GOP caucuses will determine presidential delegates

Monday, February 6, 2012

Dee Cookson was excited about the presidential primary in 2008. Four years later, not so much.

Cookson, the chairwoman of the Scott County Republican Committee, says the GOP's move to a caucus system this year has rendered Tuesday's primary irrelevant.

"A primary that binds the delegates to a candidate really gives the voters a voice," Cookson said last week. "I was disappointed when we switched to a caucus. That's really just showing moral support."

But since a caucus system is what's in place, Cookson and 114 county GOP committees across the state are finalizing plans for the March 17 caucuses, which will go a long way toward determining who gets the state's 52 presidential delegates.

In Scott County, for example, the county caucus will be at the Scott County Courthouse in Benton, Mo. Cape Girardeau County Republicans will meet at the University Extension office in Jackson. In Bollinger County, the caucus will take place at the courthouse on High Street. All will start at 10 a.m. and most are expected to take two hours.

Each county's rules committee is setting up exactly how the caucuses will be conducted, but voters at each caucus will decide how delegates are selected -- whether they will run individually or as a slate of candidates.

State party guidelines call for attendees to select delegates and alternates to the congressional district convention in April and the GOP state convention in June. The number of delegates each county has is determined by the Republican Party using the number of votes for the GOP candidate for president in each county in 2008.

At the Cape Girardeau County caucus, doors will open at 9 a.m., said county GOP chairman Evan Trump. He expects between 150 and 200 people to attend. At the outset, attendees will be asked to identify themselves and declare verbally that they consider themselves Republicans. They will also be asked for voter ID to confirm they are county residents.

A caucus chair will be selected, and a preprepared slate of suggested delegates may be ready for a written vote. Cape Girardeau County is authorized 36 full delegates and 36 alternates. The delegates may be given the option of voting for whichever of the candidates they choose, Trump said.

Delegates selected at the county level will not be bound to a specific candidate unless a rule is passed by participants of the caucus. The congressional district conventions will take place April 21, where delegates chosen at the county level will select three delegates and three alternates to send a total of 24 -- three from each district -- to the national convention. They will be bound to that candidate on the first ballot at the national convention.

Another set of delegates from the county caucuses will attend the state convention June 2, where they will help choose 25 delegates to attend the national convention. The party chairman, national committeeman and national committeewoman are automatically delegates, bringing Missouri's total to 52.

Some are opting not to vote in Tuesday's primary at all, pointing out that one of the remaining candidates, Newt Gingrich isn't even on the ballot, while Herman Cain -- who dropped out -- is.

Not every candidate has counted Missouri out.

Gingrich groused that the primary was a "beauty contest," but Rick Santorum is hoping Missouri's primary will help keep his campaign going. The former Pennsylvania senator said during a stop in Hannibal, Mo., last week that he expects to do well in Tuesday's vote and sees it as crucial for his campaign.

Not everyone is buying that the results are important. Trump says he won't vote. Bollinger County Republican Committee Chairwoman Beverly Peters said she won't go out of her way to vote, either.

"It's a convoluted mess," Peters said.

She also made a point that has been repeatedly made across the state, that it isn't the best idea to spend $7 million on an election that basically amounts to a straw poll.

"I'm going to say that's not the best use of state resources," Peters said.


Pertinent address:

684 West Jackson Trail, Jackson, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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