Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Mike Gainor
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

New rules for presidential primary election on March 3

Early voting now open, party caucuses happening on Feb. 25


January 30, 2020

Early voting is now open for the March 3 presidential primary election in Minnesota, and Pine County Auditor/Treasurer Kelly Schroeder wants the public to know that there will be a number of changes this year.

“This election is very different than what most citizens have ever experienced,” Schroeder said. “I am very concerned about voter confusion and frustration.”

The Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and the Republican Party are participating in the primary, and there will be a different ballot for each party. Voters must request which ballot – Republican or DFL – they want. According to state guidelines, each voter must affirm the statement, “I am in general agreement with the principles of the party for whose candidate I intend to vote.”

“This was a legislative decision made in 2016; it’s not something that Pine County just decided to do,” Schroeder said. “This is statewide. The purpose, I have heard, is just to put Minnesota more on the map when it comes to the presidential race. They feel that Iowa gets all the attention, but Minnesota has a stake in it also.

“With this, you actually need to ... tell us which party you want, and there’s separate ballots,” Schroeder noted. “If you’re not willing to tell us a party, well, then you can’t vote because we don’t know which ballot to give you.”

Another aspect of this new primary system is that the political parties will still be holding caucuses, but those caucuses will not be focused on picking a presidential candidate.

“I think that the important thing for people to understand ... is that the party caucuses are still going to happen on Feb. 25,” Schroeder said. “It’s just that the presidential candidate won’t be decided there or discussed there.”

Schroeder reported that another new twist to the March 3 primary is that a record will be kept of which voter chose which party, and the list of voters – and the party they chose – will be sent to each of the major party chairs. She said that besides the Republican and DFL parties, the list of voters will also be sent to the two other major parties in Minnesota – the Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party and the Legal Marijuana Now Party.

“The party chairs have no restriction on what they can or can’t do with it,” Schroeder said. “And so, we’ve heard they’re just going to post it online of who voted which way. Who knows if they actually will, but that’s what they’re saying.”

She noted that on the DFL ballot there will be an “Uncommitted” option. This allows the person to pick a DFL ballot in order to show their support for that party, but not have to choose an actual candidate.

Schroeder also said that the polling places will look a little bit different, in order to keep the ballots private in the polling place.

“For example, when you go to get your ballot, that person is going to be behind a screen,” she said. “There’s going to be some extra privacy things. But otherwise, it will be very similar to what they’ve experienced in the past.”

Though Schroeder is relatively new to the auditor/treasurer role in Pine County, she is already experienced with the election process. Last year was her first year on the job, and there were two special elections to elect Jason Rarick to State Senate, and Nathan Nelson as State Representative.

“I started Jan. 2, and our first special election was Jan. 19,” Schroeder said, chuckling. “That really took us through the process from start to finish, and we got to practice it four times. So I’m good at it now.”

She said she finds the American election process inspiring – and kind of fun too.

“It comes down to just our Founding Fathers, and our freedoms ... and just what the basics of what the United States is – democracy,” Schroeder said. “It’s a blast having all of those processes happening and seeing all the citizens and getting to know them. I don’t dread it, that’s for sure. It’s wonderful to see.”


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