Northfield area caucuses on Feb. 5


  1. Jerry Bilek said:

    They last way longer then they should. Everyone likes to talk, few like to listen. That was my experience. I prefer primaries. In a primary you can vote when it is convenient for you. I remember spending an entire Saturday in a MPLS high school waiting to vote for my candidate. It was a monumental waste of time.

    January 27, 2008
  2. Jane McWilliams said:


    There’s a lot of info about precinct caucuses on the League of Women Votersof Minnesota site:, including links to the 3 major parties’ websites. You can even download a powerpoint presentation and go on the road with it to teach others!

    January 27, 2008
  3. Jane Moline said:

    The Rice County-Northfield DFL caucus will open the doors at the Northfield Middle School at 6:30 and you will be able to go right to your precinct, register and vote for a presidential nominee. The final delegate allocation at the state level to the national convention will be based on these caucus votes.

    The caucus officially starts at 7:00 with about 1/2 hour of speakers and information, and then back to the precinct to discuss/pass any resolutions for the party platform and to choose delegates.

    I have found these caucuses to be interesting and enjoyed the time, which flies by–we must be out of the Middle School by 10:00 pm. Some people are not able to stay, so they submit their resolutions to their precinct and leave. If you just want to vote for a presidential nominee and leave, you can do so (I believe up until 8:00–when we have to report the votes) so if you can only come to vote, do so. You will need to register (if you have caucused before you are probably on the list so you don’t have to fill in information) and sign by your registration the affirmation statement.

    You need to choose who you will caucus with–Republican, Democrat or Independent and go to the respective location. Each party has their own caucus rules. is the Minnesota DFL site and has information, including resolution forms if you want to have them ready to go for the caucus.

    I hope everyone will find time to participate in their caucus–whatever your affiliation, as it is an important part of our participation in the democratic process.

    January 27, 2008
  4. Rob Hardy said:

    Within the precincts, is there any discussion of choosing delegates to the county DFL convention who will pledge to support a specific Senate candidate? In other words, do we as caucus-goers have any say about whether our precinct supports Al Franken or Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer (or who’s the other guy?), or is that just left up to the individual delegates come county convention time?

    January 27, 2008
  5. Jane McWilliams said:


    I think it depends on how individual caucuses are conducted. It has been traditional for the DFLers to subcaucus around candidates and issues in order to elect committed delegates to the county convention at which time there may be similar subcaucuses to elect committed delegates to the Congressional District Convention. It is an optional method of election at all levels, but in my experience, it is usual in most precincts, and at the other levels as well.

    January 27, 2008
  6. Just a nugget of information to any 17-year-olds out there, because it came as news to me: if you turn eighteen before election day, you can caucus now.

    I only know this to be true for the DFL, but I would assume the rules would be the same for GOP and Independence.

    January 29, 2008
  7. Molly Woehrlin said:

    Not having read Jane Moline’s message above, I was surprised to learn yesterday from the DFL Website that the DFL president preferential ballot is BINDING on the delegates to the national convention (in proportion to the vote). It is more than a straw vote. However, according to the person answering the phone at ‘GOP headquarters yesterday, the Republican caucuses are a straw vote that is non binding on the delegates. I don’t know about the Independence caucus.

    Back to the DFL website: one will cast the presidential preference ballot by 8 pm when the ballots will be tallied and certified by the caucus. Apparently they are therefore secret ballots. The totals will be announced and reported dto the MN Secretary of State’s office. I don’t know hope the GOP is handling their straw vote.

    This all puts a premium on going to the caucus Tuesday night — for our votes will be a part of the big tallying nationwide on the media reporting. And we will hopefully have an impact.

    Back to the DFL caucus, After 8 pm the group will elect delgates to the Senate District or County Conventions and they can be elected according to their US Senate preferences.

    After that there will be discussion and passage of resolutions to help develop the party’s 2008 platform.

    January 30, 2008
  8. Holly Cairns said:

    Molly, do you mean the delegates to the national convention HAVE to vote a certain way? I always thought they could vote as they pleased– assuming they’d be representative, but not necessarily a legally binding/ obligation situation. There’s so many steps between caucus and national convention…

    January 31, 2008
  9. I got this from America’s Test Kitchen newsletter, I think it tells a lot.

