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Crowded caucuses rekindle primary push

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Heavy turnout and long lines at this week’s precinct caucuses have renewed interest in trying to move Minnesota to a presidential primary.

Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, said he’ll introduce legislation this session to make the switch. Garofalo said the caucus system does not work in a presidential year, because too many locations are inadequate for the crowds.

“We just simply don’t have the facilities to accommodate everybody voting at the exact same time, and that’s what happens in a caucus system,” Garofalo said.

Garofalo said his primary proposal will deal specifically with the presidential race. He said contests for governor and legislative seats could be discussed later.

Other lawmakers have tried unsuccessfully in the past to move similar bills. The last time Minnesota held a presidential primary was in 1992.

Minnesota’s political parties are in charge of caucuses, as well as the reporting of results, and use the neighborhood meetings to identify sympathetic voters. A switch to a primary would rely on the state’s election system.

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton said this week that he’s open to a presidential primary. He said only a small percentage of voters participate in caucuses, even when the turnout is heavy.

“I think that all Minnesotans should have the opportunity to participate,” Dayton said. “People who work in the evening or whose child is sick that evening can’t participate. So, I think it deserves a very serious consideration.”

UPDATE

Gov. Dayton on Thursday made even stronger comments in support of moving to a presidential primary in Minnesota. He said Rep. Garofalo’s proposal is “very constructive.”

“I think that’s the way we should decide Minnesota’s preference for presidential races,” Dayton said.

Dayton also claimed that a primary, had one been in place here Tuesday, would have brought a different outcome for his preferred presidential candidate.

“Hillary Clinton in my judgement would have won a primary, handily in Minnesota,” he said.