Minnesota presidential primary 101

Alice Keefe
Updated: January 13, 2020 06:45 PM
Created: January 13, 2020 06:33 PM

(ABC 6 News) - Minnesota voters will be some of the first in the country to cast their ballots in the presidential nomination primary when early voting opens Friday.

In all the years Minnesotans have taken part in nominating a presidential candidate to be the face of their chosen party, a true primary has only happened a handful of times.


“This will only be the fifth time in the state’s history, and the first time since 1992,” said Anissa Hollingshead, Rochester City Clerk and Communications Director.

The state legislature decided to give primaries another shot after the 2016 caucus saw huge turnout.

“In 2016 we saw really long lines, we saw really overwhelmed locations for people trying to participate,” Hollingshead said.

This year will look much different from the way things have been done for most of the state’s history. 

Instead of voters showing up for their party’s caucus at one place at one time on one given night, it will look almost like any other election.

“You’ll show up on election day or early if you choose to vote by absentee ballot, and you have that option to vote early by absentee ballot or by mail or in-person because all of it’s being run by election administrators like a typical election,” Hollingshead said.

What’s different is that it is a party process, so voters will have to choose either a DFL ballot, which lists 15 candidates, including some who have already dropped out of the race, plus an ‘uncommitted’ option, or the Republican ballot, which has one name, Donald Trump.

“You do not have to be a member of a political party to vote in that party’s primary, but you will have to sign a voter statement that you agree with the principles of the party whose ballot you are selecting. It doesn’t make you a member, it doesn’t make you have to vote for that party in future elections,” Hollingshead said. 

Who you vote for is private, but which party’s ballot you choose will be made known to the state’s major political parties.

For Minnesota voters, the presidential primary is just the first election this year, with a local primary in August and the presidential election in November, but it’s a start.

“We’re finally getting to the part where the rubber meets the road,” Hollingshead said.

Delegates will be bound by the results of the primary and cast their votes for whichever candidate their party chooses, unlike the state’s last primary in 1992.

Election judges are still needed for the presidential primary on March 3rd.

To get involved in Rochester, click here.

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