    I was reading a compilation of Vermont stories and came across one that sums up why I love the Green Mountain State. There was a city kid up for the summer and he was spied poking a large toad with a stick. A local boy came up and told him to quit poking the toad. The city kid responded, “Well, it’s my toad ain’t it?” The Vermonter stared him down and replied, “Well, in Vermont, he’s his own toad.” That says it all.

    January 31, 2008
  10. Molly Woehrlin said:

    Holly– my understanding is that delegates to the national endorsing convention will be chosen by their commitment to vote for a specific candidate as determined by our votes at the caucus Tuesday night. What I don’t know is whether they group the votes by congresssional district and “winner takes all” in that district or whether they divide it up proportionately to the statewide total vote. Each state has its own rules. The DFL says it is “binding” on candidates–at least for the first vote at the convention I would suspect. I’m sure the party has very complex rules both at the Minnesota level and national level. All I know is that CNN (and others!) will show what the delegate count is on Tuesday night, as well as the totals–so DFLers will have a say on Tuesday and will be counted. As far as I can remember the Democrats have not had anything more than a straw vote inn the past.

    THe Republicans are having a non binding straw vote, so their situation is different.

    January 31, 2008
  11. Holly Cairns said:

    Molly, that’s interesting. I’ll have to figure this out, more, I think. Sounds like change.

    At least we’re not like Florida.

    I don’t get the ‘he’s his own toad’ story, Bright. Maybe you’d care to elaborate.

    And while I’m thinking about it, I have attended caucus night since I was about 14. You don’t have to be 17 or 18 to go, and you can speak up, too. You can have influence on others, but you wouldn’t be counted in any straw poll or “vote”.

    January 31, 2008
  12. Sure, Holly. Let me explain. First I try to use short cuts in my posting because of the old technological limitations on space and becuz people
    have short amts of time. So here is the long version

    I posted that story cuz I have a huge problem with people voting a certain way because their parents always voted that way, or because their friends vote that way, or because they don’t know what to do and don’t know who the candidate who poses as somebody before the elections and turns out to be somebody else afterward. And I certainly don’t like it when there is any amount of secrecy in the process of voting.

    The little boy with the turtle story is all about either being prodded to vote a certain way just cuz someone comes along who seems bigger than you,
    versus being able to learn and be and state your own preferences based
    on research, gathering multiple opinions and waiting until all the facts come in.

    Thanks for asking, Holly. Would you please tell me and/us your website addy?

    January 31, 2008
  13. Molly Woehrlin said:

    Jane McWilliams helped me out and got a live person answering the phone at the DFL headquarters who reported the following:
    Of the 88 delegate national DFL delegates, 72 will be determined by the result of the “presidential preference ballot.” Thirteen are super delegates, selected by the party.

    They said they have been doing it since 2000. But even we old timers I guess don’t remember it!

    I still don’t know how the other parties assign delegates.

    So, the lesson is still – go and vote by 8:00 pm and let’s show Iowa that we can have as high a turnout as they did earlier in the month!

    January 31, 2008
  14. Holly Cairns said:

    Now I get it, Bright. The big stick idea. Sounds like the Monroe Doctrine/ Rooseveltian theory, only you are arguing against using it.

    Completely relevant, too, since we’re heading into caucus night, and we should all have good reason for voting the way we do.

    I like that we are a two party system, by the way. I could go on about that… but anyway…

    Molly’s point brings into better light that it is very important to attend the caucus. We should attend. Time well spent.

    My website is

    January 31, 2008
  15. Try as I might, I am not all that politically savvy… could someone answer me these hones questions?

    Why is Obama campaigning on the platform that he is gonna tax big business if they go to China? If they go to China, they are gonna save a lot of money anyway. What’s that about?

    Clinton looks like she is wearing out. She has no vision to speak of beyond health care and leaving Iraq.

    McCain knows nothing but Iraq and can only lead his wife around.

    Romney knows nothing but big business.

    I guess I am just dissatisfied with all the candy dates. Can anyone show me a ray of hope? TIA

    February 1, 2008
  16. Felicity Enders said:

    Bright, you posted:

    Why is Obama campaigning on the platform that he is gonna tax big business if they go to China? If they go to China, they are gonna save a lot of money anyway. What’s that about?

