Precinct Caucus, Primary and Election Day Requirements
See "Election Activities on Campus" document authored by the Office of General Counsel August 2008 for more election related information.
See "Hosting Political Candidates or Events on Campus" Powerpoint by the Government Relations Department, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities.
See "Election Issues Guidance" Minnesota Management and Budget PERSL #1401.
Under state law, certain campus activities are limited on days on which precinct caucuses, state primary or general elections are held. As noted below, different requirements apply for precinct caucus days, and primary and election day and care should be taken to avoid scheduling conflicts.
I. PRECINCT CAUCUS DAY
UPCOMING CAUCUS DATE*
Tuesday, February 2, 2016
* Dates are subject to change, as discussed below.
A. Event Scheduling.
No public meetings may be conducted by state boards or agencies after 6:00 p.m. on the day of a major political party precinct caucus. This limitation applies to the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Board of Trustees and system office. Minnesota Statutes section 202A.19, subd.6 (2014).
In addition, under Minnesota Statutes section 202A.19, subd. 3 (2014), state colleges and universities are prohibited from scheduling any event, including classes, which will take place after 6:00 p.m. on the day of a major political party precinct caucus unless approved by the Board of Trustees:
No Minnesota state college or university may schedule an event which will take place after 6:00 p.m. on the day of a major political party precinct caucus unless permission to do so has been received from the Board of Trustees of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities.
By its terms, the statutory prohibition applies to any college or university sponsored classes and events, whether or not they are physically located on the campus. We have been advised that the Secretary of State's office does not view the statute as prohibiting events at a college or university that are sponsored by an outside group or person (e.g., local scout troop) and are merely using campus facilities. When considering such requests, colleges and universities are encouraged to consider any negative impact on the precinct caucus process, and should be mindful that fewer employees may be available to work because they choose to attend a precinct caucus (see below).
B. Caucus Dates Subject to Rescheduling.
State law provides that major political party precinct caucuses are to be held on the first Tuesday in February of each election year. However, the state's major parties jointly may submit a different date on which they will hold their precinct caucuses. The practical effects of this are as follows:
Major political party precinct caucuses are scheduled on the first Tuesday in February of each even-numbered year, except as noted below. Colleges and universities must not schedule events, including classes, on that date unless specifically approved by the Board of Trustees.
- A new caucus date may be jointly chosen by the political parties if they do so before March 1 of the odd-numbered year prior to election year.
- If a new caucus date is announced by the Secretary of State, then colleges and universities must not schedule classes or events on the new caucus date unless specifically approved by the Board of Trustees.
- If the Secretary of State announces a new caucus date, colleges and universities would then be allowed to hold events or classes on the first Tuesday in February of the election year.
If a major political party chooses to change its precinct caucus date without meeting the requirements for rescheduling under Minnesota Statutes section 202A.14 (2014), colleges and universities are not required to observe that caucus date.
- A college or university may seek permission from the Board of Trustees to hold a class or event after 6:00 p.m. on a recognized caucus date. Historically such exceptions have been granted only in exigent circumstances, such as the possibility of penalty (e.g., cancellation fee), hardship or other significant inconvenience to those affected.
C. College or University Facilities Available for Caucuses, Local Conventions.
Colleges and universities must make their facilities available for major political party precinct caucuses, legislative district conventions, and county conventions. Colleges and universities may charge for the use of their facilities, as long as the charge does not exceed the lowest amount charged to any public or private group. Minnesota Statutes section 202A.192 (2014).
D. Employees Attending Precinct Caucuses
State law allows employees who are entitled to attend a major political party caucus, and who provide the employer at least ten days' written notice, to be absent from work for the purpose of attending the caucus during the time for which the caucus is scheduled. The employer may not impose a "penalty or deduction from salary or wages on account of the absence other than a deduction in salary for the time of absence from employment." Minnesota Statutes section 202A.19, subd. 2 (2014).
II. GENERAL ELECTION AND PRIMARY ELECTION DAY
General Election Day
Tuesday, November 3, 2015
Tuesday, November 8, 2016
State Primary Election Day
Tuesday, August 11, 2015
Tuesday, August 9, 2016
A. Event Scheduling.
On general election and primary days, the system office, Board of Trustees, colleges and universities are prohibited from scheduling events, other than regularly scheduled classes, between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. Classes regularly scheduled during those hours may be held as usual:
Except for regularly scheduled classes, no Minnesota state college or university shall schedule an event between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. on the day that an election is held in any political subdivision in which the university or college is located.
Minnesota Statutes section 204C.03, subd. 2 (2014). This provision also applies to elections within the political subdivision (such as county or city) in which the college or university is located, as well as state primaries or general elections. Minnesota Statutes sections 204C.03-.04 (2014).
As with precinct caucuses, colleges and universities are not prohibited from allowing an outside group or person (e.g., local scout troop) to schedule use of campus facilities during these hours.
B. Employee Voting Rights
Minnesota Statutes section 204C.04, subd. 1 (2014) addresses the right of employees to take time off to vote in a state election or state primary:
Every employee who is eligible to vote in an election has the right to be absent from work for the time necessary to appear at the employee's polling place, cast a ballot, and return to work on the day of that election without penalty or deduction from salary or wages because of the absence. An employer or other person may not directly or indirectly refuse, abridge, or interfere with this right or any other election right of an employee.
See Guidance from Minnesota Management and Budget - PERSL #1400, "Time Off To Vote".
III. Additional Information
The Secretary of State identifies the dates for future precinct caucuses, general elections and state primaries. Additional information for the Secretary of State's Office can be found at www.sos.state.mn.us.
Contact the Office of General Counsel if you have questions about scheduling events on your campus.