Thursday, January 23, 2014

Research Q of the Week: Precinct Caucuses and Polar Vortexes (1/23)

Question: Caucus dates are sneaking up quickly. How should Minnesota cities with or without primaries prepare?

Answer: Do you have an election in your city in 2014? These dates tend to sneak up quickly. Just a few bullet points on these upcoming 2014 city elections while the snow still flies:

Still to come in January:
  • By Friday, Jan. 24 (tomorrow to be exact) your county auditor must provide information about the place, date and time of the precinct caucuses upon request—at least 10 days before the date of the caucuses. You will need to know this information because your city council, boards and commissions cannot meet after 6 p.m. on the night of a precinct caucus. See the bullet below about Feb. 4
  • For all cities outside the metropolitan area: No later than Friday, Jan. 31, cities must certify municipal election hours to the county auditor. Minimum voting hours must be 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.  (Just so you know, the metropolitan area means the counties of Anoka, Carver, Chisago, Dakota, Hennepin, Isanti, Ramsey, Scott, Sherburne, Washington, and Wright.)
Looking ahead to February:
  • Avoid Tuesday, Feb. 4 as a date for any city meeting after 6 p.m. The law reserves this date— February 4—for precinct caucuses for the major political parties. (The chairs of the two largest major political parties may agree in writing to change the date of the precinct caucuses.) You’ll want to know the date of the precinct caucuses in your city so you do not set a meeting for that day after 6 p.m. Reminder: check with your county auditor to find out when the precinct caucuses will be held in your city.
  • Not to jinx them, but if we get that polar vortex back, a major political party may request that the secretary of state postpone caucuses. Or, the secretary of state’s office may consult with all major political parties and—on the advice of the National Weather Service and the Department of Transportation— declare precinct caucuses to be postponed for a week in counties where weather makes travel especially dangerous. If this happens, the secretary of state must submit a notice of the postponement to news media covering the affected counties by 6 p.m. on the scheduled day of the caucus. A postponed caucus may also be postponed under this law. 
Let’s hope no one has to postpone a postponed caucus due to more frigid weather!

This response is intended to convey general information and should not be taken as legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal guidance. Consult your city attorney for advice regarding specific situations.

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