On Super Tuesday I was going to go to a Minnesota Wild hockey game. I had a box seat.
My son texted me and asked me if I was going to caucus.
My son has had to listen to me all his life preaching about participating in the political process, the importance of voting responsibly and being informed. I drilled it into him. So when I told him I was going to a hockey game instead, it seemed kind of wrong. I thought about it for a while and decided to caucus instead. I know I could have voted quickly and then gone on to the game but I had never participated in a caucus before and I was curious to know what it was all about.
During a regular election people have all day to go and vote. The caucus is from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. only. I have been told this makes it difficult for people to participate and therefore it usually has a low turnout. This year there was record breaking turnout. I was interested to know if there was anything in place to facilitate attendance. I found this on the DLF website:
Know your rights: Minnesota Statutes Section 202A.19 permits Minnesota residents to take time off from work without pay to attend precinct caucuses provided they give their employer written notice at least 10 days in advance. State universities, community colleges, and public schools may not hold classes or events after 6:00 p.m. on the evening of precinct caucuses. State agencies, school boards, county boards, township boards, city councils and all other political subdivisions may not conduct meetings after 6:00 p.m. on caucus night. – See more at: https://www.dfl.org/about-our-party/caucuses-conventions/#sthash.5iXAeqQW.dpuf
So, really, no excuse.
It was chaos. The lines were long. It was confusing. I stood in one line for a long time before I found out I was in the wrong line and needed to get into a different line. We were told to register, which meant filling out our name, email address and signing below our name. Once registered we were given a ballot. They ran out of ballots pretty quickly so people were writing their candidate’s name on pieces of paper and stuffing them into an envelope. One woman asked how the ballots were accounted for. What was stopping people from filling out multiple ballots? There was no answer. This was the way it was done.
Everybody was patient. Nobody complained. People were registering and voting all the way up to 8 p.m., which was the deadline. It was a never ending line of people. At the end I found out how the ballots were accounted for. There had to be a registered signature for each ballot and they were all counted by several people.
At about 7:15 p.m. the Chairperson for the precinct stood up and welcomed us all. She asked us to introduce ourselves and we went around the room and we said our name and the building we lived in. I live downtown so we all live in apartment buildings or condominiums. The Chairperson had an agenda provided by the Democratic party. In Minnesota it is known as the DFL (Democrat Farmer Labor) party.
The Chairperson then read out a welcome statement from the DFL and some more information on the party and what the rules were. We nominated and elected three people to count the ballots. We elected a secretary.
Then people presented their resolutions. One was about campaign finance, others were about recycling, hunting competitions, and raising the minimum wage. They all passed after some discussion.
Next on the agenda was to elect delegates to the Senate District Convention. Twenty eight volunteers raised their hands and we elected them all. These people carry the resolutions we passed to the next level where they present and consider them to a much larger group who decide if they should be moved forward. At the Senate District Conventions they will elect people to attend the Congressional District Conventions. The people who go to the Congressional District Conventions endorse candidates for US Congress, elect commissions and committees for the State Convention and elect delegates to the National Convention. From there they go to the State Convention and continue to consider the proposed resolutions and elect delegates to the National Convention.
This is really grass roots stuff. Anybody can volunteer and get involved in the process and attend these conventions. So going to the caucus is just the beginning of the process.
Even though it all seemed chaotic and disorganized, it really wasn’t. Everything ran pretty smoothly and people got along and were clearly interested in what everybody had to say. Even when they disagreed, they spent a lot of time trying to understand the other person’s point of view.
People trickled out after the meeting was adjourned but we were welcome to stay while they counted the ballots. By 8:30 p.m. the ballots were counted and accounted for and we all knew who had the majority.
I’m glad I went.