Minnesota has a proud history of civic engagement, and the caucus system is part of that legacy. As Catholics, caucusing provides us an opportunity not only to live out the call to faithful citizenship, but also to have a meaningful impact on the political process. Here is what you need to know in order to be an effective voice for the common good and human dignity at your local precinct caucus.
The basics of caucusing
- Precinct caucuses will be held 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 1, 2016.
- A precinct caucus is a local meeting organized by a political party. The Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, the Republican Party of Minnesota and several other political parties hold them across the state.
- The precinct caucus is the first in a series of meetings where political parties endorse candidates and set goals and values (called party platforms). The positions and candidates supported at the local level directly inform the positions and candidates that delegates support at each political party’s state convention.
- Anyone can attend a precinct caucus, but in order to participate you must be eligible to vote in the upcoming general election, live in the precinct and be inclined to support the principles of the party with which you are caucusing.
- At your precinct caucus, you can vote for the candidate you want the party to support for president. The results will help determine how many delegates each candidate gets at their party’s national endorsing convention.
- You can also introduce and support resolutions on statewide policy issues, such as abortion restrictions, education choice and public support for low-income families. Anyone can introduce a resolution, and, if passed, a resolution can eventually become part of the official party platform.
- Delegates to represent your precinct at future conventions and local party leaders will also be selected at the caucus.
- The entire process usually lasts about two hours, but you are typically not required to stay for the whole duration in order for your votes or resolutions to count.
- You have the right to take time off work to participate in a precinct caucus. You must give your employer 10 days written notice. (See Minn. Stat. §§ 202A.19, subd.2 and 202A.135.)
Tips for being an effective caucus-goer
- Go prepared. Form your conscience for faithful citizenship by learning the principles of Catholic social doctrine; be ready to apply them to the conversations that will take place. Also, be familiar with the candidates’ positions and how closely they reflect a consistent ethic of life.
- Bring a buddy (or 10). If well-organized and of strong conviction, even a small number of people can make a big difference at a local precinct caucus. Consider asking friends from your parish to join you.
- Be winsome. There are several different ways to make a point or to advocate for a particular position. Finding ways that inspire and bring people together are typically most effective.
- Build relationships. Politics is fundamentally about civic friendship. Whether you’ll be introducing resolutions or not, your precinct caucus is a good opportunity to get to know others who live and work in your community and join them in working for the common good.
- Pray. Remember that you’re going to the caucus to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Ask him to supply you with confidence, charisma and prudence, and pray that his will be done in all things.
- Conscience formation: Think about politics in the same way the Church does. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility” is a good place to start.
- CaucusFinder: The Minnesota Secretary of State has set up an easy-to-use online tool to locate the site of your precinct caucus. Or you can contact the state party offices directly.
- Sample resolutions: The Minnesota Catholic Conference has prepared resolutions that can be introduced at either Democratic or Republican precinct caucuses, all with the aim of urging both parties to support the flourishing of human life from conception to natural death.
- Candidate preference tools: Tools like Project Vote Smart and http://www.isidewith.com can help you determine the presidential candidate who most closely shares your views.
- Precinct caucus workshop: Join representatives from the two major parties in St. Paul Feb. 25 to get an inside scoop on how to participate in each party’s precinct caucus process.