With just two weeks left before a rather important deadline, the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and the Minnesota Republican Party agreed to conduct caucuses on March 1, 2016.
Minnesota represents one of the few instances where there are both presidential caucuses and some state law guidance on the conduct of those elections.1 According to to the Minnesota statutes, the state parties must jointly agree on a date for the presidential-year caucuses on or before March 1 in the year prior to the presidential election. In the event that there is no agreement between the parties, the law automatically sets the date of the precinct caucuses for the first Tuesday in February.
That's a problem. No agreement means a February caucuses date out of compliance with the national parties' rules on delegate selection, and thus penalties from the national parties.
This very outcome is what transpired in 2011. February 28 came and went with no agreement between the DFL and Minnesota Republicans. That pushed the 2012 Minnesota caucuses up to February 7. Of course, the DFL devised a plan to hold the caucuses on February 7, but not reveal the results until March 6. That was enough of an action to get the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee to grant the DFL a waiver, avoiding penalties from the national party. It also helped the waiver process for the Minnesota DFL that the Democratic Party was renominating President Obama and that he faced nothing more than token opposition in the primaries and caucuses.2 In other words, that reality made the granting of a waiver much easier for the Rules and Bylaws Committee.
Republicans in Minnesota held non-binding caucuses which helped them skirt RNC sanctions barring nominating contests before the first Tuesday in March during the 2012 cycle. That did not stop candidates from campaigning there or the media from misinterpreting the results. It did, however, contribute to the RNC rules changes cutting off that non-binding loophole for 2016.
Needless to say, the dynamics changed for both parties in different ways, but that has prompted action among the parties in Minnesota where it was lacking four years ago. And there was no evidence of friction between the parties on this in 2011. None of the reporting indicated anything of that nature. Instead, it just appears to be an oversight on both sides that stemmed from the law change in 2010 that set the March 1 deadline in the first place.
Whereas clarity was lacking in 2011, it is not in 2015. The Minnesota caucuses are locked into March 1 for the 2016 cycle.3 And that removes Minnesota from the potential rogue state list.
Thanks to Mike Taphorn for sending news of this along to FHQ.
1 In most cases, caucuses and the rules governing them are the domain of the state parties. Their bylaws and other actions are the only things that affect the parameters of a given caucuses/convention process.
2 There was no opposition to the president in the 2012 Minnesota caucuses.
3 Well, the parties are locked in to that date so long as the state legislature does not create a presidential primary election that the parties opt into. That appears unlikely, though, the possibility has been discussed in the past.
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