The presidential caucuses in Minnesota are scheduled for the first of March, the famed Super Tuesday in politics, which is the date that eight other states will hold primaries and caucuses for the Democratic, Republican, and Independent parties. These events will determine who is sent as delegates to their own respective national conventions, which, in turn, will determine who will be selected as the presidential candidates.
Getting involved with the caucus process is fairly simple. You must be eligible to vote in the 2016 elections, live in the precinct in which you intend to caucus, and plan to vote for the party for which you choose to caucus. This is done to ensure that candidates that are selected truly have support within the party or people who identify as party members. Another reason is to ensure that members of another political party do not try to influence the opponent’s delegates, at the same time, independent voters retain their enfranchisement.
At the caucus, the first thing that is done is a simple sign-in type of registration. This is to provide contact information for the members of the political party to use in the future. You do not need to register in the party to caucus, this is called an open caucus. Closed caucuses require people to register for the party for which they are caucusing and are common in other states. Following that, a meeting begins where proposed resolutions to the party’s by-laws and platforms are discussed. The people in attendance vote on each issue proposed.
After the party resolutions are decided, the party breaks into groups to discuss the platforms of each presidential candidate. The discussions then lead to straw polls. The delegates are then chosen. The system is similar to the Electoral College for the general election. The difference is every delegate does not vote for the same candidate. A system like that would be called a primary election, which is also used in other states. Those elections are also referred to as winner-take-all. The delegates then are sent to the state convention. The delegates sent are obligated to give support to the presidential candidates that their precinct decided upon in a proportional manner.
These delegates that have been chosen then choose delegates at the state level. The state delegates then go to the national convention to discuss the party’s platform and business on a broader, national, level. The caucus system was meant to be more of a grass-roots type of campaign—a direct representative democracy rather than a purer democracy that is practiced in primary states. Supporters of the system credit it with providing more political discourse while opponents deter from the system on the grounds of party divisions. The decisions of the voters at local level carry up the chain to the state and national conventions.
The caucuses and primaries are a key part of the American democratic process. The meetings determine what candidates will be endorsed nationally, and how the party organizes itself on the local, state, and national levels. If the process interests you do not be afraid to contact your state’s election board or political parties.