    …I guess I am just dissatisfied with all the candy dates. Can anyone show me a ray of hope?</blockquote?

    I missed the debate since there was a precinct captain conference call at the same time, but I understand this issue came up (possibly this is Senator Clinton’s characterization?). I believe this is alluding to Senator Obama’s feeling that companies who take jobs oversees are not helping workers in the US. I think the actual plan is to eliminate tax loopholes for such companies, with the thought that they shouldn’t save money on taxes in addition to saving money by taking jobs oversees while obviously also taking jobs away from Americans. But I could be wrong, couldn’t find the reference.

    This is actually a pretty small part of the platform on which Senator Obama is running (see more at My personal feeling, however, is that the really critical factor is how Senator Obama has brought so many new people into the election process, including MANY who have never voted before, and especially including younger folks who will have to deal with the mess eventually. His ability to inspire, to draw people together out of the little boxes we let others divide us into, is what I admire most. I think he’ll rewrite the book on national politics and actually get things done.

    On the other hand, my personal pet peeve is how so many are characterizing the nominating process on the Democratic side as a choice between the first woman president and the first black president. I’m voting simply for the person I think will be the best president, because we need a great leader who will change the direction of the country.

    February 1, 2008
  17. Felicity Enders said:

    Triumvirate, a little help??

    February 1, 2008
  18. David Henson said:

    A little “government” and a little “finance” can be a good thing. But a lot of government is very bad. And a lot of finance is very bad. This is as simple as too many chiefs and not enough indians. The areas of life not engaged by government and finance – cell phones, software, cloths, etc are a real bargain. The areas of life heavily engaged with government and financing: education, health care and housing are radically inflated. The candidates are arguing over how to keep them inflated when they should be talking about the benefits of, and how to, let the air out of the balloon. Believe it or not people used to be able to save up a year’s salary and buy a home. And a degree used to be earned and paid for by working nights.

    February 1, 2008
  19. Josh Hinnenkamp said:

    Question on a scenario that I am hoping someone can answer. I certainly can’t answer it. If someone is “undecided” on a political party and shows up to one of the Feb. 5th caucuses, can they “reject” that affiliation and caucus for a different party in March (yep, not all caucuses happen on the 5th)? Also, could someone attend a caucus on the 5th and decide that this particular party wasn’t to their liking and then leave without being registered for that party (or I suppose take their name off the registration form)? Or does showing up to the caucus seal your fate with that party, even if you don’t vote?

    February 1, 2008
  20. Molly Woehrlin said:

    Josh–I sure hope on one ever ‘seals their fate’ by showing up a particular caucus. Unlike VOTER registration rolls which are public information, the political parties manage the caucuses and keep their own caucus lists and use them for party purposes. Flexibility is one of the advantages of Minnesota’s party run caucuses –some states have you officially registered with a particular party or as an independent–and that information is public information and if you want to “switch” in the next primary you have to change your name officially on the rolls.

    the DFL website says this:

    Who can participate at the precinct caucus?

    Any Minnesotan can participate if they are: eligible to vote by November 4, 2008, not an active member of another political party (or attending another political party’s caucus in 2008) and subscribe to the Constitution and Bylaws set forth by the DFL Party.

    While those who will not be 18 by November 4, 2008 may also participate in general caucus business, they cannot vote in the Presidential Preference ballot or vote for delegates.

    GOP website says this:

    By attending your local caucus, you will be making a statement to all Minnesotans that you support Republican candidates and take your civic duty to participate seriously. By attending your local caucus, you make our Party much stronger at the grassroots.

    How Can I Participate?
    Anyone can attend a precinct caucus to observe. You can participate and vote in a party’s caucus if you live in that particular precinct and will be eligible to vote on November 4, 2008.

    February 2, 2008
  21. John George said:

    David H.- You said, “…The areas of life heavily engaged with government and financing: education, health care and housing are radically inflated….” Thanks for saying that. Someone needs to point out that the king has no clothes on. Let the air out of the balloon? Truely return the power to the people? Aren’t your ideas a little radical? Seems to me that they would involve change, and I hear a lot about that from all sides.

