Minnesota Senate approves move to presidential primary
ST. PAUL -- After two decades of complaints about the Minnesota presidential caucus system, the state is moving swiftly to adopt a presidential primary. The state Senate overwhelmingly approved a presidential primary measure, which would negate t...
ST. PAUL -- After two decades of complaints about the Minnesota presidential caucus system, the state is moving swiftly to adopt a presidential primary.
The state Senate overwhelmingly approved a presidential primary measure, which would negate the need for a presidential caucus in 2020. The House is following in the same vein and may give the measure a final vote on Friday.
After a crush of people crowded into thousands of caucus sites across Minnesota in February, Minnesota voters, party leaders and others decided it was time to switch to a primary.
“Despite the valiant efforts from thousands of volunteers, we also experienced some chaos,” Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, said of the 2016 caucus crush. Rest is the sponsor of the bill making the switch.
Under the primary plan, parties would still have caucuses but the binding presidential preference vote would be held during a primary.
Backers say moving to a primary would allow more Minnesotans to participate because voting would be permitted anytime during the primary election day, rather than just in the evening at caucuses, and through absentee or mail-in ballots.
In February, more than 321,000 Minnesotans turned out to have their say in caucuses. Some attendees were turned away because of the crowds, and others were struck by a lack of organization.
In a primary, the presidential preference selection process would be run by the state, just like any other election. Parties run caucuses with a slew of volunteers in schools, churches and other community venues.
The secretary of state’s office assumes that turnout for the 2020 presidential primary would double the state’s highest caucus turnout because of the ease of participating.
Opponents of the move have affection for caucuses, which Minnesota has used for several decades, because they allow neighbors to meet with neighbors of similar mind.
Some oppose the measure because it would make public whether a particular voter chooses a Democratic or Republican ballot and would require voters to affirm they agree with the party for whose candidate they are voting in the presidential primary.
Minnesota currently has no voter registration by party. A move to strip that from the presidential primary measure failed overwhelmingly on the Senate floor Thursday.
The Democratic-Farmer-Labor and Republican parties have insisted that party information will be made available. Currently, the parties collect names of party supporters at presidential caucuses. Those names may later become volunteers and partisans.
It would cost the state about $4 million to run a presidential primary.