Voter’s guide to the precinct caucuses


March 1, 2016, is Caucus Night in Minnesota. When it comes to presidential elections, Minnesota is not a “primary” state, so there won’t be a Democratic primary for you to vote in. The only way you can register your preference as to the nominee of the Democratic Party, no matter who that is, is to attend, in person, the DFL precinct caucus in the precinct where you live. But wait! you say, I’m not a member of the DFL, I don’t know how to caucus, I’m not even registered to vote. It doesn’t matter. On March 1, 2016, you can be a member of the DFL, and there is no test, no fee, no salesman will call at your home. You only have to sign to affirm that you live in that precinct, and that you will be eligible to vote by Nov. 8, 2016. If you have a work conflict, there is a state law that you must be given time off if you ask within 10 days.
Right after signing in, you will be handed a presidential preference ballot (which I am going to call the PPB.) You will mark and turn in your PPB right there at the caucus, and it will be counted and the results announced when voting is finished, but no earlier than 8 p.m. The caucus is a meeting, but it is also a method of voting. As a meeting, it will be called to order by the precinct chair at 7 p.m. You should try to arrive about 6:30 p.m., which is when the sign-in begins. The precinct chair may go on to chair the caucus itself, or the caucus can choose someone else as the caucus chair. They will also select at least two tellers to count the votes, both the PPBs, and other votes that will be taken. No one knows exactly how many people will show up for your precinct caucus. It may be a huge number, and require many tellers, and other people to assist the chair, or it may be so few that there is no need to elect anyone, and everyone just volunteers. (That’s pretty unlikely in our neighborhoods in a presidential election year.)
Here is the general order of business at this year’s precinct caucuses:
The PPBs are handed out at sign-in time and voting occurs between 6:30 and 8 p.m., and then, unless there are still people signing in, the PPBs are counted and the results announced to the caucus. If there are still people waiting to sign in and vote at 8 p.m., the votes are counted as soon as possible.
The caucus elects or accepts volunteers to conduct its own business, and also elects precinct officers for the next two years.
Delegates to the State Senate District (or SD) conventions are elected, along with ranked alternates.
Each precinct is allowed a certain number of members on the convention committees, such as Rules, Credentials and Arrangements; these are selected by volunteering or election.
In last month’s Southside Pride, we published the responses of three candidates responding to our questionnaire “Do You Stand With Bernie?” In SD 63, we did not get responses from Jim Davnie or Jean Wagenius. However, they are both totally unopposed, so their endorsements will be a formality. In SD 62, there is a Senate race as well as two State House races. Of the two State House candidates (both incumbents) only Susan Allen responded, and she simply answered Yes to all 10 questions. The incumbent senator is Jeff Hayden. See the editorial sidebar discussing some troubling issues affecting his candidacy. One of his two opponents, C.J. Sparrow, responded with good, thoughtful answers to all of our questions. He is planning to seek DFL endorsement. The second candidate running against Hayden, Mahmoud Hassan, only recently declared and did not receive the questionnaire. At this point, none of the three State Senate candidates has indicated whom they are supporting for President. Nevertheless, the SD 62 endorsing convention (which will also elect delegates to the state and CD5 conventions) is looking to be very interesting, so if you live in SD 62, you might want to try to be a delegate or alternate.

Further resources for caucus and convention attendees
Space considerations meant we had to leave out a lot of detail about the caucus and convention process and the 2016 Democratic National Convention delegate selection plan. Here are some further resources online if you need more information.
For more details about attending your precinct caucus, there is a video training on YouTube at
If you want to read the whole DFL Delegate Selection Plan, that can be found on the DFL website at along with a plethora of other documents, such as the Platform, the DFL Constitution, and information about organizing units such as Senate districts (SDs).
The MN Secretary of State will have (or has if it’s there already) a Caucus Finder by Feb. 8, 2016, at the following link:
If you want further information about candidates who are also incumbents, go to or as appropriate, and click on Members. You can get voting history, bills sponsored, and contact information.
For non-incumbent candidates, it can be harder to get information unless they have an up-and-running campaign team. We have been unable to find any contact or campaign information about Mahmoud Hassan. Both names are very common in Somali and Egyptian communities, which complicates the search.
C.J. Sparrow has a very active blog, and asks that people use that as a first port of call to learn about his program or to contact him about his campaign. The blog address is