    Of course, none of these things can be done with cheaper off-shore labor (although most of our debt has been picked up by China). That, unfortunately, seems to be the American way, now. I’m not sure we can reverse the slide we have gotten ourselves into, and I don’t have any hope in any particulat political party or their platform to accomplish this. But, feeling as I do, I refuse to withdraw into my little coccoon and hide. I am going to get out and do what I can. I can support, and I can vote!

    February 3, 2008
  22. Alright, I think I have it worked out as I watched BO give a talk live last night.
    While I never accused him of being a killer, I do say that you can walk into any one of a dozen store front churches in Chicago and see an equally talented preacher with as much rhythm and conviction as BO has. BO said he has gone to church every Sunday for 20 years praising Jesus, so I imagine some of that rubbed off on him as it has thousands of others who do great imitations of their preachers. BO has a more toned down version that’s all.
    He has worked as a civil right attorney. So have hundreds of others. I just don’t see the presidential vein I would like to see. There is a reason that we traditioanlly elect governors and not senators to the presidency. Governors rule a state just like a small country, senators only debate and make more laws.

    Bill Clinton came up grooming himself for president since he was a teen.
    The Kennedy boys come from a dynamic family who groomed them for
    public service and greatness. Reagan was as I said a fantastic student of history, reading hundreds of books on the subject. I don’t know how Bush senior got where he got except for I think he slid in on the oil of it all.

    As I read about BO at his own site, thanks Jerry, I don’t see anything that
    hasn’t already been being worked on by many others. For his wife to say
    that she worked the U of Chicago around to diversity, uh. I worked there,
    and there is no where more diverse. I grew up and played at the botany pond and ginkgo tree there and it’s diverse as any place on this earth.

    Sorry, I am not against him, but I don’t see what he can actually do in the Oval Office. To me it sounds like he is a good senator.

    February 5, 2008
  23. John George said:

    Bright- I caught your comment on this thread. Patrick and I have been chasing rats around the other thread. Sorry to have scared you off.

    Johnny G.

    February 5, 2008
  24. David Henson said:

    John – I think we are in general agreement but cheap labor is a crutch excuse leaned on too hard by Americans. When you factor in quality control, ocean freight costs, turn around times, rework costs, lack of automation the pickup in reduced labor does not seem as outstanding. There are other reasons companies go overseas to get work done. Some of these might be:

    1) easier financing on importing vs domestic production (one I find very annoying)
    2) many bureaucracies in the US which add over head to businesses – and can at times be very arbitrary in enforcing rules which poses a real risk factor.
    3) to the Chinese one person’s money is as good as the next … I think this drives a lot of creative people overseas because US companies tend to want the big player’s contract.
    4) US factories like to layer in sales & marketing costs because they have “a department” when those sales and marketing costs are of little use to real marketing companies. The Chinese tend to just be the factory and don’t all pretend they know something about marketing.
    5) And home financing policies have clearly driven way too many dollars into building projects that should have been deployed elsewhere.

    February 5, 2008
  25. Patrick Enders said:

    I hear your critique of Barack Obama. Is there a person whom you would recommend for President?

    February 5, 2008
  26. John George said:

    David- All very good points. I agree. One thing on automation, especially in my industry, furniture, 85% of our exports to China have been CNC machines. It is very hard to look at a case piece now and tell where it was manufactured. It still amazes me that stateside companies can ship raw wood overseas, have it machined and built into furniture, ship it back to the US on containers, and still do it for less than domestic cost. I think the points you cited explain this pretty well. As far as a global economy, I don’t think we are going to raise people up to our economic level. I’m affraid we are going to descend to the rest of the world. It goes back to that balloon you refered to.

    February 5, 2008
  27. Patrick Enders said:

    Did you take pictures at the caucus? That was really something, and I forgot to pull my camera out of my pocket.

    February 5, 2008
  28. Oh, I should have thought to whip out my cell and take a picture or two as well. That was quite the crowd!

    Didn’t look the Republicans were suffering from quite the same problem…

    February 5, 2008
  29. Patrick, I wish I had someone in mind. I find all the candidates to be good and thoughtful people and wish to make one person of them all, chisel a bit off here and there, and whallah! An all American President and VP!

