting a large turnout. DFL Party Chair Ken Martin advised people caucusing for his party to register at their local caucuses at 6:30 p.m. while Keith Downey, chair of the Republican Party of Minnesota, said his party is encouraging people to arrive by 6 p.m. or 6:30 p.m. to ensure time to register and find seats.

Caucuses entail the election of local party officers and the proposal of resolutions for the party platform, but the first order of business will be the presidential preference ballot.

This year, the results will be binding for both parties, meaning that the delegates selected must agree to vote based upon the results of the choices of caucus attendees.

Martin said the DFL party’s presidential preference ballot has been binding for years. However, the rule is new for the Republican Party, Downey said.

“In past years, we held the straw poll vote, but it was not proscriptive in terms of how many delegates the candidates would get,” Downey explained. “The delegates were actually chosen later in the spring with the district and state

The rules changed after the 2012 presidential year, in which states sought to “leapfrog” each other to become the earliest to vote for president, thus threatening to establish a “national primary” in which a candidate was essentially chosen in the January of an election year, Downey said.

The Republican Party decided to establish some rules regarding the schedule.

The party also decided to require the states that chose to hold an event in March to allocate their delegates proportionally, according to the vote of attendees. The delegates selected according to the percentage of votes a candidate receives must support the candidates they said they would support, unless the candidate drops out of the race or a candidate is not chosen at the national party convention on the first ballot.

“The result of those rule changes would keep it open to more than one candidate and not simply favor the candidate with the most money and highest name identification,” Downey said.

The Republican Party of Minnesota leaders will be assigned to vote for candidates at the national convention based on the proportion of the votes the candidates receive in the presidential preference ballot statewide under the new rules, he added.

On the Democratic Party side, most delegates will also be assigned according to the proportion of votes their candidates receive. However, superdelegates will be free to vote for whomever they like at the party’s national convention. In Minnesota, the superdelegates include Gov. Mark Dayton, DFL members of Congress and the U.S. Senate, the state party chair, vice chair, other Democratic National Convention members and “Distinguished Party Leader” Walter Mondale.

Each party will select delegates based on the percentage of votes for each candidate by congressional district. They will also select some delegates based on the percentage of votes for each candidate statewide.

Downey noted that in past years many Republican caucus attendees mistakenly thought their votes in the presidential straw poll determined the national delegates from Minnesota.

“Now it’s actually true,” he said.

Turnout expectations

Both state party leaders anticipate the robust debates this year will help prompt a strong voter turnout.

“There’s a lot of excitement for both Secretary Clinton and Sen. Sanders in our party,” Martin said. “We expect there to be near-record turnout on Tuesday, March 1. The race around the country right now is very tight.”

For Democrats, Minnesota is the second largest state after Washington to hold a caucus and is therefore a large prize, Martin said.

As for Republicans, Downey said, “The energy and excitement that we have seen in the states that have had their primary and caucus events so far indicate that we will have a lot of turnout. It’s a very close race and one where Minnesota gets a chance to be a part of the Super Tuesday states that could very well swing the nomination one way or another. People are excited to have the caucuses be relevant in Minnesota, so we’re anticipating a big night.”

In some years, Minnesota has been an island regarding the timing of its caucuses, Downey said. He and Martin met together about a year ago to work out an agreement to hold this year’s caucuses March 1.

“Lo and behold, it ended up being great for a lot of the other states’ calendars, too, because there’s 12 of us going on March 1,” Downey said.

Many of the other states will conduct primaries, a system similar to a general election, but Minnesota leaders have supported maintaining the caucus system in the state. Both major parties support caucuses because they allow ordinary people to have a say not only in the selection of candidates, but also in the election of officers and the party platform, according to Martin.

“Primaries tend to support those candidates who have the most money and run a lot of glitzy commercials and send out a lot of mailers, but in a caucus system it’s much more grassroots,” Martin said.

He added that the caucuses allow neighbors to gather together to debate issues of concern to their communities.

Downey said, “Minnesota’s caucus system provides an opportunity that most states do not have to show up at a precinct caucus room and have a direct say in who will actually nominate those candidates from each of the political parties.

On Super Tuesday, we’re right in the heart of one of the most exciting nights in determining who those candidates are.”

Each of the party chairs said they have instructed people organizing the caucuses on the local level to prepare for big crowds.

“I’ve said it’s better to be safe than sorry,” Martin said. “You never know how many people will show up.”

Downey said he told precinct organizers to assume a turnout one-and-a-half to two times higher than the record. He noted he had heard stories from a past caucus in which people could not get into the parking lot.

“We’re hoping to avoid that,” Downey said.

Caucus attendees will receive ballots with which to select their choice for the party’s presidential nominee. They may stay to participate in the rest of the party business but are not required to do so.

The ballot process will end at 8 p.m. for each of the parties.

“You can’t show up at 8:15 and expect to be able to vote,” Downey stressed. “Get there early.”

Anyone who is eligible to vote by this year’s November general election may participate.

Each person is limited to attending the caucus in his or her precinct. They must sign a statement that includes an address within the precinct and state that they generally agree with the principles of the party hosting the caucus.

“Our vote is our voice, and I encourage all Minnesotans to go out and caucus on March 1st and make their voices heard,” Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon said. This is an important election year in Minnesota.”

Some minor parties are also planning caucuses.

Information about the Independence Party of Minnesota is at The Libertarian Party of Minnesota lists caucus details on its website, The Green Party of Minnesota lists its caucuses at


Where do you caucus?


Independence – Independence City Center, 1920 County Road 90
Long Lake – Orono Middle School, 800 North Old Crystal Bay Road
Orono – Orono Middle School, 800 North Old Crystal Bay Road
Maple Plain – Maple Plain City Hall, 5050 Independence Street
Minnetonka Beach
– Minnetonka Beach City Hall, 2945 Westwood Road
Minnetrista –
Mound Westonka High School, 5905 Sunnyfield Road East
Mound – Mound Westonka High School, 5905 Sunnyfield Road East
Spring Park – Spring Park City Hall, 4349 Warren Avenue
St. Bonifacius – St. Boniface School, 8801 Wildwood Avenue

Independence – Orono High School, 795 Crystal Bay Road
Long Lake – Orono High School, 795 Crystal Bay Road
Maple Plain – Orono High School, 795 Crystal Bay Road
Minnetonka Beach – Grandview Middle School, 1881 Commerce Blvd.
Minnetrista – Grandview Middle School, 1881 Commerce Blvd.
Mound – Grandview Middle School, 1881 Commerce Blvd.
Spring Park – Grandview Middle School, 1881 Commerce Blvd.
St. Bonifacius – Grandview Middle School, 1881 Commerce Blvd.
Orono – Orono High School, 795 Crystal Bay Road

Area residents can also find their caucus location by visiting the Minnesota
Secretary of State’s website: