Attend your precinct caucus, Tuesday, February 6
From the Minneapolis Labor Review, January 26, 2018
By Steve Share, Labor Review editor
MINNEAPOLIS— Tuesday, February 6 is precinct caucus night in Minnesota for the state’s major political parties. Caucuses begin at 7:00 p.m. Registration begins at 6:30 p.m. To learn your caucus location, visit: caucusfinder.sos.state.mn.us.
Anyone who will be eligible to vote in the November 2018 election and lives in the precinct may attend and participate. The Minnesota Secretary of State’s website advises: “You also must generally agree with the principles of the political party hosting the caucus.”
Neighbors will gather in schools and churches and meeting halls across the state to discuss issues and candidates, vote on resolutions, and choose delegates who will go on to senate district conventions and ultimately the two major parties’ state conventions.
Both the DFL and Republican parties will conduct straw polls in the all-important race for governor.
The results of the straw poll may be significant, but the real business of precinct caucus night is picking delegates.
So, while it may be possible to show up at the caucus, cast a straw ballot for governor — and leave — you’ll be missing when it really counts: choosing delegates to your state senate district convention.
Becoming a delegate
Depending on your particular caucus, becoming a delegate may be as simple as volunteering or may involve an election, or may involve a process called “sub-caucusing.”
Prior to caucus night, each party will have determined how many delegates (and alternates) may be elected from each precinct caucus.
So if the precinct has been allotted 12 delegate spots, for example, and only 12 people volunteer to be delegates, all 12 volunteers may become delegates.
If the number of people interested in becoming delegates exceeds the number allotted, then the caucus may decide to elect delegates individually. Each candidate for a delegate spot might be asked to share a little about themselves, state which candidates they’re supporting, and discuss which issues matter most to them. Then the caucus-attendees will vote.
In this example, the top 12 vote-getters would become delegates, with the remainder named as alternates and ranked according to the number of votes they received.
If a large number of people want to become delegates, the caucus might choose to pick delegates through a system known as “sub-caucusing.” People nominate and name a sub-caucus, which might involve the names of candidates or issues. For example, a sub-caucus at a DFL precinct caucus might be named “Klobuchar and Smith for Senate, Uncommitted for Governor, Labor Issues.” After a number of sub-caucuses are nominated, people will get up and move around the room to join a particular sub-caucus.
In what’s admittedly a complex process, the precinct’s delegates will be allocated to the sub-caucuses according to the number of people in each sub-caucus.
Some sub-caucuses may not have enough people to be “viable” and receive any delegate slots; In this case, those sub-caucuses may merge with a like-minded sub-caucus. Or, another round of sub-caucusing may take place with the non-viable sub-caucuses dropped.
In any case, the old saying applies: the world is run by the people who show up.
Candidates for Governor, Attorney General, State Auditor, Secretary of State, U.S. Congress, and Minnesota House of Representatives will be working to turn out their supporters for precinct caucus night.
Even if you or your union have not committed yet to any particular candidate, you still can attend your precinct caucus, run for delegate, and have a strong say in the endorsement process later down the road.
Unions are encouraging members to attend their precinct caucuses and get elected as delegates. And don’t forget to wear your union t-shirts or buttons!
Passing resolutions is the other chief concern of precinct caucuses. These resolutions will go on to state senate district conventions and ultimately will help shape the two major parties’ 2018 platforms.
Introducing and discussing resolutions at precinct caucuses is also a good way to introduce party activists to issues that may be unfamiliar to them.
The Minnesota AFL-CIO and many of its affiliated unions will be developing sample resolutions for precinct caucus night.
For more information about sample resolutions, visit your union’s website or the Minnesota AFL-CIO website, mnaflcio.org.
To learn more about precinct caucuses, visit the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website: mnvotes.org.