    As I stated early on, I’m not much about politics, having grown up in “the city that works,” Chicago, and actually working for the first Mayor Daley right out of high school, politics is something with which I wrestle and where I never feel comfortable at any stage in the game.

    It’s like this one time I inquired after a detective if he had honed a good set
    of instincts. He told me he did. And I said, so, how do you tell if someone is
    lying. He said, “It’s easy, they’re all lying!”

    John, I don’t get scared. I don’t run. But thanks for being.

    February 5, 2008
  30. Ward 4 resident Anne Sovik sent me these two pictures from her (DFL) caucus:

    Caucus Picture 1 Caucus Picture 2

    Thanks, Anne!

    February 5, 2008
  31. […] Ariel Emery has a story in today’s Nfld News titled ‘Massive’ turnout for local party caucuses. I’ve turned off comments for this post (not pingbacks, tho). Continue the discussion here. […]

    February 6, 2008
  32. Patrick Enders said:

    Hey, I know that woman! Griff and Sean, those pictures are great. Did anyone get any other pictures, especially any that recorded the throng of persons standing in line inside and outside the building, or the traffic that reportedly stretched all the way back to Woodley?

    So it was my first caucus, sort of. I went simply with the intention of voting, caucusing, and a little bit of saying “Go Obama!”, but it soon became apparent that the DFL was completely unprepared for the spectacular turnout for the presidential balloting. Therefore, I started digging in.

    First, I tried to help by directing voters to their appropriate caucusing location. However, I was not a very good choice for that, as I apparently have no idea where most of the street addresses in Northfield actually are.

    Meanwhile, the Ward 1, Precinct 2 line began to stretch halfway around the school, and the DFL was also running out of both ballots and new voter registration forms. Therefore, I joined a group of volunteers who were hastily cutting blue sheets of paper into ever smaller, vaguely trapezoidal scraps we were calling “ballots.”

    Next, I was on a quest to find anyone who could help us use a copier. Mercifully, I found two incredibly helpful members of the custodial staff, Rita Lattimore and Jeff St. Martin, who were kind enough to help me copy voter registration forms for another thousand voters are so. (There were also responsible for cleaning up after the night was over, so they deserve our commendation for that, as well.)

    With all the activity, I nearly forgot to vote. Mercifully, Felicity called me on my cell phone to remind me, just five minutes before my precinct stoped accepting ballots.

    Unfortunately, after all that running around, I was too spent to have anything to contribute to the caucusing process. Did I miss anything interesting?

    February 6, 2008
  33. Felicity Enders said:

    WOW. Last night’s DFL caucus was truly inspirational. I want to particularly highlight Patrick’s mention of the two custodians who saved the day. Several precincts had long lines, but the MANY extra sign-in sheets (printed double-sided) made the most difference in Ward 1, Precinct 2. After Mr. St. Martin and Ms. Lattimore delivered on the much-needed copying, we were able to split the line across several tables to facilitate faster sign-in. Within fifteen minutes the W1P2 sign-in line was gone.

    The other individual I really want to commend is Tom Hayes. He’d brought a huge map of Northfield with the precinct lines. As it became clear that this was the best resource to direct people on the quest to find their precinct caucus location, he added the room numbers onto the map itself.

    And finally, thanks to all who stuck it out through the traffic jam, vastly insufficient parking, and often extremely long lines to make their voices heard. Minnesota spoke loudly last night!

    February 6, 2008
  34. Britt Ackerman said:

    Last night I was stuck on Division street forever…and ever…due to the honest-to-goodness traffic jam caused by all the caucusgoers! While I was sitting in my idling car, I could see the line of cars stretched out behind me from my side view mirror, as well as the line of cars ahead, and I felt some powerful emotions. What a sense of democracy in action, to see the lines of cars coming from all directions. All those people coming out to state their preference for their presidential candidate, participating in democracy at the grass-roots level.

    I think that this presidential election will be historical. I think that we’re going to see the public in action like we haven’t seen since the Vietnam era. I think a revolution is brewing. I think voter turnout will blow the predictions, and that voters from traditionally underrepresented sectors will surprise the pundits and pollsters.

