How the heck do caucuses and conventions work?
There are a total of three steps, over a five-month period of time, in order to be elected to the DFL or Party State Convention to support your chosen candidates:
Step 1: Precinct Caucus
Step 2: Organizing Unit Convention (either Senate District or County Unit depending on where you live)
Step 3: DFL or Republican State Convention
To participate in a DFL Precinct Caucus you must:
- Live in the precinct in which you are caucusing
- Be at least 16 years old to introduce and vote on resolutions
- If you want to vote for candidates or become a delegate to conventions, you need to be eligible to vote by the time the next general election is held in November
- Believe in the principles of the Party
- Not be an active member of another political party; you cannot attend the precinct caucuses of more than one political party during the same election cycle
To participate in a Republican Precinct Caucus you must:
- Be eligible to vote in the fall election. Find out if you’re registered, or register, HERE!
- Live in the precinct.
- Be in agreement with the principles of the Republican Party and plan to vote for a Republican for president.
We hope this guide will help you understand some of the language and steps to get you ready to participate in this process!
STEP ONE: Precinct Caucus
The basics of your Precinct Caucus
The precinct caucus is the first level of the party structure, and the main function is to meet your neighbors and candidates, present and vote on party resolutions, and elect delegates and alternates to the Organizing Unit Convention. Candidates for various levels of public office will also be rotating through precinct caucuses and giving short speeches.
Your caucus will be held in your neighborhood, usually at a local school, community center, church, park, or other public meeting space. To find your party’s caucus location for your precinct you can visit your party’s website or talk to an organizer you work with. When you arrive at your caucus, you will sign in. As soon as you arrive, start to introduce yourself to your neighbors and build relationships based on issues you care about. At 7:00 pm, the caucus convener (a neighbor who has volunteered for this role) will call the meeting to order. The group will elect a caucus chair and then move through the agenda, which will include a straw poll for you to choose the candidates you prefer for party endorsement, election of delegates and alternates to attend the Organizing Unit Conventions (more on that below!), and discussion and voting on resolutions to be added to the party platform.
What you should do at your precinct caucus
1. Talk to people! Make connections!
Introduce yourself and explain the issues you care about.
2. Get elected as a delegate to your senate district or county unit convention!
We want you to go beyond the caucus and run to be a delegate to your Organizing Unit Convention. To do this, you will raise your hand to be considered. Moving beyond the precinct caucus level to the Senate District or County Unit level is a key way to keep our vision and values moving throughout the party process and into candidate campaigns. Odds are, as soon as you move on to the next level, you’ll start getting calls from candidate campaigns. This is an awesome opportunity to have real conversations with candidates about the issues you care about!
* You may have to give a short speech about who you are and why you are running to be a delegate. However, in precincts with high turnout, you may have to get elected from your precinct using a process called “sub-caucusing.” The precinct chair will walk you through the entire sub-caucus process.”
3. Bring Resolutions!
Introducing a resolution is a key way to shape the politics of this race, build connection with neighbors, and make your voice heard about the issues you care most about. Resolutions submitted at the precinct caucus level have the potential to be moved through the process, all the way up to the State Convention for deliberation for acceptance to the official party platform. Candidates will also be paying attention to what issues are brought forward as resolutions – this is part of shaping their campaigns.
4. Wear your MNA red! Don’t forget your swag!
Be sure to wear a red t-shirt, button, or sticker from MNA. That is part of how attendees know MNA nurses are engaged in the process.
Step 2: Senate District or County Unit Convention
The Organizing Unit Convention is the second level of the party structure. Depending on where you live in the state, the setup for these conventions can be quite different. Your Organizing Unit could be your Senate District, House District, County, or Precinct, and all set their own dates and locations for their convention. This information will be provided to you at the precinct caucuses.
Organizing Units may be based on county, senate district, or house district boundaries. In larger counties, such as Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, St. Louis, Scott, Stearns, Washington, and Wright, most Organizing Units are full Senate Districts. In these areas, the Organizing Unit and Senate District Conventions are combined into one convention that endorses legislative candidates and handles other party business. In areas where Organizing Units aren’t full Senate Districts, separate conventions are held to endorse candidates. Check out your party’s website to get more information about the makeup and process.
The basics of a senate district or county unit convention
- Endorse candidates for State House and State Senate (if applicable)
- To conduct local party unit business, such as elections for unit leadership
- To present and consider platform resolutions
- Short speeches by candidates
- Elect Delegates and Alternates to Congressional and State Conventions
The Organizing Unit and Senate District conventions are typically held on a Saturday with a packed agenda. It’s not uncommon for these to be full-day events! Bring food! And knitting! Or a book! And a phone charger! Elections for Congressional and State Convention delegates and alternates tend to be one of the last agenda items.