Thoughts about the candidacy of Jeff Hayden

Minnesota Senate District 62 is a diverse, low- to middle-income collection of inner city neighborhoods.  It is not totally surprising that when a nonprofit corporation was formed to distribute assistance to help people pay utility bills, that its senator, Jeff Hayden, was asked to serve on the board.  This organization, Community Action of Minneapolis, was welcomed as one of the few opportunities to balance the scale, to allow those people who had been victimized by our rigged economy to at least keep the heat on in a Minnesota winter.
Unfortunately, the leadership of the organization was caught with their hands in the proverbial cookie jar.  Putting relatives on the payroll for non-existent jobs, leasing expensive cars, taking luxurious vacations—you know, the kind of things residents of District 62 do very seldom, if at all.  They are facing criminal prosecutions, and it has been reported that the loss is in the millions of dollars.
But what of the board?  I like Jeff Hayden.  I knew him as the director of Powderhorn Park, and have supported him in the past.  But here’s the thing.  I consider serving on a board like this, as a result of election to office, to be a sacred  trust.  You are representing your neighbors, helping to make sure someone is watching out for their interests.
Other than repaying a few thousand dollars for a board trip that may or may not have been appropriate, and a denial that he did anything wrong, the public has heard little from the senator.  How many of the shenanigans was he aware of, or did he suspect?  If none, then why not?  Was it too well hidden or did he fail in his due diligence as a board member?  I feel we deserve his honest thoughts, and, if necessary, an apology.
As the senator seeks reelection, asks for support and endorsement from various organizations and parties over the next several  months, I expect to hear from him.  I will not be a supporter, as I have been in the past, until we do.
Two challengers have emerged to date, a DFL challenger, Mahmoud Hassan, and a general election challenger, C.J. Sparrow.  If the senator does not come forward, I look to see this list grow.

David Tilsen, writer, friend, citizen
612-281-8576 – cell
612-823-8169 – home
[email protected]

One Comment:

  1. In the absence of any communication from Senator Hayden regarding supportive strategies for new arrivals in our subsidized senior citizen highrise – we are now told that a tenth of our units are newly reserved for individuals coming out of the homeless shelters around town – and discovering not surprisingly that survival habits from life on the street don’t vanish easily and often don’t fit well in our midst.

    I wonder just what my expectations ought to be regarding the current incumbents representing Senate District 62 in the Legislature.

    Nothing from a state senator who knows full well about transitional housing challenges. Nothing we can bring to our discussions with upper management. Nothing to call to the attention to our newly elected city council member or our mayor. Nothing that addresses the continuing cultural diversity with which we all must cope in this part of town.

    It’s not like this is a passing concern. The shortfall in transitional housing is chronic and touches all manner of challenging personal situations – homeless youth and families, chronic chemically-addicted individuals who are very unlikely to escape these woes without serious support, mentally unstable individuals who frequently have been adrift for years – and to be sure, many seniors who are dispossessed because of other medical and/or low-income realities.

    The Sanders folks urge me to ask Jeff to change his support from Hillary to Bernie before the March 1 caucuses are upon us. What I see is a weak reed who got caught with his hand in the cookie jar, a ranking member of the upper house who apparently “goes along to get along”. Not the Jeff Hayden I worked with over the past couple of decades. Not someone I can honestly recommend to the new electorate we are all discovering. Perhaps State Senator Hayden and for that matter State Representative Karen Clark have passed their respective “use by” dates. It’s not like these social safety net issues don’t matter. It’s more about who will come knocking on corporate doors and how major public funds will be put to use in our vicinity. And who bothers to keep in touch.

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