    I hope that the revolution continues. That we as a nation become less apathetic and more empowered in our own governance. That all people of all ages from all backgrounds continue to turn out in record numbers. That we all, each of us, understands not only that we have a voice in politics but that we have a responsibility to use our voice. That we have a duty to participate, an obligation to speak, and the privilege to do so. Today, I am hopeful.

    February 6, 2008
  35. Ray Coudret said:

    I read in the Northfield News that almost 400 people attended the Republican Caucus at Northfield High School.

    Wow! That’s amazing.

    February 6, 2008
  36. Molly Woehrlin said:

    Cheers for you, Britt – I really loved your statement — HOw about sending it in as Letter to the Editor at the NEWS so more people could be inspired by it? – a really fine, moving statement. Thanks for expressing hope and inspiration so well, Molly

    February 7, 2008
  37. Britt Ackerman said:

    Yeah, and 2,334 attended the democratic caucuses in Northfield, which is almost 5 times more than the previous record, according to the DFL.

    February 7, 2008
  38. Patrick Enders said:

    I agree that the caucus system was completely inadequate for the number of people involved this Tuesday.

    This could be dealt with in a number of ways, including a switch to a day-long primary system, or a switch to many more localized caucus sites.

    Unfortunately, I heard on MPR this morning that someone in the state is actually proposing a non-binding Democratic presidential primary. That seems to be an insanely stupid solution on just about every level.

    February 7, 2008
  39. Jerry Bilek said:

    Amy Klobuchar said we need to organize better if we want people to participate. I agree. A primary is more inclusive and less exclusive. It is much easier. the situation at the middle school was chaos and yes I complained before it happened, but I loved it. What a high. I saw my friends and neighbors all taking part in a messy process.

    In the future, I would like to see us move to a primary, preferably a regional primary.

    February 7, 2008
  40. Got a few pictures of the DFL caucuses from Margit Johnson:

    DFL Caucus DFL Caucus DFL Caucus DFL Caucus

    February 7, 2008
  41. Felicity Enders said:

    I agree. Who runs/decides this process? Should I contact the party folks or our elected officials?

    My thoughts:

    The caucus system is obviously unable to accommodate suddenly large numbers (though this should have been anticipated). That could easily be true of a primary too, but at least a primary allows voting throughout the day. The caucus clearly disadvantages those who can’t attend at the required time, and magnifies problems caused by high turnout due to the compressed timeframe. The argument that a caucus inspires discussion with one’s neighbors just isn’t sufficient to disenfranchise so many people.

    A non-binding primary would be worse than the caucus. Why not just go back to the smoke-filled room and leave the voters out entirely?

    We need a binding primary system before the next election cycle. This “problem” of high turnout may not go away, even with a less contentious election. Both parties picked up many people not previously on the rolls, so they may continue to attract higher turnout into the future.

    February 8, 2008
  42. Anne Bretts said:

    I agree, Felicity. Another problem with caucuses is that they can be daunting or even impossible for people who aren’t vocal, who don’t like confrontation, people who have issues with crowds, people who have hearing problems or can’t drive after dark or who have any of a number of conditions that keep them from crowded public events.
    Many Clinton supporters may have been unwilling to stand up to what they thought would be a more assertive Obama crowd. No one would have meant to intimidate anyone, but some might have felt intimidated.
    A primary is a much better option. The parties still can hold meetings to determine who the delegates will be, but the public should have the say over who the candidate will be.

    February 8, 2008
  43. Ruth Sylte said:

    Sorry to rain on the general caucus “lovefest” I’ve been reading here, but Minnesotans need to wake up… the system is disenfranchising voters!

    I’ve lived and voted in states with primaries (Tennessee and California) and I’ve participated in the Minnesota caucus system. Give me a primary anytime — at least I have a better chance of actually being able to vote.

    I am one of the very angry individuals who simply could not reach my chosen caucus location before the voting ended — even after several attempts throughout the evening. (Whose bright idea was it to put the district Democrat and Republican caucus locations basically across the street from each other??)

    Instead of raving about the increased participation, where are the voices commenting on how many of “friends and neighbors” were MIA because of the weaknesses in the system that became so gallingly apparent this past week?

    Despite the “great turnout” (spare me!), it was only a fraction of the participation Minnesota could have had if it used a system allowing maximum access for ALL voters in this state — a primary.

