Most Minneapolis City Council candidates seek the endorsement of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor, or DFL, party to drive voter support. This endorsement is determined through two steps: a caucus, in which residents elect delegates to represent their precinct, and a ward convention, where those delegates vote for candidates.
DFL caucuses are March 14
The DFL is holding remote caucuses for Wards 1-11. For these wards, residents can simply fill out an online form indicating whether they’d like to be a delegate, and submit it online or at a physical drop-off location. Wards 12 and 13 will have in-person caucuses. Remote caucuses are a recent development. The DFL first held remote caucuses in 2021, due to concerns about COVID-19. At these caucuses, delegates will be selected to go to the larger ward conventions in April and May. To participate in either kind of caucus, you need to:
- Live in the precinct
- Sign a statement indicating you agree with the DFL party and its principles, and that you’re not a member of any other party
- Will be at least 18 years old by Nov. 7.
If people in Wards 1 - 11 prefer to fill out a printed form, they must be dropped off in-person from 6:30 - 8 p.m. on March 14, otherwise the online form can be filled out before 8 p.m. on March 14. For in-person caucuses in Wards 12 and 13, registration starts at 6:30 p.m. and the caucus is called to order at 7 p.m.. The caucus usually takes an hour or two. People may also complete the non-attendee form if they cannot attend. Non-attendees will not be able to vote at the caucus, but can indicate whether they’d like to be a delegate.
Caucus and drop-off locations are available at the Minneapolis DFL website.
Afterwards, the DFL will host a convention for each ward later this spring. There, candidates will compete for 60 percent of the vote from delegates.
While the convention doesn’t eliminate any candidate from continuing to the General Election ballot, earning the endorsement of a political party can have a significant impact on the election. Endorsed candidates are able to utilize the party logo on their campaign materials and proudly announce the endorsement and may include access to other party resources, such as being included in campaign materials produced by the party.
The DFL party encourages candidates who don’t win the endorsement to drop out of the race and support the endorsed candidate. However, this is not required. Candidates in Minneapolis elections have historically been more likely to remain in the election, even if another candidate is endorsed, than in other elections, such as the state legislature. In 2021, the DFL endorsed candidates in seven out of thirteen council races, and six of those candidates won the general election.
The ward conventions are held on separate dates and locations throughout April and May. No more than two ward conventions are held on the same day. The ward conventions are spread out because of limited resources to support the conventions. For instance, skilled convention chairs are hired to run the convention, and they can’t be everywhere at once. The virtual ward conventions involve everything an in-person convention does but are held over Zoom. Wards 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 11 are holding virtual conventions. Wards 1, 3, 4, 10, 12, and 13 are holding in-person conventions. Convention dates and locations are available at the Minneapolis DFL website.
How are delegates elected?
For both virtual and in-person caucuses, the delegate selection process depends on the number of people who want to be delegates. Sometimes, there are fewer people who want to be delegates than there are delegate spots. In those cases, everyone who wants to be a delegate gets to be a delegate. This is the most common situation at a precinct caucus.
If the number of people who want to be a delegate is greater than the number of positions:
- For remote caucuses, delegates are randomly selected
- At in-person caucuses, participants conduct a sub-caucus to narrow down who represents their precinct as a delegate at the ward convention. In a “sub-caucus” process, people break out into different groups based on their preferred candidate, and delegates are allocated proportionally. See below for more information.
There are 400 delegates per ward convention, which is a large meeting of delegates from a particular City Council ward held for the purpose of endorsing a candidate for City Council. Precincts get allocated delegates based on a formula that is intended to estimate how many Democrats live in an area by using how many people voted for high-profile races like president, senator, and governor. Basically, the more populated, higher voter turnout,and more Democratic your area is, the more delegates you get. Minneapolis is a very Democrat-heavy city, so population and turnout are the main factors for how many voters each precinct gets.
