Should Minnesota drop the caucus system for a presidential primary?


Renee Jones Schneider | Star Tribune via AP

Record turnout to Minnesota’s caucuses on Tuesday spurred discussion of whether we should keep caucusing or move to a presidential primary.

Tim Pugmire writes on our Capitol View blog:

Heavy turnout and long lines at this week’s precinct caucuses have renewed interest in trying to move Minnesota to a presidential primary.

Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, said he’ll introduce legislation this session to make the switch. Garofalo said the caucus system does not work in a presidential year, because too many locations are inadequate for the crowds.

“We just simply don’t have the facilities to accommodate everybody voting at the exact same time, and that’s what happens in a caucus system,” Garofalo said.

Our state’s relationship with the caucus system is long and complicated. We’ve even tried presidential primaries a few times, but always went back to caucusing. If Garofalo’s plan gets any traction, maybe Minnesota will try a primary again.

Today’s Question: Should Minnesota drop the caucus system for a presidential primary?

  • 212944

    Perhaps a hybrid during Presidential election years which allows for casting your ballot for that office (and only that office) which is open all day plus a caucus to handle other party business?

    The 2008 and 2016 DFL caucuses have both been bad experiences (I caucused at different suburban locations for each). While 2008 had even longer lines of cars, for this year I was in line for 30 minutes before parking four blocks away and walking. For people with mobility issues, for areas without sidewalks (think ditches, often with snow and ice and water), that is a deterrent.

    Plus, I know of more than a few friends who wanted to caucus but could not go for the 7-8 p.m. window, even just to vote for a nominee for the Presidental race (working professionals with family obligations … plus, contrary to what it stated on the DFL site, the University of Minnesota DOES HOLD CLASSES on caucus night).

    It was a mess. The volunteers were wonderful, but ultimately this system shuts people out of the process.

  • Ruckabumpkus

    I’m a contrarian on this. The parties made better decisions on who to nominate when it was done in the proverbial smoke-filled rooms than under the current system. Abraham Lincoln couldn’t get the nomination with the system we have now. He got the Republican nomination in 1860 by being the consensus candidate — almost no one’s first choice but almost everyone’s second choice. Today, he’d be out of the running, because he’d never win any primaries. How many Lincolns are we failing to elect in the modern era?

    • kris

      So do you want a presidential primary or a caucus?

      • Ruckabumpkus

        Whatever they were doing in 1860.

        • Pearly

          Dueling in the streets?

  • Pearly

    Sure why not.

  • lindblomeagles

    Every time things don’t go the Republican Party’s way during an election, these guys allegedly have the right fix in mind. Enough is enough already. The White House isn’t and never was promised to the Republican Party. That’s why the State got 8 years from Arne Carlson, 8 years from Tim Pawlenty, and 8 years from George Bush since 1990. If Garofolo is worried about Farmington’s limited facilities, ASK YOUR TAX PAYERS to build a bigger space. Geesh. Last time I checked, this kind of government planning was called “DEVELOPMENT,” which supposedly was good for the local economy.

    • John Dilligaf

      Did I miss the time when George Bush was governor of Minnesota? I knew I picked the wrong decade to stop sniffing glue 😉

      I’m ambivalent on today’s question; I don’t think it’s a Democrat vs Republican issue. It seems to be a question of priorities in how you go about choosing a candidate. Because you’re trying to cram all these people into a space in a specific one hour slot, access is limited to people with children, people who work in the evening, people with disabilities, but there’s more opportunity for discussion than a primary. What’s important to you in the process of choosing a leader?

    • Not a Dem

      It’s Democrat Mark Dayton, whose candidate of choice (Hillary) didn’t win that is calling for a change. How did the Republicans become the focus of your rant?

  • Khatti

    All I can say is that Tuesday was not a good day at work. I was too beat to go through the process of caucusing. A primary vote would have been more doable.

  • Sue de Nim

    I’d like to revamp the presidential election process completely. If we we were designing it from scratch, we’d never come up with anything remotely like what we’ve got. My suggestion would be to have a single nationwide non-partisan primary. Put all the candidates on one primary election ballot, regardless of party, and allow people to vote for their two favorites (so the Lincolns of the world would have a chance). Then the two that got the most votes would appear on the general election ballot. Oh, and abolish the Electoral College too.

  • Susan Jackson-Smith

    YES!!!!! More seniors will turn out, people who work in the evenings will turn out, etc. etc.

  • Mr. Toad

    Caucus, schmaucus. It’s a national office, so any picking and choosing should be done on a uniform, national, same-day basis.

  • PaulJ

    A ranked vote seems like the, modern, best practice.

  • Gary F

    Caucuses serve more purposes than to just nominate and vote for candidates, they help the parties get their data bases set with people new to the neighborhood, work on party policy, and organize volunteers. Primaries just vote for people.

    I’m not always a big fan of caucuses but I would almost always vote in the opposite parties primary just to mix things up.

    • Ralphy

      By your admitting that you deliberately do your part to subvert the American electoral process, you make a strong argument for a “members only” candidate selection process, lest the least desirable candidate gain the nomination. Please think about the potential impact of your actions.

  • reggie

    In the unusual years when there is something exciting going on in the presidential race, turnout to express a presidential preference is high. No surprise. But it also has almost no impact on the number of people who stick around to participate in the actual caucus. In my precinct, it is the same gray-haired or no-haired couple dozen people, year after year. The simple remedy is to have a fast-lane check-in or a mail-in ballot for presidential voters, and let those interested go on about the caucus business.

    (On another occasion let’s discuss the implications of a social-media generation that is incredibly engaged electronically, but less so when it comes to the on-the-ground, nuts-and-bolts work of turning the creaky machinery of electing and governing. On Tuesday, I watched perhaps 100 college-age Bernie supporters who live in the neighborhood show up, cast their presidential preference vote, and then disappear. Would love to have them stick around, argue about resolutions, become delegates to the country and state conventions, serve on the committees, etc.)

  • Gordon near Two Harbors

    I went to a caucus once. It seemed that just the loudest, most motivated fringes of the party showed up. I, not being on the fringe on most issues, never went back. Primaries matter more and have more weight, because more people show up.

  • Diggitt

    I wonder why Garofalo did not have a DFL co-sponsor? Automatically I am suspicious of his wording. The language on this bill should be above suspicion. And Republicans are the party trying to limit voting participation nationwide.

  • Christopher Armour

    It was standing room only at my caucus this year, very crowded. I didn’t want to listen to everyones speeches, I had already done my due diligence and research. I only wanted to cast a vote for my candidate and go home, and much rather would’ve it been a primary style process.