    Caucuses are an exclusionary system and I’m surprised that Minnesotans have refused to do anything about this over the years since I first moved to this state and participated in the late 1970s.

    The only people who have the opportunity to participate in a caucus are those who meet certain selective requirements.

    * It is limited to those who are able to be physically present. There is no opportunity for absentee ballots.

    * It is limited to those whose schedules specifically permit a Tuesday evening meeting (and, apparently, the hours that it take to get to the location). This disenfranchises many second and third shift people, people whose jobs involve out-of-town travel, people who can’t arrange child care or any other legitimate reason. Absentee ballots and voting at a local polling place open for 12+ hours accommodates a far larger amount of voters — fairly.

    * It is limited to those who have transportation to get to one central site in an entire legislative district! Voting at a local polling place would allow many more people to participate with less transportation issues.

    * It is limited to the number of people (or their cars!) who can physically fit in the caucus meeting (parking?) site. A local polling place open for 12+ hours handles vote traffic much more effectively.

    Furthermore, I see the caucus system as an invasion of privacy regarding electoral choices. In a primary system, voters quietly declare a party to the election official, receive a ballot and make choices alone in a voting booth. A caucus forces people to be far more public about their party affiliation and choices than a primary would. And I believe in the right of the voter to make his/her choices of conscience in private.

    Finally, it doesn’t inspire my confidence to hear that the current system is so overwhelmed that organizers are scrambling to provide “ballots.” Please!

    There are two legislators who have declared that they want to change the system, Sens. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, and Linda Scheid, DFL-Brooklyn Park:

    It’s time to stop patting each other on the back about the so-called “wonderful caucus experience” to which only a few of you (compared to the rest of us) were privy. Out of fairness to ALL Minnesota voters, it is time to demand a change so that we have equitable access. Start looking at the serious problems inherent in the system and start walking the walk and DOING something to ensure that as many Minnesotans as possible are able to participate in this part of the process.

    Minnesota state legislators of ANY party who defend or want to maintain an obviously antiquated and exclusionary caucus system are asking for some serious questions from their constituents at this point. Primary for all, caucus later for the party hardcores.

    By the way, I see plenty of other problems with the current national primary/caucus scene as it stands, but that’s for another discussion.

    [sigh] As far as I’m concerned, my chosen presidential candidate owes me a beer for the significant hassle (and waste of gas) I went through just attempting to get to the caucus to cast my vote last Tuesday. Anyone who would like to pay up on that person’s behalf is welcome to contact me. 😉

    February 8, 2008
  44. John George said:

    Felicity, Anne & Ruth- Very well stated by all. I didn’t even try to attend for all the reasons you mentioned asbove. A binding primary has my vote!

    February 8, 2008
  45. Jerry Bilek said:


    I think many of us have offered criticism of the process. In comment #1, I stated I prefer primaries then stated it again in #44. Comment #46 Felicty states “We need a binding primary system before the next election cycle.”

    The fact is it was a great turnout. The first caucus I attended had maybe 50 people. I believe this one set an attendance record, that is great.

    I agree with your criticism of the caucus, but not of the comments above directed at myself and others. Many people have offered criticism of the process, hardly a lovefest. As I already stated, Sen. Klobuchar(the top elected Dem in MN) believes the process needs fixing. If you were there it was a very energizing night.

    In 76 my mother took me to a Brown rally in Madison. It was a mess, everything went wrong. They even spelled Wisconsin wrong. Would I do it again, heck yeah.

    February 8, 2008
  46. John S. Thomas said:

    There were many things that could have been done better. I just think that volunteers were overwhelmed, and that contingency planning was not done.

    The middle school may not have been the best choice as a location, but there are only so many locations where we can put a large amount of people at the same time.

    The #1 thing that could have been done better is DIRECTIONAL signage. The signs were small, and low, so no one could figure out where to go.

    The map could have been closer to the door. It should have been right at the door.

    A couple of volunteers directing traffic would have made a large impact.

    Just having folks going to random tables, resulted in CHAOS. I would have tried to utilize the hallways, and formed nice organized lines.

    Fire codes were greatly exceeded in the cafe during the caucus, as I am sure we blew right through the occupancy limits of that room.

