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Caucusing for Dummies

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If the only thing you know about "Super Tuesday" is that it involves presidential candidates, you aren't alone.

After months of hype, Feb. 5 is almost here. Next Tuesday, more than 20 states have caucuses or primaries to indicate presidential candidate preferences.

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But just what are you supposed to do and where are you supposed to go?

We put together a Caucus 101 guide to help you figure it out:

Minnesota Republicans

How their caucus works:

Voters will sign in at their caucus location and receive a presidential preference ballot to vote for one candidate.

Voters can stick around to talk about issues, discuss changes to the party platform and elect delegates to their local party convention. Candidates for local or statewide offices may also speak.

Rules: Voters who are 17 may cast a ballot if they will be 18 by Election Day. By voting at a Republican caucus, you are indicating you are a Republican or intend to vote Republican in the November election.

Voters are not allowed to vote at both Democratic and Republican caucuses. You must attend the caucus location in the precinct where you reside.

Does my vote matter? Minnesota's 41 Republican delegates to the national convention are free to vote how they choose.

Still, it's important to know how Minnesotans feel about candidates, a party spokesman says. Voting results may also influence delegates.

Hours and locations: Caucuses start at 7 p.m. and will remain open for at least an hour. You can find your caucus location by going to www.mngop.com.

Here are the caucus locations for Becker County.

-- The Republican Party will hold caucuses in several locations: The DL Community and Technical College, located at 900 Highway 34 East, the Wolf Lake Lions Club, located at 143 West Johnson Street, Wolf Lake, and the Frazee Fire Hall, located at 222 Main St. W.

Republicans must caucus in their precincts. Those who live in the City of Frazee and townships of Burlington and Silver Leaf will caucus in Frazee.

The caucus in Wolf Lake is for those who live in the cities and townships of Wolf Lake, Osage, Carsonville, Shell Lake, Green Valley, Green Valley, Runeberg, Spruce Grove, Toad Lake, Evergreen, Height of Land, Savanah, Two Inlets, Forest, Pine Point, Round Lake, Eagle View, Sugar Bush, Maple Grove and White Earth.

Everybody else in Becker County will caucus in Detroit Lakes. according to Republican County Chairman Peter Belaga.

-- Minnesota DFL

How their caucus works: Voters sign in and indicate eligibility to vote. You then vote for your favorite Democratic candidate.

For those who wish to stay, the evening also includes selecting delegates to the next level of DFL convention, electing precinct officers and debating resolutions to include in the party's 2008 platform.

Rules: Voters who are 17 may cast a ballot if they will be 18 by Election Day. By voting at a DFL caucus, you are indicating you are a Democrat or intend to vote Democratic in the November election.

Voters are not allowed to vote at both Democratic and Republican caucuses. You must attend the caucus location in the precinct where you reside.

Does my vote matter? Minnesota sends 88 delegates and 12 alternates to the national convention. Of the 88 delegates, 72 pledge to support a candidate based on the results of the presidential preference ballot.

A candidate must receive at least 15 percent of the vote cast in at least one of Minnesota's congressional districts to be allocated any delegates.

Hours and locations: Voting is from 6:30 to 8 p.m. To find your caucus location, visit www.dfl.org.

In Becker County, The Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party will caucus at the Detroit Lakes Community Center, located at 826 Summit Avenue, Detroit Lakes.

Minnesota Independence Party

How their caucus works: Voters sign in and receive a name badge. A welcoming statement from the state party chairman will be read.

You receive a presidential preference ballot and rank your top three candidates.

Rules: Voters who are 17 may cast a ballot if they will be 18 by Election Day. By voting at an Independence Party caucus, you are indicating you are a supporter or intend to vote along the party line in the November election.

Voters are not allowed to vote at other parties' caucuses.

Does my vote matter? Voting is an opportunity to gauge the state's opinion of the top candidates.

Hours and locations: The caucus begins at 7 p.m. and will continue until at least 9 p.m.

In Becker County, the Independence Party will gather in Room C-102 at the Detroit Lakes Community and Technical College in Detroit Lakes, located at 900 Highway 34 East.

To find your caucus location, visit www.mnip.org.

The Independence Party will also have a virtual caucus online from Feb. 5 to March 4. Contact the party for additional information.

Sources: Representatives from the respective parties

-- The Constitution Party will caucus a few days earlier than the major parties, on Saturday, Feb. 2 at noon at the Moorhead Public Library, located at 807 11th Street North Moorhead.

-- Green Party caucuses will be at 7 p.m. on March 4. No location is available yet.

For more information or to find the caucus closest to you, go to the Minnesota Secretary of State's Web site. www.sos.state.mn.us.

Precinct caucuses are the first step used by Minnesota's major political parties to select the candidates and issues they will support in the 2008 elections.

Delegates elected at the precinct caucus will go on to party conventions held later in the year.

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