After more than 321,000 Minnesotans stuffed themselves into schools, churches, fire halls, snowmobile groups and Lions Clubs across the state to take part in presidential picking last month, Capitol and party leaders, as well as many voters, decided it is time for a change. Within days of the March 1 caucuses, leaders and their constituents began clamoring for the state to move from a presidential caucus system to a presidential primary. The volume was too great, the lines were too long and the caucus sites too chaotic for the system to continue, supporters said. Despite bogging down on other issues, the Legislature and the governor appear ready to make the change. In both the Republican-controlled House and the Democratic-Farmer-Labor controlled Senate, measures to change the 2020 presidential selection process into a primary are zipping along.
“There shouldn’t be a disagreement about that,” Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, D-Cook, said last month as the House and Senate were busy disagreeing on other topics. Although in past years the push toward a primary has faltered, this year it appears on track to go all the way.
If the measure becomes law, Minnesota would join a majority of states in holding primaries — not caucuses — every four years to allow partisans to vote on party nominees. According to records kept by the National Council on State Legislatures, only 15 states have some version of presidential caucuses, as Minnesota has had for the past two decades. For Minnesotans used to the caucus system, a move to a primary would change more than just the voting.