    God bless those that showed up in wheelchairs to caucus. You think it was tough, try it in a wheelchair. It was right close to impossible.

    After everyone got signed in, I thought it went rather well. I think that the local party should do an “After Action Review” to discuss what went well, and what could be done better.

    You have to remember that many that put this on are VOLUNTEERS, and do not have a lot of training or guidance on how to do this. I think that the resourcefulness that was shown in reacting to the problem, and finding solutions is commendable.

    Instead of just venting, folks should contact their party representatives, and give them some constructive comments on how they feel things could be done better. Things get better through incremental change, and they can take that information and plan the next one.

    I would have to agree with some of Ruth’s points though. It is nearly impossible to move that many people through unorganized queues, get them registered, allow them to vote, and move on in such a short period of time. Better ways need to be explored.

    Also, Britt wrote:

    Last night I was stuck on Division street forever…and ever…due to the honest-to-goodness traffic jam caused by all the caucusgoers! While I was sitting in my idling car, I could see the line of cars stretched out behind me from my side view mirror, as well as the line of cars ahead, and I felt some powerful emotions. What a sense of democracy in action, to see the lines of cars coming from all directions. All those people coming out to state their preference for their presidential candidate, participating in democracy at the grass-roots level.

    Nice imagery, but how many of these folks were single occupancy vehicles?

    February 9, 2008
  47. Who plans the caucuses here? Or is that cauci? 🙂

    February 9, 2008
  48. Oh, that was a thoughtless question. Duh. Well, in Chicago, back in the day,
    we prolly would have seen the lack of planning as part of an intentional move to keep the voting to a minimum select group…dirty tricks and all that, but no one in Northfield would do that now…or would they?

    Honestly, I have no way of knowing either way, but I’m just saying, after so many of my years of idealism have blinded me to the real truths of life, I
    tend to wonder about these things from time to time. Just sayin’, that’s all.

    February 9, 2008
  49. Jane Moline said:

    Part of the problem with the caucus is that obviously most people do not want to caucus. They want to make it easy and quick and simple and secret and vote.

    I wear a T-shirt when I work out that says “Democracy is not a spectator sport.”

    What we have is two different groups. One wants to have a say in specific political races but does not have the time or interest in the rest of the political process. The caucus system does not meet their need. The idea that it might mean stating something you believe in and having some people disagree with you is too intimidating. (Probably not a problem for most of the people on this blog.)

    The largest caucus in Northfield DFL in the past was 4 years ago when we had over 700 at the old Middle School. It was difficult and messy, but exciting and invigorating.

    This year everyone who volunteered to be conveeners were hoping for a good turnout. The only way to handle the crowd would have been to split into 3 or 4 caucus locations. That would cost the DFL party to rent each location. My guess is that most of the attendees did not give any money to defray the cost of the caucus on Tuesday–how were we going to pay for 3 or 4 locations, when we can barely pay for one? (Or for preprinted ballots, voting booths, electronic registration system, etc, etc?)

    The solution does seem to be that we need to go to a primary for the important elections, but caucus for the party platform. (For me, that is the most important part of participating in the caucus.)

    The idea that the DFL party in Rice County was suppose to have crisis management ready to handle the overwhelming numbers who are newly interested in the primary process and voting for their party nominee preference is unreasonable. (By the way, we are us and you and everyone–the party is us.) We did everything we could to get everyone registered and a ballot. Quite a few even stayed for their precinct caucus and worked on delegate and issues. Lots became immediate volunteers with positions of responsibility. We had about 10 (not 2) people directing attendees to their caucus room or the end of the line for 1-2.

    Some were offended because they could not cast their vote in secret (like a voting booth.) I don’t really understand their concern. Anyone could cover their ballot when they voted and have folded it before turning it in so no one had to know who you voted for.

    State DFLers are proposing a change to a primary, which would require funding with our taxes to pay for primary elections, judges, and locations. Republicans are against the system because of the cost and so far, their caucus have much smaller numbers of participants.

    This is our government–what do we want? Is it important for us to have a big turnout to choose our party nominee? If so, we need to have a primary that we will have to pay for (unless Tim Pawlenty can figure a way to bond for it so our grandchildren can pay for it.)

    February 9, 2008

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