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 Response Page -  Dee Long Interview - Election Process Issues   

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Dee Long Interview of 10/24/08,

The questions:

On a scale of (0) strong disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) strong
agreement, please indicate your feelings about the following proposed changes in
precinct caucuses:

1._6.2 average___ Shift the day and time for precinct caucuses from a Tuesday evening to a weekend day.

2._5.2 average___ Require that resolutions presented to precinct caucuses be published in
advance, along with pros and cons.

3._7.3 average___ Conduct a presidential preference primary in Minnesota at some time other
than the precinct caucuses.

4._5.6 average ___ Conduct a presidential preference primary in Minnesota online or by mail.

5._6.3 average ___Advance the date of the state primary election to a time earlier than

6._6.8 average ___Provide for multiple party endorsements for the same office in state primary

Marina Lyon (5) (8) (9) (7) (8) (7)

David Broden (3) (8) (0) (0) (0) (3)

Question 1: Weekend has the potential for far too many conflicts beyond that of a weekday evening. The potential religious conflict must be a very high consideration. The Caucus process and how the cacucus is operated and people participate should be more important as we look to make it better. Use of the internet to do some pre-caucus "homework" or build awareness beyond just the key candidates and races could be a very interesting tool.

Question 2: This is an interesting topic-again that plays into use of the internet. Some of the key top issues could be addressed by internet website etc.--discussion and related amendment could be addressed--new resolutions introduced--and then full debate at the caucus. Working on this as a pilot project in a few precincts around the state would be a first step--a good idea if both (maybe 3) parties all join in --could be good civic caucus project in the future.

Question 3: I urge that the focus be on keeping the attention on the political process and the more the process and steps are divided the less attention the public will pay. Perhaps a primary on Caucus day and move the caucus date. Do not separate the dates.

Question 4: The process of voting is part of the democracy--we might look at some form of online --if and only if one man on vote can be assured --computer security will have a tough but not impossible time with this one.

Question 5: I have never been able to sort out the benefits of this one. Moving the date earlier extents the heavy campaign period-will significantly further increase cost--a voter interest will become worn out. Also moving earlier will conflict with summer plans as has been discussed and it will only force the candidates to begin earlier again increasing cost and just too much for the public. Candidates can do what they want at any time so we gain nothing by moving this date--it seems about right. Let's focus on making what is done work better.

Question 6: If the intent here is to go into the primary with multiple endorsements or the position and then the primary selects the general election candidate this may have some merit. My concern is that this may lead to the ranking and run off process of voting which I am very strongly against. If multiple endorsements were used the criteria must be clear, it must be stable (ie not changed each year to please the candidates--as presidential primaries were this year), perhaps should even be the same for all parties--this sounds like a nightmare problem with few benefits. The pro's are that multiple endorsements could "open and expand the interest and process" provided the process has a way to keep flakes out of the races--even with this the ability of "Joe Someone' to file and run as a particular party candidate remains to there would have to be clear party endorsement notices on the ballots to make it clear who is what etc.

Donald H. Anderson (5) (5) (10) (0) (7) (7)
I've never attended a precinct caucus because I feel that I am an independent voter - thus I feel that I would rather have the candidates state their positions on subjects of concern given the amount of media attention accorded voters today. Since running for office starts way before caucus time one can get a pretty could idea of where a candidate stands of items of interest to me.

Paul Hauge (9) (2) (5) (9) (2) (8)

John Cairns (9) (5) (2) (6) (2) (8)

Wayne Jennings (10 (10) (8) (8) (10 (8)

Ann Berget (4) (7) (10) (4) (7) (3.5)

If more bipartisan tolerance and a more bipartisan approach is a desired outcome (they are for me), then increasing the involvement of the legislative caucus leadership in legislative campaigns, which are essentially local campaigns, sounds like an awful idea to me.

Question 1: I am not especially keen on providing a more extended venue for "extreme" participants, the ones who will out-sit and out-wait any and all with more moderate views or other things to do with their lives.

Question 2: It depends a lot on who authors the pro's and con's.

