After crowded, chaotic and practically impossible-to-access voting rooms marred Caucus Night 2016 in Duluth and across Minnesota, the Duluth News Tribune and plenty of others called for fixing what clearly was a broken presidential-picking process here. Switching from a party-run caucus system to a state-run primary election for presidential candidates clearly was needed.
Kudos to the Legislature for obliging with a bipartisan bill. Even more kudos to lawmakers for also preserving caucuses, giving Minnesotans the best of both systems.
“It’s a hybrid,” Minnesota DFL Chairman Ken Martin said in an interview with the News Tribune Editorial Board. “So we don’t disenfranchise anyone.”
“There’s a balance now,” Minnesota Republican Chairman Keith Downey said in a separate interview.
Under the switch, caucuses will continue to be held as they always have been. During presidential elections every four years, primary elections also will be held, separately, within a week of the caucuses. The parties’ leaders will pick the dates. The presidential primary elections will be run by the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office, with polls open all day just as they are on any Election Day.
So party leaders still will be able to pick convention delegates, set platforms and complete other party work during caucus-night activities. And others will be able to cast ballots conveniently at their usual polling places.
Caucusing alone perhaps works fine when few Minnesotans choose to be involved and the evening meetings are pretty much filled with just party loyalists. The turnout this year, on March 1, was a caucuses-overwhelming 300,000-plus.
Some would-be participants reported having to park a mile or more away or getting stuck in traffic jams so severe that by the time they got to their caucus site, voting was over. However, caucusing was too important to give up in favor of a total shift to primaries, Downey and Martin agreed. Caucuses are grass-roots, giving access to the parties and to the political process that everyday Minnesotans and little-known candidates otherwise wouldn’t get.
Minnesota’s winning combination of primaries and caucusing begins in 2020.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE DULUTH NEWS TRIBUNE