ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota gets its chance to be a political player on Super Tuesday as one of a dozen states voting in presidential preference polls.

But the Minnesota vote takes place via the caucus process, and it takes some explaining. Here’s a rundown on how it works and what’s at stake:

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It starts simply enough: Voters from each party gather at schools, community centers and gymnasiums across the state to make their pitches for their favored candidate, then cast secret ballots. The results are used to determine how many delegates each candidate gets in his or her quest for the presidential nomination.

That’s where it starts to get complicated, starting with differences between Republicans and Democrats because caucuses are run by the parties, not the state.

Democratic voters will determine how 77 delegates are doled out, while Republicans are wrestling for 38. And the vote isn’t a winner-take-all affair; even losers can pick up some delegates because they are awarded proportionally depending on the vote in each congressional district and statewide.

For example, if Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders beats former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by a 52-48 margin, he’d walk away with 14 of the 27 delegates that follow statewide results. Clinton would get the remaining 13.

On the Democratic side, there are 50 total delegates up for grabs in the congressional districts, including nine in DFL strongholds such as the Minneapolis-centric 5th District. More Republican-leaning districts have as few as five delegates.

Republicans’ caucus rules are slightly different. Candidates split delegates based on their share of votes statewide and in each district. But there are just three delegates in each district. And in the unlikely event that a candidate reaches 85 percent of the vote — statewide or in a district — that candidate sweeps up all those delegates.

Democrats are also vying for the attention of 16 so-called superdelegates, who are elected officials and party bigwigs who can do whatever they want at the national convention regardless of what happens on Super Tuesday. Most of those have already locked in for Clinton but could change allegiance down the line.

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Minnesota is one of 12 states hosting preference polls on Super Tuesday, a day that could cement candidates’ paths to the nomination — or send them back to their day jobs.

Just how much weight Minnesota will hold is unclear. For Sanders, contests in Minnesota and Colorado may be his last best chance since they are in a caucus format that plays to his advantage by attracting the most fervent political supporters. Though he lost previous caucuses in Iowa and Nevada, the more progressive and predominantly white voting bases this time around could give him a boost.

Sanders’ Minneapolis rally on Monday was his third Minnesota stop in the past few weeks, and he has battled Clinton on the airwaves with a barrage of TV ads. Clinton hasn’t visited since a speech in early February, but she dispatched an army of surrogates to make her pitch here.

Republicans haven’t paid as much attention to Minnesota. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s planned visit on Super Tuesday itself was to be his third this year, but no other candidates touched down.


Turnout. Minnesota’s Republican party is bracing for record numbers, citing high turnout in Iowa and other states driven by Donald Trump’s appeal to nontraditional voters and the large field of candidates. The party expects it will easily pass previous caucus records set in 2008.

Democratic party officials are hoping that putting the date of their caucus in the Super Tuesday mix generates higher turnout, too. But don’t expect a record-setting year like 2008, when the choice between nominating the first black president and the first female candidate resulted in a caucus surge.

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