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A guide to Missouri's Republican presidential caucuses

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 13, 2012 Missouri’s Republican presidential caucuses begin in a few days, kicking off a months-long process to determine which presidential candidates win the state’s 52 GOP delegates and who those delegates will be. The delegates will attend the GOP’s presidential convention in August in Tampa, Fla.

The Republican caucuses carry political weight because the state party decided that the Feb. 7 statewide presidential primary would not count.

Missouri Democrats launch their own delegate-selection process on March 29 with what are called “mass meetings,” not caucuses. All of Missouri's 102 Democratic delegates to the convention in September in Charlotte, N.C. will be pledged to President Barack Obama because he won more than 80 percent of the vote in the Feb. 7 primary — and it did count for Democrats.

Caucuses or mass meetings, both partisan events, are open to most registered voters. But there are differences in qualifications and procedures.

To ease confusion, the Beacon will focus this week on the Republican caucuses since they are coming up first.  So if you’re interested in attending, here’s what you need to know:

When will the Republican caucuses be held?

Most will be held at 10 a.m., Sat., March 17.  A few outstate counties are holding their caucuses on Thursday, March 15, or Friday, March 16.  Republicans in the city of St. Louis will hold their caucus on Saturday, March 24.

Who can participate in the GOP caucuses?

Any registered voter who is not a Democratic elected official or party leader can attend the Republican caucuses, a state party spokesman said. But attendees will be asked to declare that they are Republicans.

All attendees must be in line, or inside the meeting room, by 10 a.m.  Doors will close at that time. No late-comers will be allowed to participate.

What does a participant need to bring?

People will be asked to show proof of their identity and that they are registered voters. At many caucuses, Republican organizers are requiring a photo ID.   

Where will the caucuses be held?

Each county holds a caucus. But St. Louis County will hold 28 caucuses, one in each of its 28 townships.  The township boundaries are the new ones recently approved to reflect the 2010 census.  Participants must reside in the township or county where they attend the caucus.

What is the order of business at the caucuses?

Soon after the meeting begins, party leaders will ask attendees to elect a chairman. That person then oversees the selection of a “rules committee” and a “credentials committee.”  The rules committee determines procedures for the rest of the meeting. 

The caucus then considers voting for representatives, also called delegates, to attend the next round of meetings on April 21 to select some presidential delegates. A formula is used to determine how many of those first-round delegates will be elected at each county or township caucus.

Activists for various presidential hopefuls are expected to come to the caucuses with a prepared slate of representatives they want to elect for the April 21 session.  Some caucus sites are expected to allow only individual candidates for the April 21 spots, while others will allow slates.  The credentials committee will deal with any issues regarding the slates or candidates for the April 21 meetings.

The caucuses also review thestate Republican Party’s platform, which sets out its stands on various issues.

How long will the caucuses last?

Republican organizers estimate most meetings will last 1-2 hours.

Will any statewide results be announced?

No, at least not after the first round of caucuses. But political activists may get a sense of which presidential candidate is in a stronger position by how many county and township caucus sites elected their choice for chairman and their slate of representatives for Round 2.

What happens next?

Round 2 is the April 21 caucus meetings, held in each of the state’s congressional districts. The sites have yet to be announced. At those meetings, many presidential delegates will be chosen. Others will be selected at the state Republican convention, set for June 2.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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