County clerks around the state are getting ready for Missouri’s Presidential Preference Primary Feb. 7, but many clerks and party officials see little need for the primary in general due to some big changes in the process this year.

County clerks around the state are getting ready for Missouri’s Presidential Preference Primary Feb. 7, but many clerks and party officials see little need for the primary in general due to some big changes in the process this year.

Due to a national party mandate, some legislation not making it to the governor’s desk and a veto from the governor on legislation he did receive, the primary will be non-binding for republican candidates wishing to challenge President Barack Obama, and delegates will not count in full for democrats.

Phelps County Clerk Carol Bennett said she thinks the primary is still important for Missourians to participate in, although the turnout may admittedly be lower than normal.

“People should still vote,” she said. “One would hope that the results of the primary would influence the results of the caucus.”

Pulaski County Clerk Brent Bassett echoed similar sentiments to Bennett.

“It is a chance to get out and voice your opinion,” he said.

Although Bassett said he thinks voters will come to the polls, he said the 10-12 percent projection he has for the election may end up being somewhat lower.

“Since the election is non-binding, it will probably turn a few away,” he said. “It will hamper the vote some.”

Instead of having the February primary count toward the number of delegates presidential candidates will receive in Missouri, delegates will decided through a caucus process beginning March 17.

Missouri’s February primary date was deemed too early by the national republican and democratic parties, since only Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada were granted the right to hold their primaries before March 6.

If Missouri Republicans did not comply with the wishes of the national party, their delegates could have potentially only counted for half of their worth, which may have, in essence, made candidates not pay as close of attention to the Show-Me State.

The Missouri Legislature passed a bill that would have changed the primary date to March, which would have allowed Missourians to have a normal primary, but that legislation was vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon due to some of the bill language regarding write-in votes, which made a caucus the only option for Missouri’s delegates to fully count at the national convention.

According to Bennett, the statewide primary will cost Missouri taxpayers around $8 million.

In Phelps County, the primary tab will be at around $56,900, and in Pulaski County, Missourians will cover a $48,000 bill.

Shane Schoeller, a candidate for Missouri Secretary of State, and the current speaker pro tem of the Missouri House of Representatives, filed legislation during a special session of the legislature in October that would have put a stop to the primary, which he and many of his conservative counterparts viewed as “a waste of $8 million.”

Schoeller’s legislation made it out of the House, but never passed the Senate.

“Ideally, the Legislature would have moved the primary and allowed the people to make their voices heard in the primary process,” he said. “Last year, we worked to move the primary, but the legislation did not make it to the governor’s desk. That left us in a situation where we have a potential $8 million straw poll that fails to ensure a presidential nominee.”

He said the $8 million could have gone toward other areas.

“With the tight budget we’re in, and since the primary is not going to be counted, we could have saved some tax dollars and put that money to education,” he said.

Bob May, chair of the Phelps County Republican Central Committee, said Phelps County’s caucus, at the Phelps County Courthouse, will start later than the rest of the state.

“Most of Missouri will start their caucus at 10 a.m., but we are starting ours at 2 p.m.,” he said. “March 17 is St. Patrick’s Day, and we wanted everyone to have the opportunity to participate in the festivities.”

Mayhew, Pulaski County’s Republican Central Committee chairman, said Pulaski County’s caucus will go on at 10 a.m. with the rest of the state.
Mayhew said he was not a fan of the caucus system in general, and wished Missouri could have had a binding presidential primary.

“With a primary, everybody gets the opportunity to have his or her voice heard,” he said. “And this caucus we have won’t even work like an Iowa caucus where everyone votes and then the votes are immediately tallied.

“This caucus will simply be for choosing delegates to have the chance to vote for candidates at conventions for the eight congressional in April.”

He said he knows many other locals are also unhappy with the caucus, and he hopes Missouri can go back to a primary in the future.

“A lot of it is that people are not familiar with it,” he said. “And then others recognize a caucus reduces the number of people, and that is unfortunate.”

Instead of having a caucus, the Missouri Democratic Party will go ahead with the primary as planned for choosing delegates according to Matt Teter, executive director of the Missouri Democratic Party.

He said it is important to respect the process already in place, because it “encourages the most Missourians possible to have their votes counted in the nominating process.”