There is also the option of being elected as an “alternate.” Alternates are “back-up” delegates in case some of the delegates don’t show up to the convention.
Delegates identify the candidate that they intend to support. While this is not binding, it is generally expected that the delegate supports that candidate at that time. Candidates seeking the endorsement in Southwest wards include:
- Ward 7: Katie Cashman, Scott Graham, Kenneth Foxworth
- Ward 8: Andrea Jenkins (incumbent), Soren Stevenson
- Ward 10: Aisha Chughtai (incumbent)
- Ward 11: Emily Koski (incumbent)
- Ward 13: Linea Palmisano (incumbent), Kate Mortenson
How does “sub-caucusing” work?
Okay, this is where things start to get a bit complicated. The concept behind sub-caucusing is to try to get proportional representation for various candidates, rather than having a “winner take all” situation. It works like this.
- Everyone stands in a different section of the room in their “sub-caucus,” which is based on a candidate (or Uncommitted) and can optionally include an issue), such as “Candidate A - Health Care.”
- There is a “viability” threshold, which is the threshold needed to elect one delegate. For a simple example, suppose there are 100 people present and you get to elect ten delegates. You would need ten people to elect one delegate, so that’s the viability threshold.
- Any sub-caucuses that are smaller than the viability threshold are eliminated, and the people in those sub-caucuses need to join other sub-caucuses.
- Each sub-caucus is assigned delegates based on how many members they have, and then the sub-caucus elects delegates. You also need to achieve gender balance as much as possible. DFL party rules explicitly require gender balance for delegates. Half of the delegates must not identify as male and half of the delegates must not identify as female. (This wording is used to account for nonbinary delegates.) The party rules also encourage inclusiveness based on other factors such as race, religion, LGBTQ identities, and other factors, but do not mandate specific percentages.
How does endorsing candidates at the convention work?
Most ward conventions adopt either the Temporary or Proposed Permanent Rules in the Minneapolis call to convention (the official notice of the convention). There are two alternative procedures to use as a starting point, but conventions ultimately adopt their own rules, so your mileage may vary.
The first steps are the same no matter what rules are adopted:
- Each candidate for the office gives a speech on why you should endorse them.
- A question and answer period is held. The first question shall be “Will you suspend your campaign if someone other than you is endorsed by this convention? Yes or No answer only.”
The following steps are used in the “Multiple Ballot Endorsement Rules,” a process which involves multiple rounds of voting to try to reach an endorsement.
- Delegates vote for the candidate of their choice.
- If a candidate receives 60% of the vote, the candidate is endorsed.
- If no candidate receives 60% of the vote, and there are three or more candidates, candidates receiving less than 10% of the vote are dropped.
- The drop threshold increased by 5% after each ballot.
- After the fourth ballot, the lowest remaining candidate shall be dropped regardless of percentage.
- Candidates continue to be dropped until only two candidates are remaining.
- Rinse and repeat Steps 3-5.
- After the fifth ballot, a delegate may move for “No Endorsement,” which may be adopted by a majority vote.
- Eventually, either a candidate is endorsed or the convention chooses “No Endorsement.”
The following steps are used in the “Ranked Choice Voting Endorsement Rules.”
- Delegates rank as many candidates as they wish in order of preference. “No Endorsement” is also an option.
- All first choice votes are counted. If one candidate receives 60% of the vote, that candidate is endorsed.
- If no candidate receives 60% of the vote, the lowest-ranking candidate is eliminated and their votes are redistributed to the candidates ranked next in order of preference. This process is repeated until only two candidates and “No Endorsement” remain as options.
- A second ballot is held, with only the top two candidates and “No Endorsement” as options.
- If a candidate receives 60% of the votes, the candidate is endorsed. If not, another ballot is held.
- Eventually, either a candidate is endorsed or the convention chooses “No Endorsement.”
Candidates who are endorsed are then able to say they are “endorsed by the Minneapolis DFL” during their campaigning.