Grass roots election process to begin

by Peter Bodley
Managing Editor

The grass roots political process for the 2012 general election in Minnesota begins in earnest Tuesday, Feb. 7.

That’s when the state’s political parties will have their precinct caucuses at various locations, including many in Anoka County, all beginning at 7 p.m.

The caucuses will begin the process of selecting candidates for the 2012 election and policy positions to shape the political platform, according to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website.

Both the DFL and Republican precinct caucuses will have presidential straw or preference polls, with DFL balloting to conclude at 8 p.m. sharp.

But there is a twist to this year’s precinct caucuses that has not happened before.

Redistricting of the state’s Congressional and legislative districts following the 2010 U.S. Census has not yet taken place.

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and the Republican-controlled Minnesota Legislature failed to agree on a redistricting plan during the 2011 legislative session.

And that prompted the Minnesota Supreme Court to put in place a special redistricting panel of five judges, headed by Minnesota Court of Appeals Judge Wilhemina M. Wright, to come up with a redistricting plan.

But that is not expected to occur until Feb. 21.

Which means the Senate and House districts in which the precinct caucuses take place Tuesday will not be the same geographically as the new districts that will be drawn by the court panel.

“The Legislature has the right to act up until that date, but no one believes they will arrive at a compromise,” said Mel Aanerud, Senate District 49 DFL chairperson.

“They are not even trying.”

According to Aanerud, people will be elected delegates at the caucuses, but will not know what district convention they will attend until Feb. 21.

“Interesting for us district chairs, how do we arrange convention locations and dates when we don’t know the boundaries,” Aanerud said.

“We will also have to agree how to distribute any assets we might have between the new districts.”

But Aanerud and his Senate District 49 Republican counterpart Harland Wyvell agreed their first job is to get people to the caucuses.

In a letter to the editor published in the Feb. 3 ABC Newspapers, Aanerud and Wyvell jointly wrote, “We sincerely urge all citizens to attend your precinct caucuses.”

Everyone assumes that the court panel will take all the time it can, Wyvell said.

“On the Republican side, we will go ahead and hold our precinct caucuses Feb. 7 as scheduled,” he said.

“When the lines are redrawn, delegates moved will become delegates in their new district.”

The timing issue between redistricting and precinct caucuses dates has not been a problem in prior decades.

That’s because until a change was made for the 2010 election, precinct caucuses in Minnesota were always the first Tuesday in March of election years.

However, for the 2010 election, the state’s precinct caucus date was moved up a month to the first Tuesday in February to accommodate an earlier primary election date – in early August instead of early September.

Precinct caucus locations for Senate districts in the ABC Newspapers circulation area are as follows:

• Senate District 47

DFL: Coon Rapids residents at Morris Bye Elementary School, 11931 Crooked Lake Blvd.; Champlin and Brooklyn Park residents at Oxbow Elementary School, Champlin.

Republican: Champlin Park High School (door E3), 6025 109th Ave. N., Champlin (Coon Rapids residents will use downstairs classrooms).

• Senate District 48

DFL: Anoka residents at Anoka High School, 3939 Seventh Ave.; Ramsey residents at Ramsey Elementary School, 15100 Nowthen Blvd. N.W.; Nowthen residents at Old Nowthen City Hall, 19800 Nowthen Blvd; Oak Grove residents at Oak Grove City Hall, 19900 Nightingale St. N.W., Cedar; East Bethel and Bethel residents at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, 19001 Jackson St. N.E., Cedar.

Independence Party: Ramsey Elementary School cafeteria, 15000 Nowthen Blvd., Ramsey.

Republican: Anoka residents at Anoka Middle School for the Arts, Fred Moore campus, 1523 Fifth Ave.; Bethel and St. Francis residents at St. Francis Elementary School, 22919 St. Francis Blvd.; East Bethel residents at Cedar Creek Community School, 21108 Polk St. N.E., Cedar; Nowthen residents at Nowthen Alliance Church, 19653 County Highway 5; Oak Grove residents at Lifelong Learning Center, 18900 Cedar Drive N.W., Oak Grove; Ramsey residents at Ramsey Elementary School, 15000 Nowthen Blvd.

• Senate District 49

DFL: All precincts will meet at Andover High School.

Republican: Ham Lake residents at McKinley Elementary School, 1740 Constance Blvd., Ham Lake; Andover residents, except for precinct 3, at Oak View Middle School, 15400 Hanson Blvd., Andover; and Coon Rapids and Andover precinct 3 residents at Coon Rapids Middle School, 11600 Raven St. N.W.

• Senate District 51

DFL: Blaine residents at Blaine High School, 12555 University Ave. N.E.; and Spring Lake Park residents at Spring Lake Park Alternatives Community School, 7925 Able St. N.E. (attached to Spring Lake Park High School).

Republican: House District 51A residents at Blaine High School, Main Street/125th Avenue at University Avenue; and House District 51B residents at Spring Lake Park High School, Highway 65 and 81st Ave. N.W.

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]

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