You’ve probably heard a lot this year about Minnesota’s first ever Presidential Primary.
But all 134 Minnesota State Representatives, 67 Minnesota Senators, 8 U.S. Representatives, plus one of our U.S. Senators are up for election this year too. And we pick the nominees through caucuses and conventions.
Both the Democratic Farmer Labor and Republican parties will endorse candidates for these seats through caucuses, which will be held on February 25th.
Caucuses are also the first step in electing delegates to the national conventions for the Democratic and Republican Parties.
We know caucuses can be intimidating if you’ve never been – they certainly were for me – but they are the foundation of our parties here in Minnesota.
Keep reading and we’ll tell you what to expect on caucus night.
Let’s Start with Some Basics
Caucuses are run by Minnesota’s political parties and each party has some differences when it comes to caucusing. However, the basic structure is the same.
- What is a caucus? Basically, it’s a meeting of neighbors. You get together at a school or community meeting center with people who live in the same part of town as you and figure out which candidates you want to see on the ballot and what your party stands for.
- Where do they happen? The state DFL and Republican parties choose locations for your caucus. They are often held at a local school or other civic institution. Check the DFL and Republican Party websites for more information.
- What time does my caucus start? 7:00 p.m.
- What happens at a caucus? You will vote on your party’s platform and vote for local party officials. And you’ll elect delegates to represent you at party conventions where candidate endorsements happen.
- Huh? This is going to require a slightly longer answer…
Caucuses -> Conventions -> More Conventions
At your caucus, you will get to elect delegates to go on to your Senate District or County Convention. (Counties with bigger populations use Senate Districts as their organizing units. Counties with smaller populations use the entire county.) Delegates are either pledged to a specific candidate, committed to an issue, or undecided. Anyone who is eligible to vote in the November election can run to be a delegate.
At your Senate District or County Convention two things happen: 1) delegates endorse candidates for Minnesota House of Representatives and Senate and 2) delegates elect more delegates to their Congressional District Convention.
The Congressional District Convention is where candidates for U.S. House of Representatives are endorsed by delegates. Delegates then elect more delegates to the State Convention where U.S. Senate candidates are endorsed and delegates to the national convention are elected.
Minnesota sends 92 delegates to the National Democratic convention, of which 75 are pledged based on the results of the state primary to candidates who win at least 15% of the vote in the primary. For the Republican Primary, Minnesota sends 39 delegates.
The Democratic National Convention will be held in Milwaukee from July 13 – 16. The Republican National Convention will be in Charlotte from August 24 – 27.
A Couple Other Things
Can’t attend your caucus? You can fill out a non-attendee form for the DFL caucuses and be considered for election as a delegate.
Schools and government agencies are not allowed to conduct business after 6:00 p.m. on caucus night. And your employer has to allow you to attend your caucuses if you requested the time off in advance.
Caucuses have traditionally been closed and confusing. One way to change that is to learn about the process. Show up to your caucus. And demand change. We know that together, we can build a more democratic state and country, but the first step is showing up.
See you at caucuses on February 25th!