Question 4: Real life participation emphasizes the seriousness of this opportunity and minimizes the potential to "game" the outcome electronically.

Question 5: Isn't the election season long enough as it is?

Question 6: I think the endorsement process is a significant part of the problem as it is, influential decisions made by sometimes dodgy processes by very small numbers of anonymous (to the public, anyhow) folks.

Ray Schmitz (5) (7) (4) (8) (0) (5)

I also attended a caucus for the first time having to no longer keep my non-partisan hat clean, I had visited them previously but never was involved. The turnout amazed me, as well as the level of interest, certainly many left after the pres vote, but not all, yes I walked for several blocks in the snow, but so did others. The failure to anticipate the turnout this season should not be a reason to change the system.
I do agree that a virtual or other system could be a good solution, dedicate time on the public channels, radio and tv, allow interactive voting on the web or by phone. What do we have to lose in an experiment. The states that have moved to longer voting periods and voting by mail seem to be successful in increasing turnout.

Robert J. Brown (0) (0) (5) (2) (10) (10)
I enjoyed Dee's comments - probably because I agree with her on several issues. My observations:
As long as we hold elections on Tuesdays I think it makes sense to have caucuses on Tuesdays for consistency. I am afraid if we moved the caucuses to a weekend day turnouts would even be lighter since people would have to give up some recreational or home maintenance time for politics and I think only the zealots would do that.
Requiring that resolutions be published in advance would take the spontaneity out of these "town meetings" and would prevent newcomers from fully participating if they can't introduce resolutions once they get there.
If we are going to have a presidential primary I would hope it had some meaning and not just be a popularity contest. I am not sure how to make the situation better, but it is clear that what happened here this year is that only the hard core stayed for the caucus after the presidential vote.
One other thing about caucuses - when I was in the legislature we mandated that they all be on the same night (which would help with nonpartisan efforts and media promotion to encourage participation.) Also the law had required for years that they could not be adjourned to another time or place to minimize or prevent skullduggery.
As long as we are going to have endorsements I believe strongly in multiple endorsements at a relatively low level such as 20 per cent. This would just mean putting the party's "good housekeeping" seal of approval that these are not nut jobs and it means people who are in the minority in a caucus or convention would still have a reason to show up to support their choices. Now with zealots controlling most caucuses in both parties it is extremely hard to get middle-of-the-road folks to show up.
I favor open primaries and I also would like to see candidates be able to cross file in more than one party primary or at least allow the minor candidates to endorse another party's candidate and put that name also on their line on the ballot. (Some of my more idealistic, but least likely to happen thoughts.
I strongly support a return to a part time legislature. Our attempt at “flexible session” was perverted into annual sessions so that those legislators who could not make a living in the real world could earn a good salary without a real job. Therefore much of the effort is devoted to self preservation rather than public service.
Pam Ellison (10) (5) (10) (10) (0) (_)
Question 1: I actually support setting up egroups online for caucusing as well. I think we need to make this process as accessible to everyone possible. Sometimes being able to meet online is a better approach because you have everyone's remarks and discussion points being captured and they can serve as a more accurate record than even minutes at a meeting.

Question 2: Although this seems like a great idea, and I DO support the idea in part, I do not think that this should make it impossible to have resolutions heard and voted on at the caucus event, in spite of not being presented or published in advance. I think we still need the freedom to offer a resolution even if not published in advance. This has never been a requirement before, and I believe that although there are certain resolutions that may be complicated and require a lot of discussion and explanation, there are also resolutions that are not so complicated, needed and should be presented in spite of not publishing it ahead of time. If we are focusing on openness and flexibility, then we should allow some leeway in the resolution process as well. If you have a meeting online, you can have people stay as long or as little as possible. Those that wish to leave, just do so, and others can stay and meet longer if they wish to discuss matters further.

Question 5: I think this stymies the ability of lesser known candidates to have the ability to be present at the State fair and gain more visibility and more access to a diverse crowd from all over the state. I also think it will just encourage candidates to start two years out to campaign for an office, and this last presidential race was a two year race. I think people are VERY WEARY of campaign ads and politics being the main news that we receive for a full two years now. This is absurd. If you make the Primary earlier, then you simple lengthen the campaign by forcing candidates to get out there more than a year prior. We would need to change the filing dates for office and it would be too loOOOOoonng a season for the public to stay engaged.

