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Vogt's Notes: Don't care about politics? Attend a precinct caucus anyway

I'll be the first to admit it. I'm not a political person, and the only reason I've attended both DFL and Republican precinct caucuses is because of my job.

I vaguely recall my first time being assigned to cover a caucus as a reporter. This was a good 30 years ago when I was a young 20-something, and I honestly don't think I had any idea what a caucus was. My memory is of walking into a crowded basement of what I believe was a house. I assume now that it was a more public place. I recall people being packed together, shoulder to shoulder. It was like a college party atmosphere.

I don't remember anything more than that. I don't recall resolutions or speeches or straw poll ballots. I really wish I could find the resulting story I wrote, but this was before the days of the internet, websites and archived stories. Someday I'll have to find archived copies of the Owatonna People's Press to find what I wrote.

Perhaps I really am remembering a party and not a political precinct caucus!

Over the years since then, I have attended many caucuses as a reporter in the lakes area. Just like I believe everyone should visit Las Vegas once in their lifetime just for the experience (even if they don't gamble), I believe everyone should attend a precinct caucus at least once.

As Travis Grimler wrote in a caucus preview story, caucuses allow us average citizens to have a voice through platform discussions and straw poll votes on candidates. Caucus results could affect party policies and candidates who go forward to run for such offices as governor and U.S. senator.

I applaud people who step forward to organize and lead precinct caucuses. This year I covered the DFL event at Brainerd High School, where all DFL precincts in Crow Wing County meet. It's nice to have one host site, and it makes sense to have it in the city that's the county seat. Our staff has to pick and choose which locations to cover when multiple sites host different precincts for caucuses, so having all precincts meet in one location is ideal for us.

However, I can't help but wonder if people from the far ends of the county would be more likely to attend a caucus if the location was closer to home. On Tuesday night, Feb. 6, it was disheartening to see all the open spots at tables. It appeared not one DFLer showed up from places like Manhattan Beach, Fifty Lakes, Emily and Garrison, all located on the far edges of Crow Wing County.

There were other empty precincts, and some with only two or three people. The Jenkins precinct had just one person show up to conduct business.

Multiple caucus locations is something to think about, though it seems attendance at many caucus events was sparse this year, no matter how big or small the gathering place.

I encourage you to make a point to engage yourself at least a little bit this political season. While not a presidential election year, there are still many important decisions to be made. Those decisions range from electing township and city officials to a new Congressional District 8 representative to two U.S. senators to a Minnesota governor.

Educate yourself as much as you can and be sure to vote in November.