JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri voters will get the chance to vote for a presidential nominee on Tuesday, Feb. 7, but the results might not mean very much.
The Secretary of State's office said the primary will cost Missouri taxpayers $7 million for what will be a non-binding vote on the Republican side. The Democratic results will count, but President Barack Obama is the only well-known candidate on the ballot.
That the state will hold a non-binding "beauty contest" primary for Republicans goes back to threats from both the Republican and Democratic national parties. They warned that Missouri would have its votes at the national political conventions cut in half if the state did not delay the primary until later in the year. The two parties argue that they want to shorten the presidential campaign season but still honor traditional early-start states such as Iowa and New Hampshire.
The legislature passed a bill in spring 2011 to delay the primary, but it was vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon, who complained about other provisions contained in the bill.
Nixon called on the legislature during its fall special session to again pass a delay of the primary until March. That proposal, however, failed in the Senate which deadlocked on a debate over whether to agree to the demands of the national political parties or just cancel the primary for 2012.
As it became increasingly doubtful that a primary delay would clear the special session, Missouri's Republican Party decided to ignore the primary results and select national convention delegates through a party-caucus system.
"Unfortunately the party cannot cancel the primary," said Jonathan Prouty, spokesman for the Missouri Republican Party. "The primary is set by statute, so only the General Assembly can make changes to either the date of the primary or whether the primary actually takes place, and that did not happen, so the primary is still on."
The party opted to hold caucuses in March.
"This year, because of some circumstances beyond our control, some national rules and some things that happened to the General Assembly, the primary is actually more of a formality," Prouty said.
With no significant challenger facing Obama, the state Democratic Party decided to abide by the primary results in allocating its delegates.
Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, said the primary elections next month are "a complete waste of time and money."
The Republican ballot consists of 10 candidates, including four who have since dropped out of the race -- Michele Bachman, Herman Cain, Jon Huntsman and Rick Perry. Newt Gingrich decided to skip the Missouri primary, but the three other leading candidates -- Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum -- will appear on the Feb. 7 ballot. Lesser-known candidates on the non-binding Republican ballot are Michael Meehan and Keith Drummond.
In addition to Obama, there will be three lesser-known names on the Democratic ticket -- Trandall Terry, Darcy Richardson and John Wolfe.
The full ballot list can be found at the Secretary of State's website (http://www.sos.mo.gov/candidatesOnWeb/DisplayCandidatesPlacementPPP2012.asp).