"Does Minnesota have a caucus or primary on Feb. 5?"

"Can I get an absentee ballot?"

"Can't I vote for the president in Minnesota's primary?"

For county and city election managers, who in recent weeks have been besieged by voters with these and other questions, the inquiries are becoming more common than broken campaign promises.

A few answers: There are DFL and Republican caucuses, not a primary, on Feb. 5, election managers tell the callers.

No, there are no absentee ballots for the Minnesota caucuses.

And, no, there will be no voting for president in the Sept. 9 primary.

Minnesota's primary comes after the Republican National Convention, from Sept. 1 to 4 in St. Paul, and the Democratic National Convention, Aug. 25 to 28 in Denver.

"Everybody is getting these calls," said Joe Mansky, Ramsey County elections manager and former state elections director. "People have expectations that there's a big event here, that our little preference ballot is something more than a beauty contest."

The calls are coming in waves to elections offices throughout Minnesota, Mansky said Wednesday. He said his office received 50 such calls one day last week, and Anoka County elections manager Rachel Smith says her staff also receives up to 50 inquiries daily.

"Gosh, people are calling," said Cindy Reichert, elections director for the city of Minneapolis. "We received a few applications for absentee ballots. Hey, that's not the way it works in Minnesota."

It's not that the Information Highway has bypassed Minnesota, Mansky said. People are receiving plenty of information about national elections, but are not necessarily paying attention to the information they need.

When is it our turn?

"They read about Iowa and New Hampshire and hear about Michigan and South Carolina and wonder when it will be Minnesota's turn," Mansky said. "People have expectations that there's an event here."

But the Republican National Convention at the Xcel Energy Center is not necessarily the big, local political event they mean.

College students, elderly people, snowbirds living elsewhere and Minnesotans planning February vacations all have asked about absentee ballots for the caucuses, Mansky said. But state law does not allow for absentee ballots during caucuses, he said.

When people ask about participating in caucuses for a specific presidential nominee, Anoka County's Smith and her staff tell callers to go to the Minnesota Secretary of State's website, www.sos.state.mn.us, which lists caucus dates and locations for each party and registration information.

Paul Levy • 612-673-4419