Tuesday caucuses could see big turnout
There's a special buzz of excitement this year for Minnesota's precinct caucuses on Tuesday, Feb. 5.
In what the national media is calling "Super Tuesday" -- or even "Super Duper Tuesday" -- Minnesotans will express their preference for president, which has often been decided in recent years before Minnesotans had a chance to voice their opinions.
"It's in the news a lot, so that's going to be creating more interest," said DeEtta Bilek, chairwoman for the Wadena County Republicans. "I expect a bigger turnout this time than even four years ago."
Precinct caucuses differ from primaries in that the caucus meetings are just that -- meetings. In a primary, a voter shows up, blackens a box on a ballot, and leaves. At a caucus, preferences for offices like U.S. president are expressed, but there are also delegates elected and planks advanced for the party's platform.
Each party has its own rules for the meetings. For instance, on the Democratic-Farmer-Labor side, the delegates to the county convention will be bound to vote there for each presidential candidate based on the proportion of votes that candidate gets at the precinct level. On the Republican side, it's a "straw poll," meaning the results of the precinct caucus are not binding on delegates, and they can change their minds if they want to.
Del Moen, the caucus convenor for the Wadena DFL gathering, said precinct caucuses are the best form of grassroots politics.
"Our elections are kind of the core of our democracy," he said. "If people don't participate, our democracy isn't as strong."
Bilek said it's more like a neighborhood block party than a voting booth.
"It's an opportunity to get together with your neighbors. A precinct: it's your neighborhood," she said. "I would encourage people to get out and cast their ballots."
"Even if you've never been to one, it's just your neighbors gathered together," he said.
All caucuses get underway at 7 p.m.
Caucus-goers should find their city or township of residence listed under the party they wish to caucus with. Or they can visit the Minnesota Secretary of State's Web site to use the "caucus finder" tool at www.sos.state.mn.us.
DFL caucus locations
Wadena-Deer Creek School Media Center
For: Wadena city precincts 1, 2, and 3; Wadena Township; Leaf River Township
Menahga High School Media Center (use east door)
For: Menahga city, Blueberry Township, Shell River Township
Nimrod Senior Citizen's Center
For: Nimrod city, Huntersville Township, Orton Township, Lyons Township
Sebeka High School Science Rooms
For: Sebeka city, Red Eye Township, Rockwood Township, Meadow Township, North Germany Township
Central Lakes College commons area
For: Staples city, Bullard Township, Thomastown Township
Verndale Senior Citizen's Center
For: Aldrich city, Verndale city, Aldrich Township, Wing River Township
New York Mills County Government Office
For: Blowers Township, Bluffton city, Bluffton Township, Butler Township, Compton Township, Deer Creek city, Deer Creek Township, Homestead Township, Newton Township, New York Mills city, Otto Township, Paddock Township, Wadena city precinct 4
Republican caucus locations
Minnesota State Community and Technical College -- Wadena cafeteria
For: Wadena city precincts 1-3; Wadena Township, Leaf River Township
Menahga Town Hall
For: Menahga city, Blueberry Township, Huntersville Township, Shell River Township.
Sebeka school media center
For: Sebeka city, Nimrod city, Lyons Township, Meadow Township, North Germany Township, Orton Township, Red Eye Township, Rockwood Township.
Verndale school library
For: Verndale city, Aldrich city, Aldrich Township, Bullard Township, Thomastown Township, Wing River Township and Staples Annex.
New York Mills High School room 107
For: Blowers Township, Bluffton city, Bluffton Township, Butler Township, Compton Township, Homestead Township, Newton Township, New York Mills city, Otto Township, Paddock Township, Wadena city precinct 4