What you should do at your senate district or county unit convention
1. Talk to people! Make connections! Build lists of people who share our values
Same deal as precinct caucus – this is an incredible opportunity to meet people in your area and talk to them about MNA issues. There is a TON of time sitting and waiting – you should connect with people during this time! Connect with candidates!
Candidates and elected officials seeking endorsement for various positions will be in attendance and will address the entire convention. This is a great chance to get to know the people running to represent you. It is also a chance to grab them and talk to all candidates about MNA issues and tell them what you care about.
2. Support (or oppose) resolutions!
Resolutions will be presented to the convention from all the precinct caucuses in that organizing unit; the convention will hear from supporters or opponents on all presented resolutions. Consider speaking in favor of a resolution you care about! Resolutions will be voted out of this convention to move forward to the State Convention.
3. Run to be a state delegate!
The process for electing delegates and alternates to the next level is the same as they were getting you elected out of the precinct caucus, but it’s likely going to be much more competitive. Not all but many of these conventions use a process called “walking sub-caucuses. Here’s how it works:
Sub-caucusing (also known as the walking sub-caucus)
It is likely that you will participate in what is called “sub-caucusing” or “walking sub-caucuses” at your Senate District or County Unit Convention. (Also, IF there is high turnout at your precinct caucus you may also participate in this process at that step of the process.) Sub-caucusing is a way to choose delegates if there are more people interested in moving on to the next level than there are allotted spots. Here is how it works (and don’t worry, the chair will explain this process and walk you through every step of the way):
- The Chair opens nominations for sub-caucuses. The rule is, each sub-caucus must begin with either a candidate’s name or the word ‘uncommitted’, and may include a particular issue. This could be something like, “Uncommitted (for a candidate), Defeat right to work (issue)” After a set period of time, the Chair closes sub-caucus nominations.
- Once nominations are closed, you have a certain period of time to either convince folks to join your sub-caucus, or find a sub-caucus you want to join based on either candidate, issue, or both. This is the opportunity to talk about why you care about the issue you chose. The stronger your points and persuasion, the more people will join your sub-caucus.
- After time is up, the floor becomes ‘frozen’ and each participant must stay in the sub-caucus they have joined. At this time, each sub-caucus counts how many members it contains. While you wait, keep talking to your sub-caucus to get to know them.
- The Chair will then determine the ‘viability number’ in order for a sub-caucus to be awarded their number of delegates they can elect to the Organizing Unit Conventions. This is determined by dividing the total number of participants in the room by the number of delegates to be elected. Example– if there are 62 people total in the room to elect 4 delegates total, each sub-caucus would need at least 16 people to be viable. If there are sub-caucuses that are not viable, they dissolve and you begin the process at #2 above.
- Once your sub-caucus has their delegate allotment number, each sub-caucus decides by a majority vote on how to do your elections in your individual sub-caucus (voice vote or secret ballot). The Chair will inform you of the rules to keep in mind when electing your delegates and alternates – such as gender equality. You make your pitch to your sub-caucus as to why you want to run to be a delegate and your group votes, with hopefully you being elected as a delegate or alternate to your Organizing Unit Convention!
Here are some other tips to get elected:
- Bring people with you! Best way to guarantee a spot is to ask your neighbors and others in your area to come and vote for you. It is an opportunity to organize your own supporters!
- Connect with those who you know in attendance and ask them to vote for you for delegate!
- Take a leadership role. Call a sub-caucus yourself, work to persuade others to join, help your team hold itself together.
- Introduce yourself to the people in your sub-caucus individually first, tell them why you are running to be a delegate for, and walk around the room to meet others who haven’t found a sub-caucus to join yet. Ask them what their values and interests are and connect those to your issue and/or candidate.
- When you give your speech about wanting to be a delegate, tell a real story. Talk honestly and personally about why you care about this!
If you become a delegate to the next level, please let your organizer know!
Step 3: State Conventions
The State Conventions are the top governing body of the parties. At the convention, delegates continue organizing the party and working on the platform, in addition to endorsing candidates for United States Senate, and all Minnesota Constitutional offices.
The basics of the state convention
At the state conventions, endorsements for all statewide offices are made by the party. If you’re elected to the state convention, be sure to let MNA know ASAP –we can provide you training in preparation for the convention!
For more information contact:
Jackie O’Shea, Political Organizer
Cameron Fure, Political Organizer