In light of the madness that was the March 1 Minnesota caucus, the state has decided to switch to a primary system for the next election, for the first time since 1992.
The caucus system has faced heavy criticism during this current election in many states, due to the variety of problems associated with it, from long lines to the disenfranchisement of large groups of potential voters. It is because of these problems that Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D) has signed into law a bill that will shift the state back to a primary election system.
In a statement to The Pioneer Press, Dayton said about the decision, “A presidential primary will allow more Minnesotans to participate in our democracy and vote to help choose their Party’s candidate for president.”
The primary system, while not perfect, certainly offers more benefits for voters. For example, in 2020, in time for the next presidential election, unregistered voters will be able to register on the same day of the primary and then participate. Think Progress also pointed out that, as part of this new system, “voters don’t have to be registered with a specific party to cast a ballot in that party’s primary, but at their polling place they must state: ‘I am in general agreement with the principles of the party for whose candidate I intend to vote.'”
Ken Martin, chair of Minnesota’s Democratic Farmer Labor Party, said in a statement that during the March 1 caucus “It became clear that the Presidential nominating process in Minnesota needed to be reformed.”
Martin also detailed the specific trials Minnesotans faced during the caucus:
‘This year, more than 200,000 Minnesotans came out and voted in our Presidential Preference Poll but the long lines, short voting window and shortages of ballots and registration sheets made for a very confusing and dispiriting experience. We were told thousands more Minnesotans were so frustrated that they left without participating in the process.’
And those were just the problems that the people who were able to attend the caucus had to deal with. Many others could not cast their vote at all due to work schedules, family commitments, or illness. Because caucuses are held in short blocks of time rather than lasting the whole day, they shut out large groups of people that would have otherwise voted. As Martin says, “this is no way to make people feel welcome to the election process or to guarantee their right to participate and make their voices heard.”
At least voices are being heard now. It is refreshing to a see state legislature listening to the concerns of the people they represent and making changes based on those concerns. Regarding the decision to switch to a primary system, Martin said,
‘I appreciate legislators were willing to work together to pass a bill to ensure the broadest participation possible without disenfranchising people. The Presidential Primary will make the process inviting, accessible, fair, and open to all eligible voters in Minnesota.’
The caucus system is, understandably, becoming increasingly unpopular. With Minnesota dropping it, only 14 states will continue to use some form of it, reports Pioneer Press.