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Weitz to host DFL caucus

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This Super Tuesday both Carleton and St. Olaf will host respective Democratic caucuses for two of the region’s precincts. For Carleton the caucus will officially begin in Weitz 236 at 7 pm.

This change, which was arranged largely by the St. Olaf for Bernie Sanders organization, is expected to increase student voter turnout. This move has been criticized as a political ploy to help the Sanders campaign, as he is currently polling high with the college-aged demographic. John-Paul Douglas, a local volunteer organizer of the Oles for Bernie group, disagreed. “The change also helps people who want to vote for another candidate or who are just undecided.”

Carleton Dems leader Zayn Saifullah ’17 says this is something the DFL board considered when deciding to make the change. “The central committee was worried that this was a move by the Bernie group specifically designed for Bernie supporters because they didn’t loop in the St. Olaf Dems [another political group on campus]. The party felt very strange about it because it felt like a one-sided move for campus.”

Douglas argued that, despite the concern, he believed moving the location would increase voter turn out overall, not just for Bernie. “What so you’re going to suppress the vote? You going to hold them back? That’s a Republican tactic, come on.”

Douglas explained why they worked to change the location.

“It started technically on February 8th, that’s when the caucus locations were officially released. That’s when we found that all our caucus locations, all 8 precincts in Northfield, all the surrounding townships of Northfield, were all at the same location at the Middle school in Northfield.”

The middle school housed the caucus in previous years and many people reported that the last presidential caucus, in 2008, was very busy. “I was told was that it was very crowded, people had to park a half mile away just because the turn out was so much higher than they expected.”

Not only would it be difficult for local voters to find parking, but Carleton would pay a high price for transporting its own students. “We thought this is going to be really crazy to bus people back and forth. We did some easy calculations and thought this is going to cost $1,500 of busing at least and that probably wouldn’t have been sufficient for the amount of people we wanted to bring,” Douglas explained.

Saifullah agrees with the location change, but is unhappy about the process leading up to the switch. Originally, the DFL was planning to pay $2000 to bus students to the caucus sites. However, a challenge against the state party complained that the locations were difficult for students to reach.

“It was a challenge that was filed to the state party with charges against the Rice County DFL chair of disenfranchising students. It’s especially the word disenfranchise that’s a really strong word to use in this context. The party is not in any way trying to disenfranchise students, heck, they are trying to enfranchise students by giving us $2000 to bus students.”

The change may be confusing to Northfield residents who are used to voting at the middle school, but both Saifullah and Douglas think it will ultimately be easier, as the location is closer and residents could walk instead of driving down to the middle school.

Ultimately, the site change was strongly supported by the DFL and Carls for Bernie. “I have no idea what’s going to happen. I don’t know which presidential candidate will come out of this. I am super, super confident that this will increase student voter turn out at Carleton,” Saifullah said. “The caucus itself takes hours and realistically a lot of students just want to show up and vote for the presidential race and leave.”

This way students do not have to worry about transportation and time commitment for the short process. “Honestly, that’s fine as long as we can get more Carleton students there and more Carleton voices in the discussion, I am totally fine with that.”

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