The why and how of attending a precinct caucus

Why attend a precinct caucus? The caucus allows citizens to get together and discuss issues and candidates with their neighbors. It is the public forum where citizens make their voices heard before the voting booth. Decisions concerning party off...

Why attend a precinct caucus?

The caucus allows citizens to get together and discuss issues and candidates with their neighbors. It is the public forum where citizens make their voices heard before the voting booth.

Decisions concerning party offices, its platform (position on issues) and candidates begin at the precinct caucus.

Minnesotans choosing to make their voice heard can become a delegate or alternate to the next level in the caucus/convention process. Minnesota law recognizes the precinct caucus as the basis of the political endorsement system and governs the operation of the caucus to insure the openness of the system.

The precinct caucus is the grassroots level of major-party activity in the state of Minnesota. You can attend only one party's caucus. This is the first step in selecting candidates for public office. Caucuses for the major parties (as defined by state law) occur the first Tuesday in February at 7 p.m. in every voting precinct of the state.


In 2008, caucuses will be held Feb. 5.

The major parties of Minnesota are Democratic-Farmer-Labor, Independence Party and the Republican Party.

As a result of the 1994 election, the Independence Party (then the Reform Party) fulfilled Minnesota statutory requirements and became a major party. In the past 10 years the Constitution and Green parties have won and lost major party status.

Major parties are required by law to hold precinct caucuses on "caucus night" complying with general rules and regulations. Each party determines its own specific procedures.

Minor parties can also hold caucus meetings, but are not required to by law.

Everyone who lives within a voting precinct and is a qualified voter (or will be by the next election) may participate in one party's precinct caucus in any one year. A qualified voter must be at least 18 years old on Election Day, be a U.S. citizen and have lived in Minnesota at least 20 days.

What happens at a precinct caucus?

Participants elect the caucus chair, precinct officers and delegates to the next level of party organization: county or district. They also introduce, discuss and vote on resolutions, which are statements of position on issues that can be influenced by state or national legislation. These are recommendations to a party for planks in its platform.


The next step is either a county or legislative district convention, followed by a congressional district convention, a state convention and, in presidential election years, the national convention. At each level, issues and candidates are discussed and voted on by the delegates selected from the prior level.

Caucuses give you and your neighbors in the precinct an opportunity to discuss issues that are important to you -- a chance to say how you would like to see a problem addressed.

It is also your opportunity to influence the candidate selection within your party.

You are given a voice in the process at the most basic level. You can introduce resolutions prepared by yourself or groups that you support. It is in the precinct caucus that the formal process of candidate selection begins and here is your opportunity to speak for candidates who may be chosen to represent your party in the general election in November.

You may take an active role by becoming a delegate to the next level of meetings or you may choose to go only to observe the process. You can volunteer to help with campaign activities or to serve as an election judge.

You may take time off work to attend your precinct caucus after giving your employer 10 days written notice and shall suffer no penalty or deduction from salary or wages on account of absence other than a deduction for the actual time absent from work.

How do I decide which party caucus to attend?

Find out the positions of the parties on issues that are important to you and decide if you are in general agreement with one of the parties. Have you voted more often in the past for one party's candidates? Do you plan to support one party's candidates this year?


When you sign in at a caucus, you will be stating that you do support the basic tenets of that party, have done so in the past or plan to in the next election. This is not a lifetime commitment, nor even an absolute requirement to vote for only one party at the general election. You may also go as an observer and not vote.

Primary elections, however, do require that you vote for only one party's candidates. In the past, voters were required to ask for the primary ballot for the party of their choice. This is no longer the case. All primary election voters receive the same ballot, but must vote only for candidates of one party.

What about minor parties?

Minor political parties are not required by law to participate in the caucus system. They may have an influence on the outcome of elections by voting on Election Day. Voting is still very important, however. For state offices, minor party candidates do not follow this process to get on the general election ballot. Their names are placed on the ballot upon submission of an election petition bearing the names of eligible Minnesota voters by a certain date. The number of signatures required is dependent upon the office. If you have questions about this process, call the Secretary of State, Elections Division, at (651) 215-1440 or toll free at (877) 600-8683.

Where and when are the caucuses held?

Most precinct caucuses are held in public buildings, like a school or town hall. Some are held in local schools, community centers, VFWs or senior high-rise buildings.

Watch for more information about the location of your precinct's caucus as it should be announced in the newspapers the week before. Your county auditor should have a listing (provided by the county unit chair) of caucus locations. All sites must be accessible to the

elderly and the disabled unless there are none available. If you have special needs or questions about your assigned site, call the party headquarters.


Written by Deb Ortman, chair, League of Women Voters Duluth. Resources for this article include: Minnesota Secretary of State Web site, League of Women Voters of Minnesota Web site.

News to use

Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party

255 E. Plato Blvd.

St. Paul, MN 55107

To contact the Minnesota DFL: (651) 293-1200 (metro) or (800) 999-7457 (toll free).

Green Party of Minnesota


2395 University Ave. W., Suite 224

St. Paul, MN 55114

(651) 288-2820

Independence Party

PO Box 40495

St. Paul, MN 55104


(651) 487-9700

Republican Party

525 Park St., Suite 250

St. Paul, MN 55103

(651) 222-0022

St. Louis County Auditor: 726-2380

Further questions regarding the caucuses or the election in general may be directed to the Secretary of State's office at (651) 215-1440 or toll free at (877) 600-8683 or check out their Web site at .

Information is also available on the LWVMN Web site at .

2008 MN Elections:

Precinct Caucus

Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2008

Filing deadline for running for office: July 15, 2008

State Primary: Sept. 9, 2008

Election: Nov. 4, 2008

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