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Considering a caucus? Here's the first-timer's guide

Want political change? Well the opportunity starts Tuesday when Minnesotans get the chance to voice who their presidential favorites are to their parties.

While it's just the beginning of the long election process, Super Tuesday is the first time residents of Minnesota and 21 other states get a voice in the matter. The three major Minnesota political parties-- Democratic-Farmer-Labor, Republican and Independent -- will hold precinct caucuses Feb. 5 starting at 7 p.m. The Constitution Party will hold caucuses Feb. 2 and the Green Party will host theirs March 4.

What is a caucus, anyway?

According to the Minnesota Secretary of State web site Minnesota precinct caucuses are the first step used by the major political parties to choose candidates and the issues they will support for an election.

During precinct caucuses participants fill out presidential preference ballots. Based on precinct preferences delegates will then be chosen to support candidates at district conventions held later in the spring. Also, precinct leaders will be chosen.

Why go?

Attending may seem intimidating or time consuming for a first timer but it is an important part of the Minnesota political system. Caucuses help parties decide which candidates to endorse for president. In addition, residents can influence party ideas and policies.

Attending a caucus isn't a huge time commitment but the results can influence national politics. DFL media relations coordinator Kelly Schwinghammer said voters can get as involved as much as they want.

For those who just want to vote, Schwinghammer said they can fill out a presidential preference card and be on their merry way. For those who want to get involved a meeting will be held to choose delegates and platform issues. Also, participants can sign up to work as election judges. Each party has to supply a number of judges.

Who can go?

Precinct caucuses are open to the public. To take part voters must be able to vote during the general election Nov. 4. Minnesota Republican Party media relations coordinator Mark Drake encouraged youth who will turn 18 before November to get involved.

Also, participants must be part of or likely vote for the party of the caucus they attend.