Dayton backs calls to swap presidential caucuses for primaries


Changing the way Minnesotans select their preferred presidential candidates has been backed by Gov. Mark Dayton.

There was a record turnout for the GOP and a near-record for the DFL caucuses in Minnesota on Super Tuesday, with long lines and huge traffic problems reported at precincts across the state.

The problems led to calls from some within the state's legislature to change the system to a primary, where people are given all day to cast their votes for their preferred candidate rather than having to do it at time-limited caucus events in the evening.

On Thursday Gov. Mark Dayton backed the cause, the Star Tribune reports, saying: "All Minnesotans should have the opportunity to participate. I think it deserves a very serious consideration."

Leading the charge for change is Republican Rep. Pat Garafalo, who plans to introduce a bill to change from caucuses to a primary. "This is the first time that I’ve seen the caucuses just fundamentally break down to where people were systematically prohibited from voting because of logistics," he said, according to the newspaper.

KFGO notes that Dayton's views – that primaries would boost turnout even further and make the selection process easier for votes – puts him at odds with the Minnesota DFL party chair Ken Martin, who wants to keep the caucus.

"Caucuses generally afford people the opportunity to participate in the grassroots process in the party, not only nominating candidates for office but frankly debating resolutions and shaping the platform of the political party," Martin said last month, according to the Pioneer Press.

While primaries are run in similar ways to national elections, with voters able to cast their ballots and leave, caucuses are private meetings held in the evening at which people vote but also discuss policies they want their delegates to take to national conventions, the newspaper notes.

Martin said the total DFL turnout on Tuesday was 206,078 at 4,109 precinct caucuses across the state, not far from the 214,000 record set in 2008.

But the overall number of people who caucused on Tuesday represents little over 10 percent of the entire electorate.

Bernie Sanders won the DFL caucus in Minnesota, with Marco Rubio winning the Republican one.

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