Pioneer Editorial: Engaging more voters to caucus?
One would have thought that with a lame-duck governor and about two dozen people seeking to win the post this fall, that people would have turned out in droves to Tuesday night's precinct caucuses. The caucuses are the first formal step in the po...
One would have thought that with a lame-duck governor and about two dozen people seeking to win the post this fall, that people would have turned out in droves to Tuesday night's precinct caucuses. The caucuses are the first formal step in the political process that finally pits a person from each party on the November ballot for the general populace to decide.
That wasn't the case, both in Beltrami County and statewide. We didn't expect the crowds of people as there were two years ago with a highly contested race for president, but we thought selecting the state's next governor would create enough interest to have people turn out to their precinct caucus.
Based on votes in the straw poll, only about 140 Democrats showed up at 12 caucus sites in Beltrami County. The Republicans actually did better, with 153 people casting straw poll votes in three GOP sites in Beltrami County.
Given that the 11 DFL candidates and six Republican candidates for governor all have worked Beltrami County, some several times, we wonder why interest wasn't greater.
The same is true at the state level. When sometimes 100,000 or more turn out at either party's caucuses, only 22,400 attended Democrat caucuses and 19,500 went to GOP caucuses.
Former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton asked that his name not be put on the DFL straw poll as he is going directly to the Sept. 14 primary, saying the Democratic endorsement represents too small a slice of progressives. Perhaps he's right, given the small attendance Tuesday night.
Delegates elected at precinct caucuses will now attend county conventions and be eligible to become state convention delegates, where the endorsements are given.
A concern about waging a primary battle is that a September primary gives the winner little time to recoup and tackle the general election opponent. But this Friday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers plan to introduce a bill that would move up the primary to August. Doing so could give ample time for a general election race. The bill will probably pass, as it also meets new federal requirements to allow a 45-day window to allow military personnel abroad to receive and send back absentee ballots.
The exciting about our democracy is the opportunity for civic involvement. What can we do to encourage more? We need to engage people in their government, to let our elected officials know what we expect of them.
Starting at the grass-roots level is better than waiting until there is a town hall meeting to attend and then shouting concerns which may or may not be addressed.