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  • Minnesota precinct caucuses tonight

    Republicans in Minnesota have their chance to help select the GOP presidential nominee tonight at precinct caucuses across the state.  State GOP officials expect high turnout.

    At tonight’s caucus, Minnesota GOP voters are choosing between Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas.   Unlike a primary where voters walk in, vote, and then leave, a caucus is more like a meeting.  Speakers are encouraged to speak on the merits of favored candidates and voters discuss  public policy positions should be adopted as part of the party’s platform.   A straw poll is taken, but it is nonbinding and the results may not match the eventual way Minnesota’s delegates are eventually awarded at the Republican National Convention.

    The caucuses are the first step in the process to awarding Minnesota’s 40 delegates.  Precinct delegates from the 4137 local meetings continue on to county conventions where a similar process takes place, thinning the ranks of delegates.  This is followed by another vote to winnow the delegates at the congressional district conventions, and finally to state and eventually national conventions.

    Minnesota Republican Party Chairman Pat Shortridge is predicting a high turnout at tonight’s GOP precinct caucuses.  “Folks are pretty motivated,” Shortridge said. “For Minnesotans, this is really their first opportunity to cast their vote against the Obama agenda, and it’s their opportunity to cast a vote to start the process of making Barack Obama a one-term president.”

    Democrats are also caucusing tonight to show their support for President Obama’s re-election campaign and to voice their opinion on  issues such as voter ID.

    Minnesota’s precinct caucuses are Tuesday, February 7, at 7:00 p.m.

    Minnesota Caucus Finder: http://caucusfinder.sos.state.mn.us/

    More information on Minnesota caucuses:  (From the Minnesota Office of the Secretary of State)

    Q: Are there restrictions on meetings and events on caucus nights?

    A:

    There are restrictions for some governmental and school events after 6 p.m. on caucus nights:

    • No school board, county board, town board, or city council meetings
    • No U of M or MnSCU events without permission of the Board of Regents or MnSCU trustees
    • No public elementary or secondary school may hold a school-sponsored event
    • No state agency, board, commission, department or committee may hold a meeting

    See M.S. 202A.19 for details.

    Q: What is a precinct caucus?

    A:
    A caucus is a meeting organized by Minnesota’s political parties where citizens can engage each other in a conversation about which candidates to support in the next general election and what public policy positions should be adopted as part of the party’s platform.
    Q: Who can attend a caucus?

    A:
    Precinct caucuses are open to the public and participation is encouraged by the political parties. In order to vote, offer resolutions or become a delegate at a precinct caucus, attendees must be eligible to vote in the next general election, live in the precinct, and be in general agreement with the principles of the political party.
    Q: Are caucus meeting locations accessible to individuals with disabilities?

    A:
    Most caucuses are held in accessible buildings. Anyone needing interpretive services or caucus materials in alternate formats should write or e-mail their political party’s state office in advance for further assistance.
    Q: What do caucus attendees do?

    A:
    • Discuss public policy issues and pass resolutions
      Caucuses provide a forum for citizens to engage their neighbors in a conversation on a wide range of public policy and political issues. Attendees  may also offer and vote on resolutions to shape the party’s platform.
    • Vote in a straw poll
      Political parties may conduct a straw poll to gauge caucus attendees’ candidate preferences for state or federal elected offices.
    • Elect precinct officers
      Caucus attendees elect officers who will be responsible for organizing political activities within the precinct.
    • Elect delegates
      Caucus attendees elect delegates and alternates to represent their precinct at the political party’s county or district convention. District convention delegates in turn, elect delegates to the political party’s congressional and state conventions. Delegates influence which candidates and policy positions their party ultimately endorses.
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