MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- With the first two early voting states out of the way in the 2016 presidential campaign, candidates are now looking to the rest of the country.
Both parties in Minnesota hold their caucus on the same day as 12 other states, Super Tuesday, and the stakes are high. There hasn't been much formal, reliable polling in the state, making the outcome largely unknown. That has trailing candidates like Bernie Sanders and Marco Rubio hopeful for a big win in the land of 10,000 lakes.
Here's a quick rundown of what you need to know if you want to take part:
It's a common misconception that you have to be a registered Democrat or Republican to vote in the parties' caucuses. In fact, you don't even have to be registered to vote -- you only need to be eligible to vote in the general election this fall. You don't even need to bring I.D.
To vote in the general election, you have to be (as of Election Day, Nov. 8, 2016):
- A U.S. citizen
- A Minnesota resident for 20 days
- 18 years old
However, the parties do require that caucus voters "generally agree" with the party's platform and stance on the issues. That means you don't have to agree with all the party's stances on the issues, but you should agree with most. That does mean, however, that you can only caucus with one party on Super Tuesday.
In lieu of I.D. or voter registration cards, party officials in the GOP and DFL say caucus voters will have to sign a document upon arrival certifying that they:
- Are eligible to vote in the 2016 election on Nov. 8
- Generally agree with the party's platform
- Live in the precinct in which they're caucusing
For more information about caucus voter eligibility or to register to vote in the general election, check out the Minnesota Secretary of State's website.
Where And When?
Caucus meetings are held at various community locations across Minnesota, depending on which precinct you live in. To find out where your polling place is, you can use this handy tool from the Minnesota Secretary of State.
Voting is the first order of business at the caucuses and start at 7 p.m. sharp, and it's best not to be late. Casting your ballot isn't like the general election, where voting booths are waiting for whenever you want to come in (more on that later), so if you show up late, voting may already be finished.
If all you want to do is vote, just cast your ballot and head out. But to take part in the rest of the caucus meeting's events like delegate selection and party platform discussion, you may need to stay later.
What If I Have To Work Or Go To School During The Caucus?
You're in luck -- Minnesota law guarantees workers time off to vote in precinct caucuses. And if you're selected to be a delegate, you're even guaranteed the right to attend the party's political convention in the summer (that's in Philadelphia for Democrats and Cleveland for Republicans).
In addition, Minnesota state colleges and universities (including the University of Minnesota) are prohibited by law from scheduling school events after 6 p.m. on caucus night.
What Do I Have To Do?
Unlike the general election, voting in a caucus is pretty simple, although the caucus itself is more of an involved process. Think of it more like a party meeting than an election.
Organizers will get voting out of the way first. Party representatives will probably explain the process to the group, then hand out paper ballots with the candidates names. Just pick your candidate and hand over the ballot -- it's that simple.
The rest of the meeting gets complicated. Depending on your precinct, you might discuss and vote on the party's platform and/or select delegates to attend the party's convention in the summer.
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