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Missouri GOP caucuses held on Saturday brings changes from 2020 presidential primary


On Saturday, the Missouri Republican Party will conduct in-person caucuses for the presidential election for the first time since 2012. 

Boone County’s Republican GOP caucus will be held at the Family Worship Center at 4925 E. Bonne Femme Church Road. Doors will open at 9 a.m. You must show up in person to participate. 

“If you are not in line by 10 a.m., you will not be allowed in,” Mike Zweifel, a member of the  Boone County Republican Central Committee, said.  “Even if you show up at 10:01, you won’t be allowed in. The doors will open at 9 am for Boone County so I urge you to get there around 9, 9:15.” 

For the past 12 years, Boone County has used a "traditional presidential preference election" in the primaries. That changed after Missouri Republicans voted on a new piece of legislation that made sweeping changes to the state voting laws.

“We did have a presidential preference primary election in March of 2020. But in 2022 there was a law that was passed. It was the same law that implemented photo ID and two weeks of no-excuse absentee voting. It had a very long list of things that it changed and one of those was eliminating the presidential preference primary,” Boone County Clerk Brianna Lennon said. 

The changes allowed each party to choose how they wanted to conduct their process of selection for the presidential candidate. Missouri Democrats are still holding a primary election that allows for mail-in ballots. Mail-in ballots will be accepted until March 23. In-person voting will also be held from 8 a.m.-noon on March 23 at the Columbia Activity and Recreation Center, at 1701 Ash Street.

Lennon said there were a variety of reasons for the changes which included cost and the date being too close to local elections. 

“For a lot of election authorities, county clerks and Boards of Elections in the state, our concern is that the second week of March is very close to the first week of April, when we have our local municipal election which is incredibly important," Lennon told ABC 17 News. "It has school board candidates and local races on it and it was very difficult to turn around two county-wide elections within a three week period of time."

The Missouri Republican caucus will be modeled after the Iowa caucuses. Voters will be asked to sign in and show identification under Missouri's voter ID law. Once the caucus begins, participants will have the opportunity to nominate a candidate. 

“There are a list of eight people who can be nominated. They were all former Republican presidential candidates,” Zweifel said “But in all honestly, we probably just expect to have Donald Trump and Nikki Haley nominated.” 

Once candidates have been nominated, voters will then divide into groups and begin working the room. If any group has fewer than 15% of the total votes in the room, the group and its candidate are eliminated. If a candidate is eliminated, voters may join another group for their vote to be recounted. 

“It’s a very physical process. You're not filling out a piece of paper that's going to be counted. You're moving with your feet,” Lennon said. 

Once a candidate has been selected, voters will elect delegates to go to the state and congressional convention, which is the first step of selecting delegates to go to the national convention in Milwaukee. According to Zweifel, participants will also discuss the proposed state party platform and then any amendments that people may want to bring forth.

Both Lennon and Zweifel told ABC 17 News that they had received calls from people confused about the process.

“We’ve had some concerns expressed to us about participating because you do need to attend the caucus. We don’t have any proxies, we don’t have any absentee ballots for our system. There's been some concerns brought up, and I think that’s partly why," Zweifel said. "Hopefully for the next presidential election we do go back to the (traditional) primary system."

But voters are not the only ones unhappy with the changes. 

“The political parties are not happy and the voters are not particularly happy,” Lennon said.  “In 2023, there was a push to reinstate the presidential preference election. But again, because of all of the competing interests -- I think in the legislature and also trying to find the perfect date to make it work -- it just did not work out.” 

“I think the parties have seen the pressure of having to administer an election, because it is very difficult. Whether you're running a caucus or a simple election kind of the same way the Democratic party is not doing a caucus they are doing an election. They are expensive, they require a lot of people and there is a lot of training involved.” 

Article Topic Follows: Your Voice Your Vote

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Mitchell Kaminski

Mitchell Kaminski is from Wheaton, Illinois. He earned a degree in sports communication and journalism from Bradley University. He has done radio play-by-play and co-hosts a Chicago White Sox podcast.


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