What to expect at precinct caucuses
Minnesota will hold political caucuses on March 1. I hope you will attend and participate in the political process. Attending caucus is one of the best ways to learn about candidates, raise important issues, influence party endorsements and meet neighbors who share your values. As Sen. Paul Wellstone often remarked, "The future will not belong to those who sit on the sidelines."
Minnesota does not have a presidential primary. Instead, Minnesota is a caucus state. That means in order to cast your preferential ballot for president, you need to show up at your party's caucus. This will also give you the opportunity to put forward resolutions for your political party to consider at their next convention, become a delegate for the endorsing conventions and have a say in your party's future.
Convention delegates vote to endorse candidates for local and state elections and have the opportunity to run and vote for party offices and to become delegates to the state and, from there, national conventions, where they will have a role in endorsing candidates for federal office, including the presidency. Locally, delegates may have the chance to endorse in the following races: Minnesota state representatives and senators and county commissioners. (I am running for reelection in State House District 7A and will once again seek the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party endorsement.)
You must be eligible to vote in the November general election and live in the precinct to participate in your caucus. This means that if you turn 18 by the time of the November election, but not in time for your party's caucus, you can still be a voting member of the caucus and seek to be a delegate to every convention level. If you are unable to join your neighbors on March 1, you may submit resolutions and/or a form for absentee participation in order to stand as a delegate for the upcoming convention. Each party has different rules and information can be found on your political party's website.
The first step is to attend your precinct caucus. You can find your caucus location by visiting the Minnesota Secretary of State website. Caucus registration and presidential preference balloting begin at 6:30 p.m. The precinct caucus will officially begin at 7 p.m. The precinct will begin by electing individuals who will then run the caucus. Other party positions will then be voted on. All of these offices are volunteer positions, and any eligible voter can occupy them. Senate district convention delegates and alternates will be elected and resolutions will be considered. Finally, a tally of the preference ballot results will be announced. (This is a typical order of events. Your precinct may elect to choose any order of business it sees fit, with the exception of the presidential preference ballot at the beginning.)
Throughout the evening, local candidates may be visiting some precincts giving short speeches. Based on my experience, this is an exhausting evening for candidates, as I visited 14 precinct caucuses over the span of one hour. If you become a delegate you'll be able to have longer visits with candidates at the local convention. If you arrive early to your caucus, you may also have time to chat with candidates.
Expect to see plenty of signs and be offered campaign stickers and literature from volunteers.
Many of your neighbors will know the caucus rules and be able to answer your questions, so don't worry about what to do. Because it's a presidential year with no incumbent on the ballot, both parties are ready for large turnouts and are prepared to make new caucus-goers feel welcome. You should relax, chat with your neighbors, and enjoy the process. The most important rule is simply to be respectful and civil.
If you live in east Duluth (District 7A) and caucus with the DFL Party, I look forward to seeing you at East High School or at Historic Old Central High School. I hope to meet many new people who are caucusing for the first time. Feel free to say hello: I'll have stickers!
Rep. Jennifer Schultz DFL-Duluth represents District 7A in the Minnesota House. She can be reached (651) 296-2228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.