MN Precinct Caucuses: No Longer a Presidential Primary, but Still Happening

So heyyyyyyyyyyyy, my fellow Minnesotans, as you (hopefully) know, this year we have a PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY (which I will write about shortly) THAT IS HAPPENING AS AN ACTUAL ELECTION ON MARCH 3RD. I am VERY MUCH looking forward to casting a ballot for my preferred Democrat at my usual polling place, it’s going to be so great.

But! Caucuses are still happening, and you can still go. They’re happening on February 25th, and you can find the location of yours via the Secretary of State caucus finder page. Note that the Republican and Democratic caucuses take place on the same night but (usually) in very different locations. Do not go to the Republican caucus and then look around for the DFL caucus; you will not find it.

Caucuses are basically the grassroots-level party meeting for the political parties. Things you can do at a DFL caucus (I think you can also do most of these at a GOP caucus but I’ve never gone):

  • You can introduce a resolution, which is forwarded up the chain and used to write and revise the state party platform.
  • You can often meet elected officials and candidates, and hear them speak.
  • You can often sign up to hold office within your local party unit. (In theory you “run” for these jobs but in practice you usually “raise your hand when they ask who’s interested.”)
  • You can often sign up to be a delegate to your Senate District convention, where you’ll have the opportunity to endorse candidates for State House and State Senate, and elect delegates to go to the State DFL convention (and, ultimately, the Democratic National convention).

In my opinion, it’s the opportunity to be a delegate to your Senate District convention that is the main reason to go — at least if there’s an open seat, or a challenger. The DFL endorsement has historically been extremely powerful in legislative races, and it’s the Senate District conventions where these endorsements are given or denied.

There are a lot of reasons to dislike this system. But if you have the time and wherewithal to go to your Senate District convention, it’ll be you with the outsized piece of political influence. Which might be an improvement. Or you could go and do your best to block endorsement; that’s also an option. (Here’s my Beginner’s Guide to Senate District Conventions, for those who need it.)

There are a number of vacancies this year, as well as incumbents with challengers. (Here’s a handy article from MinnPost with a list of who they know is running.) Below, you will find my best attempt at a guide to whether your Senate District convention (which also includes the conventions for your State House district, as a convention-within-the-convention) is likely to be worth attending.

A COUPLE OF IMPORTANT NOTES.

  1. I based my “is this person opposed?” mostly on that MinnPost article. For any open seat, expect additional people to join the race.
  2. If you become a delegate and the endorsement is contested, you will be contacted by everyone running. They will all either call you or show up at your house to knock on your door, or both. Some people find this intrusive. I really like it: it means I get to chat with the actual candidates and ask them all my questions. But mileage varies here.
  3. I do not write up races prior to endorsement. You’ll have to do your own research. Which should be easy enough because the candidates will literally be knocking on your doors. Ask them your questions!

  4. If you want to go to your Senate District convention and can’t make it to your caucus, you can send in a form asking to be made a delegate in absentia. There’s a decent chance you’ll at least get to be an alternate.

Of course, the Senate District convention is basically an all-day event, and are you even available? I have included dates and location information. (Many thanks to the person who sent me the spreadsheet after I complained on Twitter about this information not being available.)

Senate District 59
Senator Bobby Joe Champion
59A Rep Fue Lee
59B Rep Raymond Dehn

Is anyone here being challenged? Yes, Bobby Joe Champion is being challenged by Suleiman Isse, and Raymond Dehn is being challenged by Esther Agbaje and Isaiah Whitmore.

When is the SD 59 convention? March 28th, convening at 9:30 a.m., North Community High School (Jacobi Gym).

Senate District 60
Senator Kari Dziedzic
60A Rep Sydney Jordan
60B Rep Mohamud Noor

Is anyone here being challenged? Given that Sydney was elected last month after an 11-person special primary, it seems really likely that she’ll be challenged, but no one’s listed in the MinnPost article.

When is the SD 60 convention? April 18, convening at 9 a.m., Edison High School.

Senate District 61
Senator Scott Dibble
61A Rep Frank Hornstein
61B Rep Jamie Long

Is anyone here being challenged? If so, I found no information about challengers when I looked.

When is the SD 61 convention? March 21st, at Washburn High School.

Senate District 62
Senator Jeff Hayden
62A Rep Hodan Hassan
62B Rep Aisha Gomez

Is anyone here being challenged? Yes, Jeff Hayden is being challenged by Omar Fateh.

When is the SD 62 convention? March 28th, 9 a.m., at South High School.

Senate District 63
Senator Patricia Torres Ray
63A Rep Jim Davnie
63B Rep Jean Wagenius

Is anyone here being challenged? Jean Wagenius is not running again, and there are at least five people running for her seat: Husniyah Dent Bradley, Jerome Evans, Eric Ferguson, Emma Greenman, and Tyler Moroles.

When is the Senate District Convention? April 19th, 11 a.m., Sanford Middle School.

Senate District 64
Senator Dick Cohen
64A Rep Kaohly Her
64B Rep Dave Pinto

Is anyone here being challenged? After being challenged by Erin Murphy, Dick Cohen decided not to run again. At the moment, she appears to be the only person running for the seat, and possibly no one who might be interested is going to bother challenging her for the endorsement.

