Minnesota Caucuses and Primaries: What You Need to Know
The Minnesota Caucuses will be held February 25 and the Presidential Primary will be on March 3, also known as Super Tuesday. Understanding the process and the impact of these elections is important, and for many, it may be their first time participating.
Matt McNeil, progressive radio host on AM950 Radio’s The Matt McNeil Show, recently sat down with Secretary of State Steve Simon to help bring clarity to the political process.
Precinct caucuses are meetings run by Minnesota’s political parties to determine who will be on the ballots in most elections, except president of the United States. This change is a result of the overwhelming turnout at the caucuses for the 2016 elections. It was then decided that there would be a presidential primary system, or real election, to allocate delegates to the national conventions.
The precinct caucuses are the first in a series of meetings where parties can endorse candidates, select delegates and set goals and values, also known as the party platforms. Participating in a caucus is an excellent way to show support for a candidate, raise an issue that’s important to you, influence who the party will endorse for many offices, and connect with people in your community.
If you have an idea that you think should be in your party’s platform, either at the state or the national level, the caucus is the place to go. “You would be surprised of the really good and unique ideas that percolate upwards and finally end up in party platforms,” shares Simon. “This is what’s really gratifying to a lot of folks, and it’s not something you get from a straight up election. This is why a lot of people like the caucus system—it's grassroots democracy.”
To participate, you must be eligible to vote in the November 2020 general election and live in the precinct. You also must generally agree with the principles of the political party hosting the caucus.
In Minnesota, only the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and the Republican Party participate in the Presidential Primary. Each party has a separate ballot and the voter must request the ballot of the party of their choice. Any registered voter can participate at their normal polling place or by absentee ballot in the 46 days before presidential primary day. The presidential primary results must bind the election of delegates in each party.
“Let's say Candidate X in the democratic presidential primary gets 40 percent of the votes. That is now binding under state law,” explains Simon. “That means the Democratic Party must send, with some caveats, 40 percent of the delegates to the Democratic National Convention this summer committed to Candidate X. What caucuses will determine is who those delegates are.”