Let’s can the caucus

Two legislators proposed a bill that would change the state caucus into a primary.

Tuesday was a proud day for Minnesota. An unprecedented number of voters braved traffic, packed into crowded classrooms and navigated the halls of elementary schools and churches to cast their caucus votes. Over 240,000 citizens flooded precinct sites across the state, tripling the 2004 caucus turnout. While it was a great day for democracy, it was a migraine for precinct coordinators and discouraged voters who were lost in the chaos.

Most precinct sites were packed to the gills, with the massive crowds quickly depleting precinct resources such as ballots and volunteers. The momentous turnout not only brought disorganization, but also legal oversights. The open, informal event made it impossible for election volunteers and coordinators to check the IDs of those casting their vote, or even to ensure that double voting and voter fraud wasn’t taking place. Votes were reported lost or not counted. Even though the trust system is noble, human error is inevitable and, in an event this important, unacceptable.

Sen. Barack Obama took each state that held a caucus Tuesday by an exceptionally wide margin, save American Samoa. In states that held primaries, the margins of victory were more even-keeled, perhaps representing a more realistic method of vote counting.

Two DFL legislators proposed a bill Wednesday that would change the Minnesota caucus into a primary for the next election cycle. The primary would allow citizens to vote throughout the entire day, with an organized and fair voting system providing more accurate and trustworthy results. The GOP wants nothing to do with the bill. Instead, they prefer to have a minority choose a candidate for the majority at the convention.

We support moving Minnesota, one of only 14 states that still caucuses, to a more manageable style of choosing the presidential candidate. For all other purposes, caucusing represents an excellent model of citizen involvement in the political process. Throw a quarter of a million voters into the mix and it just becomes incoherent chaos. We hope the bill gains bipartisan support, making our voting system a cleaner, more respectable process.