Wednesday, December 16, 2015

For 2016 MN GOP Caucus, Why Not an Express Lane?

Precinct caucuses, the biannual arcane and exclusive process that Minnesota political parties use to organize, are scheduled for March 1, 2016.

The Republican Party of Minnesota has seen dramatic drop-off in caucus attendance over the past few election cycles - caucus attendance fell almost 60% from 2008 to 2012, the last 2 presidential years.  I propose a new idea that could help turn that trend around- institute an "express lane" for caucuses that allows people to stop by the caucus location, cast a vote in the presidential preference poll, then leave.

The current caucus process is designed to trap people in small rooms, usually in a local middle school without human sized desks, clustered by precinct, so that you can browbeat one of them to volunteer to be a "precinct officer", a position they will promptly forget they have after they leave the building.

As if that's not enough, caucus participants also get the pleasure of listening to a handful of very passionate people argue endlessly about platform resolutions, which will then be argued again by other groups of people, who will then either kill the resolution, or add it to the party platform, so it can be promptly ignored for the next two years until the cycle repeats.

At some time during that process, but never soon enough, the person in the front of the room, called the convener, who likely has no training whatsoever, will ask the people in the room to cast ballots on small slips of paper so they can be tallied for the statewide presidential preference poll (or straw poll).

In past years, Republican Party leadership would then ignore the votes of the caucus attendees, and embark on a different arcane process of getting delegates to the national convention elected through a series of conventions.

But this year, thanks to the RNC and no-thanks to MN GOP leadership, Minnesota will be forced to bind their delegates to the results of the straw poll.  This means that the vote held on caucus night will actually be meaningful and impact (in a small way anyway) the selection of the next presidential candidate.

So, instead of punishing people who just want to cast a ballot for their favorite presidential candidate, like the citizens of the 40 or so other states that get that privilege, why not allow them to stand in a special line, put their name on a list, cast their ballot, then leave?

The others, who want to run to be delegates or debate resolutions, can participate in the full caucus experience.

It's really a win-win. The party still gets the data on the participants that they would otherwise get (which is the real purpose of caucuses anyway), but you could likely (with a good PR strategy) increase the universe of participants.  The hardcore attendees can still do their caucus thing, but they will only be annoying each other, instead of the poor unsuspecting souls who just want to vote.