Election Education 2020 – Minnesota Caucuses, Primaries, and Conventions

In less than a year, voters across the country will head to the polls for the general election on November 3, 2020. Here in Minnesota, voters will have the opportunity to weigh in on the presidential election, a U.S. Senate seat, eight congressional seats, every state House and Senate seat in the Minnesota legislature, and various local offices in November. Before the general election, Minnesotans may participate in caucuses, primaries, and conventions, ultimately to narrow the field of candidates that they’ll see listed on the November ballot. And, while Minnesota continues to use the statewide caucus system for local and statewide elections, 2020 will be the first time in almost 30 years that the state will hold a presidential primary instead of a presidential caucus. 

To educate Minnesota voters on what to expect over these next nine months, read on to learn more about caucuses, primaries, and conventions! 

Caucuses

Caucuses are meetings facilitated by the state’s political parties and typically signal the official start of the election season by serving as the first of a series of meetings to endorse candidates in the upcoming election. In Minnesota, precinct caucuses are planned by the two major political parties in the state – the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party and the Republican Party of Minnesota. To attend, one must be eligible to vote in the general election, express support for that party’s platform, and live in the precinct where the meeting is being held. This year, the precinct caucuses will be held at 7 PM on Tuesday, February 25, 2020, one week before the presidential primary. To find information on your precinct caucus, visit https://www.dfl.org/caucuses-conventions/ and https://mngop.com/event-calendar/

Caucuses are a bit similar to the Junior League neighborhood meetings many of us attended before the holidays. At a caucus meeting, participants demonstrate support for their preferred candidate, meet others in their community, and discuss issues of importance. Because Minnesota is holding a presidential primary, the caucuses will serve to discuss local and statewide candidates. The precinct caucuses also typically serve to elect local party leaders, as well as to choose delegates that will represent that precinct at a series of conventions held later in the year. 

Primaries

A primary serves to determine which candidates will be listed on the general election ballot in November, and the process of voting in a primary could best be compared to the general election, as it’s very similar in that voters cast secret ballots, either absentee or at their polling location, for their preferred candidates. 

Minnesotans will have the opportunity to participate in the presidential primary on March 3, 2020 (also known as Super Tuesday because of the sheer number of other states voting that day) and a primary for state races on August 11, 2020 that include U.S. senate, congressional, Minnesota state legislature, and other local offices. 

Primaries are either open or closed. The Minnesota presidential primary will be closed, meaning that voters must choose a ballot from one of the two major political parties in the state, either the DFL or Minnesota GOP, and they may only vote in that party’s primary. The number of votes determine which delegates from the state will attend the Democratic National Convention this summer to ultimately choose the party’s nominee. 

In addition to the presidential primary in March, Minnesota voters may exercise their right to vote in the state-level primary on August 11, 2020. This primary is open, which means that voters are not required to declare their party affiliation, so they can exercise their right to vote in whichever primary they choose regardless of their political affiliation. Ultimately, whichever candidates earn the most votes in August will appear on the general election ballot in November for the office in which they’re running. 

Conventions

In Minnesota, district, county, state and then the two national conventions are held after their respective primaries and caucuses, and are facilitated by each party. In district, county, and state conventions, non-presidential candidates are endorsed, and delegates for the national convention are then selected. In Minnesota, the Republican state convention is scheduled for May 15-16, while the DFL state convention will be held May 30-31. Policy goals and party platforms may also be discussed and decided upon during these conventions. 

In the national conventions, the 75 delegates from Minnesota, which will be allocated based on the votes cast during the presidential primary, make their selection for a candidate from their party, and, ultimately, the candidate that receives the most overall delegate support cinches that party’s nomination, and their name will appear on the ballot in November. The Democratic National Convention is scheduled for July 13 – 16 in Milwaukee, while the Republican National Convention will be held August 24 – 27 in Charlotte.

Upcoming Key Dates

  • January 17: Absentee voting starts on this date, and any registered Minnesotan can choose to cast their ballot via mail or in-person before the presidential primary on March 3. 
  • February 11: Anyone who is not already registered to vote in Minnesota can register starting on this date in order to save time on presidential primary day on March 3. 
  • February 25: The DFL and MN GOP will hold their precinct caucuses at 7 PM across the state.
  • March 3 [Super Tuesday]: Minnesotans, along with voters in 14 other states, will head to the polls to cast their vote in the presidential primary. 
  • March 10: Township elections will occur on this date.
  • March 7 – April 19: The DFL and MN GOP will hold their party’s conventions for county, state Senate, and state House district conventions. 
  • March 29 – May 29: Congressional district conventions are held by the DFL and MN GOP to endorse U.S. Congressional candidates and select national convention delegates. 
  • May 15 & 16: A U.S. Senate candidate will be endorsed in Rochester at the Republican state convention.
  • May 30 & 31: A U.S. Senate candidate will be endorsed in Rochester at the DFL state convention. 
  • June 26: Absentee voting for the Aug. 11 primary starts on this date.
  • July 13 – 16: The Democratic National Convention will be held in Milwaukee where the Democratic party will endorse a nominee for their party’s presidential ticket for the general election.
  • August 11: Minnesota will hold an open primary for federal and statewide offices. 
  • August 24 – 27: The Republican National Convention will be held in Charlotte.
  • September 18: Absentee voting starts on this date.
  • November 3: General Election Day!  

Source: Pioneer Press

Call to Action

Become educated on the election. A comprehensive list of upcoming election dates, as well as a variety of other resources, can be found on the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website here and here

Get involved. Each party’s website offers a variety of resources on how to get involved. The Junior League of Minneapolis is non-partisan, and we’ve included both major party’s websites below:

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