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June, 2000

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Precinct Caucus Reform - What the Heck Happened?

So with much fanfare, the DFL changed how the Precinct Caucuses and Senate District Conventions would be done. The same-day format, moved to a weekend, would reverse the slide of attendance and reinvigorate the process.

Whoops.

Viewed state-wide, Precinct Caucus attendance fell and in some areas, fell dramatically. Complaints (and even a lawsuit) about the locations, advertising, and timing have been heard. [See Hugh Gitlin's piece in this D-Zine, for example.] But all experiences were not so dismal. Senate District 64 did see Precinct Caucus attendance drop by 5 percent. But Convention attendance increased substantially over prior years.

This anomalous result may have been caused by several factors. First, commitment; political activism is not a spectator sport in SD64.

Second, conflict; a spirited race for Senate District Chair motivated outreach and increased the number of first-time attendees.

Third, timing; just by luck the building wasn't available until the afternoon. The DFL hotline was able to tell people who called that they could still get to the SD64 event on time.

Fourth, outreach; SD64 did three mailings, a targeted lit drop, postings to local bulletin boards, and updates on the SD64 website.

Fifth, a party; the mandated hour between the Precinct Caucuses and the Senate District Convention was made memorable by IssuesFest, a gathering of candidates, neighborhood groups and live music.

So, will the noble experiment be continued two years from now? I don't know, but the SD64 results show that the process can work with that format, if the effort is put in up front.

Michael Lewis
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