I know some people defend caucuses, but…

I’ve defended them myself. We want more participation, not less, and caucuses discourage too many voters. Minnesota switched to a presidential primary election since the last time we did this.

With 85 percent of precincts reporting at press time, nearly 815,000 Minnesotans cast ballots in Tuesday’s presidential primary. In 2016, just 318,000 people participated in caucuses statewide.

Caucuses had long been criticized as being more appealing to party insiders rather than the typical voter. Long lines and slow results also frustrated participants in 2016.

I don’t know that Minnesota was as prepared as they should be. I talked to a few people who live in more rural counties (even more rural than Stevens county, where I live), and they simply had no designated polling places at all — all votes had to be done with a mail-in ballot. They were rather jealous of the fact that I was wearing an “I VOTED” sticker, and isn’t getting that sticker the whole point of going to vote?

But yes, we felt like the turnout was huge in 2016, with chaotic milling mobs at the bar where we caucused, but apparently that was less than half the number who participated this year.


  1. imback says

    I don’t really get how caucuses work, but I suppose the reason you’d have to change your original vote is because the candidate you picked got fewer than a specific threshold in the precinct, and the precinct doesn’t want their voice diluted with votes for low-chance candidates. This effect can be duplicated by a primary by using ranked choice voting. If your initial choice is below the threshold, then your second choice is used, and another round may even use your next choice, until no vote is for a candidate below the threshold. This process can repeat for the district round and the state round. All these rounds would be recorded, so people would know their first choice is acknowledged even if not used in the final round. And it could all be done with voters submitting their ranked choice ballots from bed.

  2. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Early voting for the IL primary just opened up. I’ll stop by one of the sites and cast my vote in a day or two, for my preferred candidate (Warren).
    I’d really like to see instant run-off voting. IL isn’t voter initiated referendum friendly. Those states that are, what effort is being made to get such a system on the ballot for all elections?

  3. says

    I will somewhat defend caucuses. As I’ve noted in a comment on this blog in the past, the caucuses here in Iowa do try to encourage participation beyond just filling in a dot on a piece of paper. We elect people to committees and to our central committee. It’s a way for people who are not the party insiders to get involved with party business.

    That said, most people who show up don’t give a s*** about the party business. They’re there to indicate their support for their preferred candidate and just want to go home after that. This generally means that the people who actually stay for that party business are the party insiders.

    But I would argue the problem, then, is not with the caucus system, but voter apathy. There are all these people worried about the state of our democracy who will point to gerrymandering Republicans, Trump, the two-party system, and/or the DNC for ruining it, but I ultimately disagree. I think the problem starts with “the typical voter” who doesn’t want to be involved in the process beyond, as I said before, filling in a dot on a piece of paper. Sorrynotsorry, that’s not really “participating.” That’s doing the bare minimum.

  4. Chris J says

    @Leo Buzalsky:

    How do you expect people to spend their time during the… like… 2 or 3 out of every 4 years an election cycle is happening (and that’s just presidential elections)? I’m all for the desire for people to be more involved and knowledgeable in politics, but I’m not about to fault them for spending their time in other ways.

  5. says

    Congress critters are on a two year cycle.
    I remember one time when I lived in Anoka MN we ended up with an anti-abortion Democratic candidate because of low primary turnout.

  6. says

    @Nerd of Redhead:

    You’re still voting for Warren, even though she has skewed about half the previous primaries in Biden’s favor by getting less than 15% of the vote (and getting no delegates for actual progressives, while increasing the percentage of delegates who go to Biden)?

    Well, go right ahead — but next time you talk about the necessity to vote Blue No Matter Who because we have to be strategic and fight the Republicans, I’m going to laugh and laugh and laugh and point out that you deliberately undermined us all. This is exactly the behavior I was expecting from Clinton supporters who claimed to be progressive; it’s always fun to be proved right.

  7. says

    I am a polling place manager in my Montana County and I always love elctions. My thought is caucuses are a great idea–we should have them and THEN have an election. The caucuses would allow for spirited local discussion about candidates but then voters could enjoy the solitude of the election booth to make their decision. Just don’t let the caucuses be the device by which candidates are advanced.

  8. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Vicar#6, Your unsolicited and inane advise based on faulty premises is dismissed as usual. I don’t listen to egotistical asshats who don’t know how to shut the fuck up and listen. Here’s the truth. It’s my choice, NOT YOURS!

  9. says

    @The Vicar
    I find it a little strange to see you arguing in favor of voting for someone other than the candidate you really want, for tactical reasons. I was under the impression that you were against that.

  10. says

    @Leo Buzalsky:

    I would argue the problem, then, is not with the caucus system, but voter apathy.

    Anyone who works swing shift or has to take care of children in the evenings would strongly disagree that the problem depressing voter turnout at caucuses is not an hours-long process for which you have to arrive on time to be allowed to participate at all, but rather mere apathy.

    But what the fuck do I know? I’m just a mom.

  11. Arete says

    In 2016, I had to caucus with a toddler if I wanted a say in the primary. It was crowded, and loud, and there was nowhere to sit down, so I kept the baby in the carrier on my back. He cried a lot, because it went through his naptime, and I had to stay, because you couldn’t come in late, and you couldn’t leave early, if you wanted to be sure your vote would count. My partner had to work, and so didn’t get to vote. We both vote in every election, presidential right on down to the weird little local ones, but a caucus couldn’t be designed to make it harder to do. I much prefer the all-paper, by mail system, which allows me to vote at my leisure, in my living room, with a cup of coffee. Like a civilized person.

  12. justanotherjohn says

    Caucuses are a beautiful dream in theory, but in practice they’re just voter suppression. I was never able to attend one, because work, family, life, stuff like that. And why do I have to spend hours in a grade-school gym when I know who I’m voting for?
    My state – Washington – finally dumped caucuses for primaries. Now I have a vote.

  13. DanDare says

    In Oz its the Democracy Sausage rather than a sticker. I guess that’s because voting is compulsory here so the sausages are compensation?