Question 6: I actually do not believe in endorsements. As someone who has run both as an endorsed candidate and an unendorsed candidate, the endorsement serves less and less a purpose. I think there should be NO ENDORSEMENTS from any party organization and that they only thing serving as a candidate's endorsement is surviving the Primary. After all the only endorsement a candidate should be seeking, is the endorsement of the citizens that vote for them. Then the money issue and the party list issue goes away and is provided for every candidate and offers a more level playing field.

Bob Olson (_) (_) (_) (5) (8) (8)
I know a lot more than I did before reading Dee Long's comments and the Growe Report about the "grass roots" selection process. Very enlightening.

Tom Swain (2) (2) (9) (5) (8) (8)

John Nowicki (5) (5) (5) (0) (1) (5)

Bill Hamm (5) (0) (5) (9) (5) (8)

Question 1: I am not convinced of the need for change but then I am rural not city.

Question 2: This makes it even more impossible for newcomers to participate meaningfully or for the party to be changed from the bottom up. It does make it even easier for Party leadership to control and manipulate the process.

Question 3: Again at rural caucuses this has never been an issue as we always had time to discuss resolutions, do a presidential preference poll and still be done in less than an hour.

Question 4: (9) for by mail and (6) for by e-mail. Too many elderly in rural Minnesota don't have access to e-mail.

Question 5 Haven't heard any convincing arguments in favor of a move from this group, although a late June or early July primary would allow for elimination of registration fees for losers of the primary. It would also give more time for a candidacy after the primary instead of the roughly five weeks we now enjoy in mail out ballot areas of the state.

Question 6: I could go higher in support depending on the wording, it is a good idea in principle.

The most interesting statement by Mrs. Long was the one concerning putting civics back in the class room and the resistance from teachers and teachers unions. I too have been involved in three such attempts over a 10 year period over in Itasca County involving several school districts with the same antagonistic negative results. I am becoming convinced the more people I talk to and hear from who have had this same experience that we need legislation to force this back into our schools and to force teachers to either teach it or move over and let community leaders teach it. This is where the responsibility for undermining political involvement lies and what we must correct to change it.

One additional comment. The concept of allowing legislative caucuses to choose my representative or senator rubs me completely the wrong way and I want to state loudly and clearly that they should keep their noses out of local politics and that needs to extend to our Federal representatives and Senators as well.

Jim Keller (0) (0) (10 (0) (10) (0)
Get rid of the caucus system in its entirety.

Terry Stone (8) (8) (10) (9) (8) (10)

Question 1: Since Sundays would be controversial, this is a de facto proposal for Saturday caucuses.

Question 2: An intricacy of this idea would be the unbiased writing of the pros and cons. This would require uncommon writing skill, research ability, objectivity and a depth of knowledge on a wide range of topics. Five bullet points pro, and five bullet points con, would imply that all bullet points are created equal, i.e., propaganda. The skill set to write a fair and meaningful synopsis of a resolution is unevenly available at the caucus level. With that caveat, I like the idea.

Question 3: The potentially confusing caucus situation would benefit greatly by identifying a single purpose for the event.

Question 6: By multiple party endorsements, I assume that the idea is multiple candidate endorsements by a single party. The idea has considerable merit. Instead of throwing away all but one candidate, this idea allows political organization unit that are blessed with motivated talent to send that talent ahead. By the District Conventions, the Party should have a much better feel for how the candidates campaign, build a team and attract support. The higher the level of selection, the more informed the ultimate endorsement vote would be.

