In Missouri presidential candidates are chosen by caucuses at the county level, which renders individual primary election votes moot.
That is why Secretary of State John Ashcroft says the March election held every four years is unnecessary and he is proposing eliminating the primary election.
“We wouldn’t be stripping anyone of their right to vote in a primary,” Ashcroft said. “Anyone could still go to the caucuses in their county, their voice could still make a difference. It’s kind of like a mini-electoral college.”
Ashcroft spoke about the prospect of eliminating the presidential primaries with election staff during a visit to the Franklin County Clerk’s office Wednesday.
“It could save the state between $7 million and $10 million every four years,” Ashcroft said. “I know we can find better ways to spend that money.”
He added he will be approaching state lawmakers and Gov. Mike Parson about holding a special session this summer to possibly pass legislation eliminating the March 2020 presidential preference election.
“I know it will cost 30, 40, or $50,000 to hold the special session, but if it means we can save $7 to $10 million, it’s worth it.”
Ashcroft added he may even float the idea to the General Assembly during the constitutionally mandated veto session in September.
Not only would the elimination of the elections save money, it would save a lot of time and effort by election staff in all 114 Missouri counties who have to conduct the March elections then turn around and host another election just weeks later in April.
He explained the quick turnaround is especially cumbersome and confusing concerning absentee ballots filed and extra work for county elections staff because they are too close together.
Plus, he added in 2020 there is a Republican incumbent running and the turnout might be especially low in conservative-leaning counties like Franklin County.
While traveling the state meeting with county clerks Ashcroft had been asking their opinions on the presidential preference elections to get a grass roots feel on the process.
“It is a problem waiting to happen and definitely needs to be challenged,” Ashcroft said. “There may be a good reason to keep doing them. Maybe I’m missing the forest for the trees. That’s why I’m here.”
Both the Republican and Democratic Central committees in Franklin County hold caucuses during every presidential election year.
Former Franklin County Republican Central committee chairman and 2008 presidential caucus organizer Tim Millerick explained the process is open to the public and during the gathering, groups will form in favor of their favorite candidate.
Votes will then be taken as to which candidate will be presented and delegates will be chosen to pass on the caucus votes at the state and federal party gatherings.
“The selection is usually the same as the candidate who gets the most votes statewide,” Millerick said. “But, sometimes there are brokered caucuses where more than one candidate will get some of the votes.”
In 2008, the Franklin County votes were divided between Ron Paul and Mitt Romney.
Millerick added there are usually about 30 delegates selected from Franklin County.
The 2016 Franklin County presidential preference primary had a 42 percent overall voter turnout of 29,128 ballots cast.
Of those, 70 percent, or 20,419 were for Republican candidates and 29.6 percent, or 8,643 were Democratic ballots.
For the Democrats, Sen. Bernie Sanders won Franklin County with 55 percent of the ballots cast, or 4,785 votes.
Hillary Clinton was second with 3,704 and 42 percent.
The other eight Democratic candidates registered less than one percent of the total votes each.
Out of the field of 12 Republican candidates, Donald Trump came out ahead in Franklin County with 44 percent and 9,082 total votes.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was second with 39.7 percent and 8,120 votes.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich collected 1,561 votes for 7 percent of the overall tally and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio came in fourth with 1,150 votes and 5 percent.
The other eight Republican candidates garnered only 2.1 percent of the overall votes combined.