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As spring begins to bloom across the state, several hundred Minnesotans from both political parties have been stuck inside, arguing with one another and, seemingly, not getting much done.

Last weekend, Republicans in the Seventh Congressional District spent hours debating without picking a candidate. In the Second District, Republicans endorsed a candidate, but his opponent still plans to run in the August primary.

Meanwhile, at a convention in Minneapolis a couple weeks ago, after seven hours Democrats were deadlocked between two school board candidates. At 8 p.m., when they were finally kicked out of the building, a narrow majority of delegates forced the convention to reconvene outside in the cold night air; literally democracy in the dark. Instead of deciding they had two great candidates and to let the voters pick one, that narrow majority forced those who were left to reconvene this month on a date no one knew about when they were elected a delegate.

This highly undemocratic process will clearly lead to more division, at a time when the city needs to rally behind its schools, especially if we have to pass desperately needed school funding in a referendum in November.

At a time when democracy is so threatened, it's time to stop letting this flawed, outdated system of conventions and caucuses dictate who we get to vote for.

I have tremendous respect for the people who dedicate hours organizing and attending caucuses and conventions. I also have tremendous respect for the vast majority of Minnesotans who can't attend because they have work or family obligations, or who didn't even know about caucuses or how they work.

This is not a new position for me. In my first run for mayor I was booed when told the convention I would not drop out if I didn't get the endorsement. After many hours and several ballots the convention adjourned without picking a candidate. So I spent the summer and fall meeting thousands of voters in parks, at festivals, public candidate forums, and hundreds of front doors. I learned so much about the people and city I wanted to represent, which made me a better mayor.

When I ran for re-election four years later, I was again booed when I said I would keep running if I didn't get the endorsement. Again, after many hours and ballots, the convention deadlocked. So, again, I went back out to meet and re-meet thousands of voters who gave me an earful about what they wanted me to fix if was re-elected. Their opinions and insight made me a far more effective mayor.

I would probably never have been mayor if I let only delegates determine who should run, but I am certainly not against political parties.

After spending all my adult life as an active Democrat, I served as a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee. In this role, I had the privilege to travel and see how conventions and caucuses work around the country.

Often I saw conventions doing the admirable work of elevating new candidates who might not be able to compete on their own. Equally often, while a mediocre candidate was on stage getting endorsed, I was meeting a far more compelling potential candidate in the audience, knowing they could never get their party's endorsement but would probably win a general election.

I know I am not alone, because so many people ask me: "When are they going to get rid of caucuses and conventions?" Let's replace the word "they" with "we." Parties won't eliminate the current process that allows them to play an outsized role in who gets elected. It's up to us to not be bound by decisions that take place when most of us aren't in the room.

Minnesota already took the first step a few years ago when we returned to a presidential primary, instead of straw polls at caucuses that proved overwhelming to manage. Let's keep going.

Political parties, like unions and advocacy groups of all stripes, have every right to recommend candidates. And voters have every right to consider those opinions. Just don't limit our options before most of us can actually vote.

In the end, the best cure for our troubled democracy is — wait for it — more democracy.

R.T. Rybak was mayor of Minneapolis from 2002 to 2014. A previous commentary on this subject — "Get rid of Minnesota's precinct caucuses, go to primary elections up and down the ballot," by Annette Meeks, was published April 24.