Cheat sheet: MN Caucuses demystified
Seven (7) easy steps, including prep:
Participation is the key to the success of democracy. Caucusing is a little more time-consuming than plain old primaries (usually) but you probably won’t need more than a couple hours, or even less.
Here’s an explanation of the Minnesota Caucus process, in 7 easy steps, with two sample resolutions you can offer to help steer your party to be more “labor friendly.” That’s what caucuses allow, the chance to influence the party’s platform – for either major party the process is pretty much the same, but if you want to caucus with the Greens party or the Independence party their procedures may vary.
Caucuses are run by volunteers, using the tried and true Robert’s Rules of Order and adopting any other rules they need as the process requires. It’s typical that you’ll be given a chance to donate at least once, if not more, but again this is all a voluntary exercise.
Here’s what you need to know and do:
- Find your “house district” and precinct name/number, as well as the specific location for your February 7th caucus by following those the link to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website: caucusfinder.sos.state.mn.us (you may want to jot down your precinct name for reference.)
- Show up. Seriously, that’s the most important thing. Talk to your neighbors before and after you sign in at 6:30.
- The caucus should convene at 7 promptly, and as things get going don’t be shy about asking questions – everybody is a volunteer, and often half the people in any given precinct are there for the first time.
- In your precinct there will be somebody who convenes the meeting, and the first order of business is to elect somebody to actually run the caucus – it may or may not be the convener. Then there will usually be some precinct organizing done, such as electing a “precinct chair” who will be active for the coming 2-year cycle (or longer.) This is also the time and place to submit resolution such as we’ve attached below to influence your party’s official platform – the most powerful part of caucuses.
- Elect delegates – the number varies, but they will represent your precinct at the conventions that follow, from the Senate District level right up to the National.
- There are often straw polls or preference ballots. This year, for instance, there are many candidates vying for the GOP nomination, and yet even the DFL will conduct a Presidential ballot where the alternative to the President Obama would be to vote “uncommitted.” Note: if you’re in a hurry, you may typically vote early in those polls and leave depending on the rules.
- Adjourn. If you’ve stayed to the end it’s a formal step, but you can always leave whenever you need to, the entire process is voluntary.
Resolutions often start with “Whereas…”
Whereas is a way to introduce a reason, or a series of reasons, supporting the action item. They’re a form of persuasion, or logical argument, but they’re actually not necessary; the whereas parts let somebody make the case.
You basically fill in the form and present it to your precinct caucus chair (or some other volunteer) the particular rules and procedures for adopting them will be made clear by your caucus chairperson, but you can start filling out the form at any time.
Considering the two below, you could skip right down to the “Be it resolved…” bit, or you can list some or all of the reasons (whereas) or include your own supporting logic. For instance, you can keep it as simple as “Be it resolved that Voter ID requirements remain unchanged,” Of course, you can lead in with something to the effect of “Whereas voter fraud is virtually non-existent, and changes requiring photo ID would both disenfranchise senior citizens and cost the state a substantial amount of money…” Either is perfectly acceptable, the whereas clauses are an education for the listener/reader.
If you’re at a DFL caucus be sure to change the party name – but since the DFL already supports these two principles in general terms it would be more productive to offer resolutions regarding other priorities, such as taxes, education, etc.