Caucuses are replacing the Republican presidential preference primary. What to know

Missourians wanting to participate in the selection of their party’s 2024 presidential candidate will have new ways to do so next year.

While the Missouri Democratic Party plans to hold their own private presidential preference primary elections, the Missouri Republican Party plans to conduct caucuses in each individual county.

Missouri used to select all presidential candidates through a caucus system, but the last time that this system was used statewide was 1996. A county level caucus was held in 2012 by the Missouri Republican Party after the presidential preference primary was scheduled in February, which violates party rules.

Both Democratic and Republican parties mandate that Missouri’s primary must be held no earlier than March. State lawmakers approved a shift back to the caucus system in 2022.

Those seeking the change argued that it would save the state money to have the major political parties fund their own presidential candidate selections, rather than Missouri taxpayers. Efforts to reverse the change in the 2023 legislative session were unsuccessful.

Rules for the Missouri Republican caucuses were approved by the state committee on Sept. 9, and await final approval from the Republican National Convention.

As the rules say in their most current version, those identifying as members of the Republican party will have the chance to participate in caucuses on March 2 in the county where they are registered to vote.

They must present a valid photo ID to participate, in accordance with voter ID laws. Participants will be able to pre-register online prior to the caucus, although same-day registration will be available at the venue.

Each of Missouri’s 114 counties will host a caucus on the same day, starting at 10 a.m. The Greene County Republican Party has not yet selected its caucus venue, but will update voters when a location is chosen.

The caucus will continue until delegates are selected to attend the congressional and statewide conventions. Participants are encouraged to wear comfortable clothing and bring snacks, in case the caucus lasts several hours.

If there is a majority of supporters for any one candidate, meaning anything over 50%, all delegates will represent that candidate as the county’s choice for the Republican presidential candidate. If none earn a majority, there will be a plurality, and delegates will be split proportionally between the selected candidates.

Additionally, candidates with less than 15% of attendees in support will not qualify for representation at the state or congressional level. Supporters will be asked to declare for an alternate candidate.

Each caucus participant must sign a solemn affirmation of their Republican party affiliation. It reads: “I hereby pledge my allegiance to the Missouri Republican Party. I believe in the principles of individual liberty, limited government, free markets, and a strong national defense. I commit to uphold the values of the Republican Party and to work to advance these goals. I am a strong and faithful Republican voter.”

This statement affirms a voters’ choice to identify as a Republican, even if they have not previously voted for Republican candidates in a Missouri election.

“You're gonna see people there that probably are not, but if they say they are, they are. They may have been a libertarian the day before, but they're now a Republican,” said Danette Proctor, chair of the Greene County Republican Central Committee.

The Missouri Democratic Party has enacted similar requirements, although it is unclear from their publicly available delegate selection plan whether voters will be able to indicate their party selection when they arrive to vote in the primary. The Democrats’ plan is still in its public comment period.

The plan states that all participants in the privately conducted primary must be registered voters who have declared Democrat as their party affiliation. There are ways to do this in advance, including updating party affiliation with local election authorities via voter registration forms.

Although not yet finalized, the Democrat’s plan allows for voter to visit polls between 8 a.m. and noon on March 23. Mail-in ballots are available and will be distributed starting Feb. 12.

The final day to request a mail-in ballot will be March 12. All ballots must be received by the Missouri Democratic Party by 10 a.m. on the day of the primary.

The Democrats’ primary does feature one new aspect previously not seen in Missouri elections. In an effort to encourage participation by younger voters, 17-year-olds who will turn 18 by Nov. 5, 2024 can participate in the delegate selection process.

Missouri will send 71 delegates to the Democratic National Convention held in Chicago from Aug. 19-22. The state sends 54 delegates to the Republican National Convention. These delegates are selected at each party's statewide conventions, where alternate delegates are also chosen in the event that a delegate cannot attend.

If two or more candidates make the Democratic ballot, they will use a ranked-choice voting system “to allow maximum engagement consistent with a traditional caucus method of achieving viability,” according to their current plan.

For Missouri Republicans, each county will select delegates representing their chosen presidential candidate at the county caucuses to send to the statewide convention, which will be held in Springfield on May 4-5.

More: Parties prepare for Missouri caucuses to replace presidential preference primary in 2024

Greene County sends 42 delegates to the Republican state convention and congressional convention. There will also be 42 alternates selected. These delegates and alternates do not have to attend the caucus to be selected, and they can be the same people for both conventions, although they do not have to be.

The Missouri Republican Party will host congressional conventions on April 6 in each of the state's eight districts. At these eight conventions, there will be 3 delegates and 3 alternates selected to attend the Republican National convention in Milwaukee from July 15-18.

There will be eight presidential electors selected for each congressional district, and another two are selected at the state convention. These make up the 10 electoral college votes that Missouri receives in the presidential election.

Any changes to the party platform will be discussed again. The final version of the party platform will be adopted at the Missouri Republican Party’s state convention in May.

The Missouri Democratic Party will meet in Jefferson City for their statewide convention on June 29.

Any additions or deletions to the Missouri Republican Party platform will also be discussed at the caucus. Any changes passed at the county level will be discussed at the congressional conventions.

Presidential candidates seeking consideration in Missouri must submit an intention of candidacy by Oct. 31 to be eligible for selection at the caucuses.

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Each county is responsible for funding its own caucus, and Republican delegates are responsible for their own travel to county, congressional, state and the Republican National Conventions.

“When you go to the national convention, it's very expensive,” Proctor said. “The hotels are sky high. You've got to pay your own way. It’s very expensive, and a lot of people do not realize that.”

The Democrats released cost estimates in their plan for hosting private primaries and selecting their own delegates, ranging from $250,000 to $475,000.

It estimated that the cost of election administration was about $175,000. The party has contingency plans if enough money is not raised, stating in the plan that it “reserves the right to adjust planned investments in order to administer an election and/or seek an alternative method of voting.”

This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: Missouri Republicans, Democrats reveal rules for presidential caucuses