Minnesota’s March 3 Presidential Nomination Primary will be a new experience for the state’s voters with rules and procedures unlike other elections.
The presidential primary essentially replaces a portion of the political parties’ precinct caucuses, where among other decisions, participants selected presidential candidates. Caucuses will still take place on Feb. 25, one week before the primary, so the parties can conduct other business including taking stands on issues and endorsing legislative and U.S. Senate candidates. Local and state nominating conventions will still take place to conduct party business.
To be prepared for a smoother primary election day, voters should understand what’s new and different from other elections.
Although the primary will be run by state and local election officials, its essential function is to choose a party’s presidential candidate.
Unlike many states, Minnesotans don’t declare a party when registering to vote. To vote in the new presidential primary, voters have to declare a party. After arriving at the polling place and checking in, voters will be asked to select a political party because there’s a separate ballot for each party. Only the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and the Republican Party have submitted candidates. Two other major parties, the Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party and the Legal Marijuana Now Party will not be participating. If a voter refuses to select a party, they will not be able to vote in the Presidential Nomination Primary.
A voter’s choice of party ballot will be recorded and is private data. However, a list of who voted in a Presidential Nomination Primary and the political party each voter selected will be provided to the chair of each major political party. How a voter voted on the ballot will be secret.
Before voters are handed a ballot, they also must sign an oath saying they are eligible to vote and affirming their identity. That’s the standard oath, but for the primary, there’s an additional sentence. Voters will be required to swear they support the policies and positions of the party they’ve selected. Violation of the oath could result in a fine up to $10,000, up to five years in jail or both.
The political parties provided the secretary of state with a list of candidates. Seven of the 15 candidates on the DFL ballot have dropped out since the party turned in its list on Dec. 17. Minnesota is one of 12 states where Donald Trump blocked challengers’ names from the Republican ballot, so Soviet-style, Republicans will have only one choice.
If you are not registered, you can register at the polling place.
The presidential primary results must bind the election of delegates in each party.
Minnesota will conduct the usual primary election to narrow the field for offices such as state legislator. That primary will be Aug. 11. The general election is Nov. 3.
When you head to the polls on March 3, or before for direct or absentee voting, be prepared for these changes and be ready to cast your vote.