When is the Senate District convention? March 15th, 1 p.m., Central High School.

Senate District 65
Senator Sandy Pappas
65A Rep Rena Moran
65B Rep Carlos Mariani

Is anyone here being challenged? Not according to the MinnPost article.

When is the Senate District convention? March 14th, 10 a.m., St. Paul Central High.

Senate District 66
Senator John Marty
66A Rep Alice Hausman
66B Rep John Lesch

Is anyone here being challenged? Yes. In 66A, Alice Hausman is being challenged by Cari Ness and Tanner Sunderman. In 66B, John Lesch is being challenged by Athena Hollins.

When is the Senate District convention? Saturday, April 11th, 9 a.m., at Washington Tech high school.

Senate District 67
Senator Foung Hawj
67A Rep Tim Mahoney
67B Rep Jay Xiong

Is anyone here being challenged? Tim Mahoney is not running again. Hoang Murphy and John Thompson are running for his seat.

When is the Senate District convention? March 28th, 9:30 a.m., Harding High School.

 

 

 

 

Caucuses are terrible.

Of all the weird things I would have predicted for 2017, “caucuses are awesome and we should switch to them!” as a national movement would not have been on the list. I feel pretty confident in asserting that the bulk of the people currently agitating for caucuses are doing so 100% because their preferred candidate did better in caucus states, and not because they live in a caucus state.

Minnesota has caucuses. I’ve been going to them for years. THEY ARE TERRIBLE.

Let’s assume just as a baseline that you love going to meetings. (Because that’s what caucuses are: meetings.) Do you love enormous, overcrowded meetings where you can’t hear and have only a vague idea of what’s going on? What if the room is too warm because there are about five times as many people in it as are supposed to be in it?

Do you like having to park a mile away and walk the rest of the way to your meeting? Do you like having to stand outside in a long line just to get into the building, which turns out to be people just trying to look at maps to determine which meeting they’re supposed to go to, and once you’ve done that, would you like to stand in yet ANOTHER line to get into your specific room, where you’ll then have to stand because they ran out of chairs?

Do you love it when the people running things are inexperienced volunteers who have held meetings before, but they were the sort of meeting that only 15 people came to, and now there are people spilling out of every doorway? (No one ever gets good at running these because presidential caucuses happen every 4 years. And if there’s a Democratic incumbent they’re pretty much a formality.)

Because, I mean, if you’re a fan of all this — even if your state doesn’t hold caucuses for the presidential race, they probably do hold party meetings of some kind and you could still go. (The horrible traffic snarls and parking hassles might be harder to arrange, but you could simulate them by driving very slowly to your destination and parking a mile away and walking, if that’s an important part of the experience for you.)

Minnesotans have done caucuses basically forever and we are so fed up with them that we passed a law this spring switching to a primary for 2020. It passed with overwhelming majorities in both houses of the legislature, because after the 2016 caucuses, legislators were inundated with irate phone calls and e-mails from constituents saying, “THIS SYSTEM IS TERRIBLE. WE WANT A PRIMARY.”

In 2016, Minnesota had 204,000 Democrats show up to caucus, and 114,245 Republicans. In Wisconsin, which has a similar population and general voting turnout, they held a primary a month later. 1,000,000 people cast a Democratic ballot, and 1,000,000 cast a Republican ballot.

Caucuses suppress turnout. (That’s obvious to everyone, I hope?)

But more than that: caucuses rely on suppressed turnout.

Because two million Minnesotan cannot caucus.

As it was, on March 1, 2016, traffic backed up more than a mile on Snelling Ave an hour before the caucus was convened because people were trying to get to the site. A bunch of my friends in Minneapolis stood in line for an hour before they were even able to get into the building. If you multiplied the number of people attending by five, it would completely shut down Minneapolis and St. Paul.

When your system relies on people not showing up, it’s not a functional system.

(Finally, regarding the claim that they’re cheaper: in Minnesota, the parties had to cover the cost of the caucuses, so yes, they were cheaper for the state. You know what? If you put every precinct in a ward in one location, and reduce voting hours from 13 hours to 1.5, that’ll be cheaper. You know what we call it when it happens in a general election? VOTER SUPPRESSION.)

For more on caucuses, please see the series of posts I wrote last year, doing my part to explain this somewhat mysterious system to novice users:

Do you want to be in the room where it happens?
How to find your caucus location.

Minnesota Caucuses: The Basics
Location and time, who can caucus, how the presidential preference ballot works (new in 2016: it was actually binding on both parties), accessibility, obstacles.

Minnesota Caucuses: What Actually Happens
Signing in, parliamentary procedure, resolutions, guest speakers, recruitment, delegates, counting the ballots.

Minnesota Caucuses: FAQ
How to minimize the time spent at your caucus if all you want to do is cast a goddamn ballot; just how does the whole “party” thing work anyway; what does it mean if it’s a mess and everything goes wrong; CAUCUSES ARE TERRIBLE, HOW DO I DEMAND A PRIMARY LIKE NORMAL STATES HAVE?