ST. PAUL -- From a presidential primary for the first time in decades to intense local battles for seats in the state Legislature, Minnesota has just turned the calendar to the start of what promises to be a really big election year.
The political schedule starts Jan. 17 with early voting in Minnesota’s presidential primary, which will be held on March 3, or “Super Tuesday,” when voters in 14 states cast ballots or attend caucuses. The political fireworks will continue through Election Day, Nov. 3.
Minnesota is poised to attract attention as a Super Tuesday state. Presidential candidates started making campaign stops across the state in 2019, and more are likely to flock to the state in the next two months.
Minnesota’s own U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar will be a home-state favorite in the Democratic presidential field, but other candidates have made it clear they won’t concede the state to her without a fight.
Because President Donald Trump is the incumbent, much of the attention will focus on the wide-open Democratic race for the nomination. But the president has promised to make a big splash here.
Although no Republican presidential candidate has won Minnesota since Richard Nixon in 1972, Trump came close in 2016, losing to Hillary Clinton by just over 1.5 percentage points, the closest losing margin of any presidential race in the state since 1984. And he promised to step up his game in 2020.
“We are going to win this state,” Trump said in his first words at a campaign rally in Minneapolis on Oct. 10. His campaign plans an apparatus that dwarfs what he had here four years ago, including spending tens of millions of dollars in the state and putting 100 staffers on the ground by Election Day.
There will be a lot more than presidential politics going on across Minnesota. In addition to voting for president and vice president, Minnesotans will elect a U.S. senator, the state’s eight members of the U.S. House of Representatives and all 201 members of the Minnesota Legislature. They also will fill numerous judicial seats and choose city and county officials, school board members, township officers and decide local ballot issues.
Here are Minnesota’s key 2020 election dates:
Jan. 17 — Although Minnesota’s presidential primary won’t occur for another 46 days, state voters can start filling out ballots on this date, the earliest starting date in the nation. You can vote early with an absentee ballot either by mail or in person.
Feb. 11 — Minnesotans can register to vote in advance to save time on presidential primary day.
Feb. 25 — Minnesota’s political parties will hold precinct caucuses across the state. These are neighborhood meetings where parties start the processes of endorsing candidates, picking convention delegates, electing party officers and taking stands on issues that could become part of a party’s platform. Caucuses start at 7 p.m. at locations selected by the parties — typically schools, community centers, town halls, churches, etc. The meetings are open to anyone who is eligible to vote in the Nov. 3 general election, lives in the precinct and generally agrees with the hosting party’s principles.
March 3 — Minnesota will hold a presidential primary election for the first time in 28 years. That’s “Super Tuesday,” when 13 other states, including California and Texas, will also hold presidential primaries. Minnesotans can only vote in one party’s primary. Minnesota’s Democratic ballot will offer 15 presidential candidates to choose from, while the Republican ballot will have just one: President Donald Trump — pending a challenge in state and federal courts by a little-known candidate, Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente, and a supporter.
March 10 — Minnesota townships election day.
March 7-April 19 — The Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and Republican Party of Minnesota hold county, state Senate district and state House district conventions where delegates elected at precinct caucuses endorse candidates for the Legislature and select delegates for the parties’ congressional district and state conventions.
March 29-May 29 — DFL and Republican parties hold congressional district conventions to endorse candidates for U.S. Congress and elect national convention delegates.
May 15-16 — Republican state convention in Rochester to endorse a U.S. Senate candidate, elect national convention delegates and consider positions to be included in the party’s platform or set of policy goals.
May 30-31 — DFL state convention in Rochester to endorse a U.S. Senate candidate, presumably incumbent Tina Smith, and elect national convention delegates and consider platform resolutions.
May 19-June 2 — Filing period for candidates for the Minnesota House and Senate, U.S. House and Senate and nonpartisan city, county, school district and judicial offices.
June 26-Aug. 10 — Voters can cast ballots early by mail or in person in the state’s Aug. 11 primary election for state and federal offices.
July 21 — Minnesotans can register in advance to save time on state primary election day.
Aug. 11 — State primary election to nominate political party candidates for U.S. senator and representatives, Minnesota Senate and House seats, as well as nonpartisan judicial and local offices.
Sept. 18-Nov. 2 — Voters may cast early absentee ballots in person or by mail in the Nov. 3 general election.
Oct. 13 — Last day to register in advance to save time on Nov. 3 election day.
Nov. 3 — General election day. Voters will cast ballots for U.S. president, U.S. senator, U.S. representative, state senator, state representative and judicial seats. Some voters may also choose candidates for city and county offices, school boards, township officers and vote on local ballot questions.