Long justifies a strong legislative caucus role (meddling) in legislative races because, “They have a better pulse on what is going on.” She further posits that financial support of legislators by their caucuses does not influence major legislative votes. I submit that:
§ This can only be understood as an elitist concept. Knowing what is going on and acting in the best interest of the people are separate, and not always congruent, entities. The deeply engaged are not a privileged political class in our democracy.
§ Legislative caucuses are metro-centric and contaminate rural elections with money and ideology that is not endemic to rural interests.
§ Legislative caucuses perpetuate partisanship by selecting like-minded candidates for cultivation and support.
§ We cannot decry the effects of special interest money on candidates, then claim that the effects of political special interest money, i.e., legislative caucus money, are a non sequitur.

Keep up the good work. Your summaries are like a warm summer rain on an intellectual reg.

Al Quie (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10)

Chuck Slocum (8) (5) (10) (10) (10) (10)

Question 1: I have become less certain of the efficacy and relevancy of precinct caucuses, although I still attend my own.

Question 2: A tall order for party volunteers to accomplish which may unintentionally result in discouraging fresh, new ideas coming to the fore.

With what looks to be a challenging 2009 budget debate in Minnesota, former Speaker Long's views on tax, spending and fiscal policy, too, would have been a valuable contribution for the Civic Caucus readership. I agree with the thoughtful Ms. Long on a number of additional election reform ideas she discussed, including timely disclosure of campaign contributions and efforts to improve the civics IQ of kids. I particularly appreciated the link to the 1995 Growe Commission Report, of which I was a member.

Robert A. Freeman (2) (3) (5) (3) (8) (8)
Question 1: The level of interest at the DFL caucuses this year in spite of the timing indicates the time is not the problem in attracting people.

Question 2: This might be helpful but many resolutions are proposed by first-time caucus goers and this would disadvantage them.

Question 4: I am very leery of conducting primaries/voting online as it is fraught with potential for fraud in a way that paper balloting (either by mail or in person) is not.

Question 5: This would bring more relevance to Minnesota, as usually races are wrapped up by then.

Question 6: This is an interesting idea but I would like to see other systems' experience with it if that data is available before recommending it.

Jackie Underferth (10) (5) (5) (5) (10) (1)

Vici Oshio (1) (1) (3) (__) (10) (8)

I believe Legislature recently passed legislation allowing parties to schedule precinct caucuses at time and place of their own choosing. Let's leave it that way and see how well it works. Precinct caucus experience varies widely from year to year and even more from place to place. Before making recommendations on change, please get opinions from cities, suburbs and rural areas and all parties. Publishing resolutions in advance is a good idea and many were circulated electronically in 2008 - but don't make it mandatory.

Move primary to June - not August.

Charles Lutz (9) (9) (9) (9) (9) (7)

Gregg Iverson

The parties want to control everything and let third party and independents out of the process.

Carolyn Ring (5) (0) (7) (_) (_) (_)
There is no doubt that precinct caucuses in recent years have been controlled primarily by the far left and far right, with limited agendas.

Dan Loritz (7) (3) (7) (2) (7) (2)

Scott Halstead (10) (10) (10) (_) (_) (10)

Lyall Schwarzkopf (5) (8) (10) (2) (6) (6)

It is important to note that the political parties did not run or even talk about a Presidential Preferential primary (an official state run straw vote), but what they did talk about and had was those persons attending the caucus could vote on who they would like to see as their presidential candidate (a political party straw vote). Because most people do not attend party caucuses or do not understand how their party works, they came to the caucus with the intent to vote for their candidate for president and they thought that it was more than a straw vote, but would commit the party's national delegates to vote for whoever won). It is a shame that so few people understand how their party works and the difference between an official state run Presidential Preferential Primary and a political party straw vote at a party caucus. More work needs to be done in schools teaching people how government, political parties and candidates operate.

Clarence Shallbetter (9) (9) (10) (10) (6) (9)

Larry Schluter (10) (5) (9) (7) (3) (7)



The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Core participants include persons of varying political persuasions, reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

   Verne C. Johnson, chair;  Lee Canning,  Charles Clay, Bill Frenzel, 
Paul Gilje,  Jim Hetland,  John Mooty,  Jim Olson,  Wayne Popham  and  John Rollwagen.  

The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
8301 Creekside Circle #920,   Bloomington, MN 55437.
Verne C. Johnson, chair, 952-835-4549,       Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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