Precinct caucuses are the most basic level of governance for the political parties in Minnesota. I find it irksome when commentators, who understand nothing about how they work, condescend to the caucuses as some sort of silly and inefficient way of doing things (the recent SNAFU in Iowa hasn’t helped!). In reality, it’s governance by whoever shows up, which is a noble tradition that goes back nearly 400 years in this country.

The following reflects my own experience in attending caucuses for nearly 30 years. The caucus you attend may be slightly different. 

How the precinct caucuses work:

This year, the precinct caucuses in Minnesota will be held on Feb. 25 at 7 p.m. You can go online to find the meeting place for your precinct. It will also tell you your precinct. Just enter your ZIP code and address. Click here

To participate in the caucuses, you must be eligible (or will be eligible) to vote in the Nov. 3 election, you must live in your precinct, and you should generally agree with the principles of the party whose caucus you’re attending. You are allowed by law to request time off from work to attend the caucuses. 

The caucuses are run by the parties, not by the government. 

Citizens gather at the appointed time and place. Mine is usually in a school classroom. A registrar will check you in. The “convener” will call the meeting to order and read the rules and such. Then there will be an election for the chair of the meeting. Candidates for office are usually allowed to interrupt the caucus to make short campaign speeches. There will be no presidential voting at the caucuses this year. 

The business of the caucus is threefold:

1.    To elect delegates to the next-level convention, where candidates are endorsed
2.    To elect party officers for the precinct
3.    To consider resolutions

That last part is where you come in. Anyone at the caucus can propose a resolution, and a resolution can be on any topic: local, state, national or international. The form is usually, “WHEREAS, such and such,” which outlines the reasons for the resolution, and then, “NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED: the actual proposal.” The “Whereases” can get pretty long, but the only thing actually voted on is what comes after the “BE IT RESOLVED.” A resolution can also have multiple “BE IT RESOLVED” clauses: “BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED.”

You will be asked to submit the resolution in writing (a pre-printed page is acceptable), and there may be an accompanying form to file, where you identify yourself as the maker of the resolution. 

A simple resolution would be: 

“WHEREAS, we all like to breathe, 
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED: We shouldn’t pollute the air.” 

I have seen some that are that simple. 

The chair will call for a second. I would advise that you tell a friend about your resolution and get their support, so you know your resolution won’t die for lack of a second. Then the chair will call for discussion. The rules usually say that there can be one or two speakers in favor of the resolution and the same number against, with a time limit to speak. The maker of the resolution (you) can usually go first to speak in favor. During the discussion, amendments to the resolution may be proposed and adopted or rejected.

Have your one-minute speech ready! Use your speech to back up any claims made in the “WHEREAS” section, so you’ll give a strong argument why the caucus should support your resolution. After the speakers are finished, the chair will call for a vote, which is usually a voice vote. If the resolution passes, it is sent up the line to the people who may include it in the party platform. 

If you need help, you can use the draft resolution below at your precinct caucus. 

Sample Film Production Incentive Resolution  

WHEREAS, Minnesota has had a good track record as a center of film and television production due to our variety of unique locations, our climate and accessibility, the presence of experienced professional talent and crew, and the availability of support services, and 

WHEREAS, Minnesota is currently losing many production opportunities because we no longer have a competitive incentive program, and 

WHEREAS, more than 30 other states have robust tax incentives that have grown their film and television industries, such as in Georgia, where film and television production is now a $9 billion industry, supporting some 300 new businesses and employing 92,000 people, and

WHEREAS, a well-established film and television industry provides long-term business opportunities and reliable middle-class careers for those working in the industry, and 

WHEREAS, other businesses also benefit from film and television production, including local travel, lodging, real estate, construction, transportation, catering, manufacturing, hospitality, retail, and tourism, and 

WHEREAS, film and television production has very low environmental impact, and 

WHEREAS, experience has shown that although rebates are effective in attracting smaller-budget projects, transferable tax credits are a much more effective incentive than rebates, 

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED: The Minnesota Legislature shall enact legislation which will preserve and expand the current rebate program and will also establish a transferable tax credit to encourage more film and television production in the state, thereby increasing jobs and spurring economic development. 

By Twin Cities Local Board member Mark Bradley for the local newsletter.

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