Confounding Caucuses: How to handle the caucus season

If you have been tuned in to social media, the television, the radio or the papers lately you likely know that the caucus season has begun. As college students, nearly all of us are legally able to vote, but perhaps, like most of us, you are too concerned with your new spring class schedules and work priorities to consider what’s been going on in politics. Have you been wondering lately what exactly a caucus is? Do you want to vote in the caucus but haven’t a clue how? Do you know if you’re registered to vote? Unfortunately, the answers are not one Google search away, and require a little digging.

What exactly is a caucus? According to factcheck.org, “Caucus meetings are arranged by either the state or political party to take place at a certain place and time. The results of the caucus are used to determine the delegates present at county, state and national nominating conventions of each political party.” In other words, if you identify with a specific political party or have your heart set on a political candidate you can use the caucus as a way of choosing which candidate you would like to be nominated for president.

An example of this is the last major caucus race in 2008 where the candidates Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards were all vying to win the nomination for the Democratic party. Obviously, Obama won the Democratic nomination and then went against the Republican nominee John McCain. The reason for this is because each of them received the most votes in their corresponding caucuses.

Unsure of whether or not you’re even registered to vote? That’s perfectly okay. It’s very easy to find out where you’re assigned voting location is and if you’re registered to vote. If you simply go to “http://mnvotesinfo.sos.state.mn.us” and click the “Voters” heading then click on the “Check My Registration” link, you can fill the required information to determine whether or not you are registered. If you are not registered, they have a link to begin that process as well.

Caucuses are just one of the many steps in the upcoming Presidential Election.

Unfortunately, the turnout rate for caucuses is dismally low. This is often because the process of voting in a caucus is much more time consuming than it is in a primary election. During the primaries, you often just check the name of the person you would like to vote for and you can go home. But depending on your political party, voting in the caucus is a bit more complicated than that.

For the Republican Party, the caucus vote is actually quite similar to the primary vote, but for the Democratic Party it is more complicated. It often consists of people standing in groups in a large community space (like a school gym, community center, etc.) and splitting into groups based on whichever political candidate they want to choose for the nomination. Many people prefer to sit out the process and vote for whoever the two final candidates are.

So if most of the general public is sitting out on caucuses, what can we expect of students attending caucuses? Unfortunately, for resident students at St. Kate’s, there is a slight hiccup in the caucus process that can make politically active students unable to put their vote in at the caucus. If you are a student whose permanent address is not close to campus, and you are registered to vote where your family lives, it might be tricky to make it home to vote in the caucus.

Minnesota’s caucus is always held on a Tuesday, which makes it greatly inconvenient for resident students to commute all the way home for a vote. There is a way around this, but it requires paperwork that will request you to change your address to that of the school’s. Unlike in general elections, you cannot submit an absentee ballot for the caucus. According to the Minnesota Democratic Party’s form for absentee ballots, “It does not count as a vote in the Presidential Preference Ballot. (You must be present to vote).” The Minnesota Republican party does not state anything in regards to absentee ballots.

With all of this in mind, how many students around St. Kate’s are intending on going to the caucuses?  “I am, since I’m voting for Bernie. I think it’s important to show all the support I can since he came in as a grassroots underdog,” Jade Rundquist ’18, ASL interpreting, said,

“I’m planning on going to the caucus because I want my voice heard, and I think it’s important to vote for who you want as a representative for your party otherwise someone like Trump could actually become president…Although, I am finding it fairly difficult to plan a trip home for a few hours just to vote,” Deanna Taube ’18, Biology Education, said.

“Yes I do plan to vote. I think many people don’t realize how privileged they are to be able to vote and have a say in what goes on in their country. Though many times it may seem discouraging, as if our vote doesn’t matter. But when it’s collective, it can make a big difference,” Mary Falowo ’16, Communications and Journalism said.

Do you need a ride? Campus Ministry is organizing carpools and taking a van to both the democratic and republican caucuses. Meet in front of St. Mary’s Hall on March 1 at 6 p.m.

College students are usually not expected to go to the caucuses, but it would seem that most St. Kate’s students intend to go. Remember, research all of the candidates and their stances before voting in either a caucus or a primary election. Students at St. Kate’s know better than anyone that knowledge is power, so utilize the resources around you to inform yourself on any topics that have been left unclear in this upcoming political race.

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