Why participate in a caucus?
By Nausheena Hussain, Engage Minnesota
“So long as I do not firmly and irrevocably possess the right to vote I do not possess myself. I cannot make up my mind — it is made up for me. I cannot live as a democratic citizen, observing the laws I have helped to enact — I can only submit to the edict of others.“
Martin Luther King, Jr. said that during one of the most critical times in America. He fought for our right to vote in an era when discrimination, hate crimes against the African American community were horrific and painful, to say the least.
I’ve been living in Minnesota for almost 8 years. I’ve voted in four elections and plan to again this year. I learned about caucuses in 2012, but didn’t participate. Not sure if I was too busy, didn’t understand, and so didn’t really care.
I regret not engaging.
On Wednesday, February 24, I partnered with Carol Woehrer from Think Again MN to host a Nonpartisan Caucus Workshop training. The training was held at Al Amal School in the evening. State Senator Jim Abeler of State District 35 kicked off the training by providing a general overview of caucus and conventions. Hollies Winston, the Affirmative Action and Outreach Director of the African American DFL Caucus, explained who can participate and what occurs at the caucus. Carol Woehrer wrapped up the evening explaining what resolutions are, how to write one, and conducted a mock resolution procedure.
If you missed it, don’t fret. Here’s a quick overview.
What is a caucus?
For those of you who are more visual, check out this video on what Minnesota caucuses are all about.
Caucus is a group of people with shared concerns within a political party or larger organization. Caucuses organize at their precincts, which is a voting district, basically comprising of your neighborhood. By definition, it’s a grassroots effort organized by Minnesota’s political parties.
Who’s eligible to attend?
- Open to the Public
- 16 years old to participate in Caucus Business
- In order to vote, offer resolutions, become a delegate or be elected to an organizing unit convention position:
- Be eligible to vote in the fall election
- Must reside in that precinct at the time of the caucus
- Must be in general agreement with the principles of the political party holding the caucus as stated in the party’s constitution.
- No person may participate or vote in more than one party’s caucus in any one year
What Happens at a Precinct Caucus?
This is the most important question. First, you sign in by providing a signature confirming you are a member of the party. You’ll see people from your neighborhood, school and even city.
Next, the group will elect a Caucus Chair and Vice Chair, who will preside over the caucus and keep order. A Secretary and two tellers to count votes will be chosen. Reading of letters from party officials will occur. Local candidates and city officials may also drop in and say a few words.
Votes? That’s right. You will vote. A Straw Poll will be held where you will make your choice on who the party’s nomination will be for President. Voting starts at 7:00pm and ends sharp at 8:00 pm.
If you can’t make it, absentee forms are available on party websites.
Once that is done, you will elect Precinct Chairs, Senate District Convention Delegates and finally propose and vote on resolutions.
We need to show up.
Citizens can influence the direction and decisions made by their government.
The power is in the caucus. You get to make a decision on your party’s choice for party’s presidential nomination. You get to influence that decision here and now.
At the caucus you also get to propose on resolutions that your party should include in the party’s platform.
Instead of complaining and getting upset over not being heard or included, here’s your chance to voice your opinions, what you care about, and what changes you want to see.
Find out where you should caucus.
Caucus Finder: http://caucusfinder.sos.state.mn.us/
See you on Super Tuesday!
Nausheena Hussain is the Founder of Reviving the Islamic Sisterhood for Empowerment (RISE), a platform to empower women in the Muslim community. She is dedicated in building a movement to address leadership development, increase community engagement, and create a philanthropic legacy for change. Nausheena graduated from the University of Minnesota cum laude in 2003 with her MBA. Married, with two young children, she lives in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.
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