Minnesota caucuses lose big magnet, but key business remains

Published 7:01 am Saturday, February 22, 2020

ST. PAUL — Minnesota’s precinct caucuses are likely to be less raucous this year — and less crowded than in the past. That’s because the state has shifted its presidential preference process away from caucuses and into a primary election that’s part of Super Tuesday next month.

But Democrats and Republicans say important business will still happen at the neighborhood meetups across the state on Tuesday evening. Participants can help shape platforms and elect delegates and alternates to future conventions that will endorse candidates in the state’s U.S. Senate, congressional and legislative races. Sometimes candidates drop by.

The easiest way for voters to find the locations for their caucuses is via the secretary of state’s website at caucusfinder.sos.state.mn.us. The caucuses all start at 7 p.m.

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The caucuses offer a chance for residents to become involved in the political process at the grassroots level, party leaders say. Resolutions that get passed up the chain from the caucuses can become part of the parties’ platforms. Even political novices can become delegates or alternates to the next level of conventions.

Caucuses are also important to the parties’ organizing efforts for the 2020 elections. They use them to recruit volunteers and compile lists that they can use for fundraising and get-out-the-vote drives.

Minnesota’s two big parties decided to switch to primaries after the 2016 caucuses, which were marred by long lines, confusion and ballot shortages after the presidential race drew huge crowds. Minnesota’s winners were Democrat Bernie Sanders and Republican Marco Rubio.

Even with the change, Becky Alery, executive director of the Minnesota GOP, said caucuses are still “a really important part of our party process, where some of our most dedicated volunteers and supporters show up. … Starting at the most basic precinct level is a great place for people to get involved, make their voices heard in their communities.”

And they can be social events, too.

“Since caucuses happen at the local level, they are a tremendous opportunity for Minnesotans to get to know like-minded neighbors, make new friends, and build deeper connections with their communities,” said Ken Martin, state chairman of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party.

And it won’t just be Republicans and Democrats who caucus on Tuesday night. Two other parties with major-party status in Minnesota will each hold statewide meetings. The Legal Marijuana Now Party will meet at the Brookdale Library in Brooklyn Center, while the Grassroots-Legalize Marijuana Now party will gather at the Ridgedale Library in Minnetonka.