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Politicians Attempt to Demystify the Caucus System Before Tuesday's Primary

Missouri politicians answer voter questions about the Feb. 7 "non-binding" primary and the March caucus. Missouri voters have not used a caucus since 1996 to select their presidential nominee.

State Representative Rick Stream (R-Kirkwood) held an informational meeting Saturday night at Town and Country's to explain the upcoming Missouri primary and following Republican caucus.

He said there is much confusion about Missouri’s Feb. 7 primary, which has been called a “beauty contest” to find the Republican presidential candidate. The election, unlike previous years, is not binding—instead a caucus will determine how Missouri’s 52 GOP delegates will vote at the Republican national convention this year.

(Tell Patch if you're voting Tuesday in the poll at the end of this article.)

Missouri Democrats do not need to hold a caucus, as their candidate is President Barack Obama, who running for re-election. They will hold “mass meetings” on March 29 in order to select their delegates to the Democratic National Convention.

In 2010, the Republican National Committee (RNC) set a rule that only Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada would be allowed to have a primary or caucus before March 6, 2012. Any other state would be punished by losing half its delegates to the national convention. According to CBS News, these rules were put in place to allow more voters to participate in the nomination process.

Unfortunately, Missouri has been holding its primary in February since 2002. In April 2011, the Missouri General Assembly passed a bill to move the date of the primary to March, but Governor Jay Nixon vetoed that bill in July. The Missouri House and Senate were unable to agree upon another bill to change the primary’s date before the RNC’s deadline of Oct. 1.

Robert Knodell, the political director of the Missouri Republican Party, said that voters can and should vote at the Feb. 7 primary to voice their opinion on who should be their nominee for president. However, he warned that the caucus is not obligated to use that vote to decide who the delegates ultimately select as their nominee.

Knodell and later guest speaker Rick Hardy, a professor of political science, urged the audience to attend their local caucus in order to have their opinions heard.

Knodell said the caucus is not a secret group for people with political influence—it is open to the public. The caucus will be held at the county level on March 17. Because St. Louis County is so large, it will be broken into 28 township caucuses. Participants only need to be registered voters and “strong and faithful Republicans,” according to Knodell. Missouri does not require voters to declare a political party.

To find which township you belong to, check the Missouri Secretary of State’s voter registration website. You will need to enter your name exactly how it appears on your voter registration card, then click “view current elected officials.”

The Missouri GOP will announce where caucus are held as the information is available.

Knodell said that township and county caucuses will vote to decide who will serve as delegates at the congressional district conventions held on April 21 and also for the state convention held on June 2. The Missouri GOP will use the new congressional maps, so there will be eight congressional district conventions. They will choose three of their members and three alternates to send to the national Republican convention. Delegates at the state convention will vote on who to send to the national convention as Missouri’s “at large” delegates.

Four speakers were allowed to address the audience Saturday night on behalf of their chosen candidate for president.

Dan O'Sullivan, a grassroots coordinator, spoke for Newt Gingrich; Rep. Paul Curtman (R-Pacific) spoke on behalf of Ron Paul; Missouri House Majority Leader Tim Jones (R-Eureka) spoke for Mitt Romney; and Donna Hearne, Executive Director of the Constitutional Coalition, spoke for Rick Santorum.

Also at the meeting were State Representatives Sue Allen (R-Town and Country), Cole McNary (R-Chesterfield), Dwight Scharnhorst (R-Fenton), State Senator Jane Cunningham and Ann Wagner, candidate for U.S. Congress.

*EDITOR'S NOTE: Corrections were made in this article on Feb. 6 to reflect the fact that Missouri voters have not used a caucus since 1996 to select their presidential nominee and to clarify the number of congressional districts and alternates selected to attend the Republican National Convention.

Charles Hinderliter February 06, 2012 at 05:23 PM
I was at the event on Saturday and it was a great help is explaining how to get involved and how the process works.

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